Water Efficiency Watch

News from the Alliance for Water Efficiency


Water Efficiency Watch is the online newsletter of the Alliance for Water Efficiency, edited by Peter Mayer

In this issue of Water Efficiency Watch....

AWE Leaders Take Center Stage at United Nations

MAD_and_BGrumbles_at_UNAt the United Nations, leaders from the Alliance for Water Efficiency presented success stories that emphasize demand management as vital key to improving global supply.  At a special September 16 International Water Forum that ran concurrent to the 66th Session of the UN General Assembly, the Alliance for Water Efficiency (AWE) make the case that humans can affordably address the water crisis by eliminating needless waste.

In dual presentations, AWE’s board chair Carole Baker and President and CEO Mary Ann Dickinson offered insights on how cities, governments, and institutions can resolve the deepening water crisis.

Baker_and_Bennett_at_UN“As demand for water rises and climate changes, water efficiency is a solution that works,” said Dickinson. “We have developed the tools and the methods to reduce unnecessary water use, and now we need to educate consumers as well as water utility managers that these measures are effective.  Saving water costs less than creating new supplies,  and in the process builds resilience for the extremely volatile months and years to come.”

The event was organized by the Energy and Water Institute of New York and the Chronicles Group.  Special guest speakers included actress Jane Seymour, Ben Grumbles, President of the Clean Water America Alliance, and Charles Fishman, author of the recently published book The Big Thirst.

Summer Heat Smashes Records

drought-9-15-11Texas, Oklahoma, and the lower Colorado River basin remain in severe drought as the region’s oppressive hot and dry weather did not let up in August.   

This was a hot summer folks.  In July 2011 more than 9,000 heat records were broken.  August 2011 weather records for heat were broken in Colorado, Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and other states are expected to join the list once August statistics are compiled.  In Texas, the 10 months from October 2010 through July 2011 were the driest for that period since 1895, when the state began keeping rainfall records.  Through August 28, Austin already recorded 73 days of 100-degree heat this summer, breaking the old record of 69 days set in 1925.

Fort Worth, Texas has never before entered stage one restrictions, but the city was forced to enact mandatory restrictions in August when reservoir levels dropped below a designated point.

Weather records for the region have been kept since the 1890s.  In July, Oklahoma recorded the highest average monthly temperature for any state since records have been kept.  In Texas, the summer of 2011 will be remembered for having the highest average summer temperature for any state in the US since records have been kept.

DOE Publishes Final Rule Waiving Preemption for Energy and Water Efficiency Standards

DOE LogoThe US Department of Energy has published the final rule in the Federal Register that waives preemption for energy and water conservation standards with respect to state regulations governing faucets, showers, toilets, and urinals.  This ruling means that individual states may now pass legislation mandating more efficient products than the Federal Government.  Some states, including California, Texas, and Georgia have already passed higher efficiency standards.

“This could prove to be a very positive development,” said Shawn Martin, director of industry relations for the International Code Council Plumbing, Mechanical & Fuel Gas. “It removes a potential barrier to efforts by jurisdictions to improve their water efficiency efforts, and clears the way for the adoption of model green codes like the ICC’s International Green Construction Code.”

Some have suggested that the DOE is using the waiver as a way of avoiding making a ruling which would regulate multi-head shower fixtures since it essentially punts this issue back to the states and allows each state to establish standards for what constitutes a showerhead. 

The definition of what exactly constitutes a showerhead has proved vexing for DOE.  In June 2010, DOE announced that it was reinterpreting its showerhead rules in such a way that it would ban multi-head showers.  In the fall, the DOE solicited public comments on the reinterpretation. DOE had planned to issue a final ruling in 2010, but it has not done so as of publication.  With the preemption waiver, DOE may be able to postpone indefinitely finalizing the new showerhead rules.

 Download the published rule here.

Colorado to Consider HET Mandate

Colorado colorOn the heels of the DOE preemption ruling (see above) the Colorado legislature will likely consider mandating 1.28 gallon per flush high-efficiency toilets during the upcoming legislative session.  AWE member Denver Water is leading the effort and has asked for this legislation.

Lawmakers on the Water Resources Review Committee agreed to prepare draft legislation that would make toilet flush volumes in Colorado stricter than federal standards adopted as part of the Energy Policy Act (EPAct) of 1992.

Denver Water plans to model the Colorado efficiency standard after laws passed in California, Texas and Georgia, most of which set deadlines for compliance four years out in order to give retailers an opportunity to clear their existing inventories without legislating it into obsolescence.

In October the Water Resources Review Committee hopes to have a draft of the proposed toilet-efficiency standard legislation for consideration and to hear from representatives of the industries that it could potentially affect. Learn more here.

AWE News


Celebrate 5 Years of WaterSense with Ruben Studdard at the WaterSense Partner of the Year Awards Banquet

Ruben HeadshotWaterSense turns 5 this year and American Idol winner and Grammy nominee Ruben Studdard will help AWE and EPA celebrate.  Studdard will headline the WaterSense Partner of the Year Awards Banquet on October 5, 2011 at the WaterSmart Innovations Conference in Las Vegas.

This banquet celebrates and honors those WaterSense partners who have done exemplary work over the past year in promoting and marketing the WaterSense label. AWE will also present its annual “Water Star” award.  This will be the biggest water efficiency party of the year.  Don’t miss it!  To sponsor this event or obtain tickets, contact Molly Garcia of AWE here. 

AWE to Host Informational Webinar on Membership Benefits

The Alliance for Water Efficiency (AWE) will host a webinar to highlight the benefits of membership on Tuesday, September 27, 2011 from 2:00 pm - 2:30 pm CDT. Prospective members can learn what can be gained through an AWE membership, and current members can make sure they are aware of and utilizing available benefits.  AWE encourages members and nonmembers alike to join in on this free webinar.  Get more information and register for this webinar here.

AWE Provides Update on HETs and Plumbing Drainlines

AWE recently posted a new article on its Toilet Fixtures Introduction page titled, The Impacts of High-Efficiency Toilets on Plumbing Drainlines and Sewers. The article addresses key questions and concerns -- as well as misperceptions -- about the impacts of reduced water flows from HETs on plumbing drainlines in buildings and municipal sewer systems. Click here to visit the page or here to download the paper directly.   

Book Proceeds to Benefit AWE 

In support of AWE and its mission, author James Workman and the owners of the legendary San Francisco bookstore, The Booksmith, have pledged a combined contribution of $5 for every copy of Heart of Dryness sold. Learn more and get your copy here.

Annual AWE Meetings Set for WaterSmart Innovations 

The Alliance for Water Efficiency will hold a series of in-person meetings open to all on Oct. 4, 2011 the day before the WaterSmart Innovations Conference starts in Las Vegas at the South Point Hotel and Conference Center.

Oregon Commission Approves Graywater Rules

OregonAs of next spring, Oregonians can reuse water drained from sinks, showers and laundry to irrigate.  In August, the Oregon Environmental Quality Commission approved rules governing permits for graywater.

The new rules require homeowners, schools, businesses, apartment complexes and others to apply for permits costing at least $50 a year. This stands in contrast to California, which decided in 2009 not to require permits for the simplest graywater systems.

Oregon is the latest state to authorize graywater use. California, Washington, Montana, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Utah and Wyoming already allow it to varying degrees.

The Oregon legislature approved the practice of collecting and reusing graywater in 2009, but until now there were no rules to govern it.  Oregon Environmental Quality Commissioner Donalda Dodson said the state hopes to encourage as many people as possible to use graywater as a resource, instead of a waste, because of increasing demand for water.  Learn more here.

All Water Meters Are Not Created Equal.  New WRF Report Finds Mixed Results

Meter pixA new study released from the Water Research Foundation examines the accuracy of in-service water meters at a range of flow rates. Titled, “Accuracy of In-Service Water Meters at Low and High Flow Rates”, the research was led by Steven Barfuss of the Utah Water Research Laboratory.

This project tested meters of various sizes (5/8-inch to 2-inch diameter) in order to understand the changes in flow measurement accuracy with time and quantified the changes in flow measurement accuracy with exposure to particles in the distribution system as well as other degradation factors. The project also compared the actual accuracy to the current AWWA standards on low and high flow accuracy to see if in-service meters generally exceeded the new meter standards and by what margin.

The report found that some types of meters are capable of accurately measuring flow at flow rates well below and well above the current AWWA standard flow rates, but that other types of meters were not capable of measuring these same flows.  The researchers found that nutating disc type meters “maintained the most consistent low flow accuracy results” while multi-jet and single-jet meters “had the largest reduction in registry accuracies (at low flows) from the new to the full life condition.” Click here to download a copy of this report

Court Dismisses Lawsuit Against USGBC

scales-of-justiceOn September 7, 2011, the United States District Court in New York City dismissed in its entirety a lawsuit brought against the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) by Henry Gifford and others, holding that none of the plaintiffs in the action had alleged or could allege any legal interest to be protected by their lawsuit.

The original lawsuit, filed in November of 2010, accused the USGBC of fraud, false advertising, deceptive trade practices, and unfair competition. The suit was amended in early 2011 to focus only on the false-advertising and deceptive trade practices as outlined under Federal and New York law.  But the court did not find these arguments convincing.

The Court dismissed the federal false advertising claims "with prejudice," meaning that the Court's dismissal of those claims is final and that plaintiffs are barred from filing a new suit based on those claims. The Court's ruling simultaneously dismissed plaintiffs' state law false advertising claims.

"This successful outcome is a testament to our process and to our commitment to do what is right," said Rick Fedrizzi, president, CEO and founding chair, USGBC.

Oil Shale Development Could Spur Water Shortages: NRDC Report

Colorado-riverThirty million people who depend on the Colorado River for their water supply may face water shortages if oil shale development increases in the Colorado River Basin alongside unchecked climate change, according to a new report released in September by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

"The Colorado River has become a house of cards as water use in recent years has exceeded what the basin provides," said Monty Schmitt, senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council. "If oil shale development moves forward, it will compete with farms and cities in the West for limited water supplies that will become scarcer because of climate change. The time is now for the Bureau of Reclamation and Colorado River Basin states to tackle this challenge head on, through effective planning, water smart energy policies and dramatic investments in water use efficiency - the reliable water supply of the future."

NRDC's report, Between a Rock and a Dry Place: The Water Supply Impacts of Oil Shale Development and Climate Change on the Colorado River Basin Water Supply, explores how oil shale development would exacerbate the looming water crisis for states in the Colorado River Basin. In conjunction with climate change, which is likely to reduce Colorado River Basin's water supply by 9 to 25 percent by 2050, new oil shale development would further strain future supplies that already are under pressure from current water uses and ongoing growth in urban areas.  Learn more and download the report here.

Florida Water Districts Face Changes as Budget Slashed $700 million

FloridaFlorida Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida legislature are imposing significant and rapid changes on Florida’s five water management districts.  Scott has made it clear he wants the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to take a stronger role in district supervision.

Eight policy memos were sent between March and June, asking for streamlining, consistency among districts and more state supervision.  Then, districts were ordered to cut tax rates for the coming year.  In response, the St. Johns district, which covers the Jacksonville area, cut its rate by 26 percent, a loss of $35 million in revenue.

The five Florida Water Management Districts have cut a combined $700 million from their budgets, down to a total budget of $1 billion. Gov. Scott then ordered an additional $2.4 million in reductions to salaries and benefits, calling the actions the "first steps in ensuring that Florida's precious water resources are protected and managed in the most fiscally responsible way possible."

No one is certain what happens next, especially St. Johns district employees who have been shell-shocked this summer by the layoffs of 95 colleagues and the forced resignations or retirement of six senior staff.  Employees say the mood has been somber.

Many are concerned that the severe budget cuts could prevent enforcement of wetland and water resource protection rules and interrupt sound management of the nearly 700,000 acres of land publicly owned for water resource protection and supply and flood control.  Learn more here.

Record Water Storage, But Challenges Persist in Southern California

CaliforniaThanks to an extraordinarily rainy, snow-packed winter and spring, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) enters fall with strong storage supplies. In fact, Metropolitan expects to have a record amount of storage by the end of the year.

Despite these gains, Southern California and the rest of the state continue to contend with considerable water supply challenges, particularly in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

Although the water reserve increases provide a much-needed respite from more acute shortage conditions the region faced in recent years, they are not the panacea to Southern California's water challenges, where a dry year is always just around the corner. And the Southland and much of the state also continue to deal with pumping restrictions in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta because of environmental problems, while a solution that includes long-term water reliability is sought through the Bay Delta Conservation Plan.  Learn more about the MWD water supply situation here.

El Paso Approves New Commercial Landscape Ordinance

A new ordinance that requires that 50% of plants used in the landscape be drought tolerant, and that 75% of the landscaping come from the city’s approved plant list has been approved by the city council in El Paso, Texas.

The El Paso ordinance also increases the percentage of landscape required on commercial properties from 7.5% to 15% .  It also requires trees and other landscaping to be added along streets and in buffer areas, between sidewalks and parking lots. This is in addition to the 15%.

The regulation covers new developments, property additions and redevelopment of existing properties, including shopping centers, office complexes, industrial parks and apartment complexes. The new regulations take effect October 3, 2011.  Learn more about the El Paso landscape ordinance here.

Public Service Commission of Wisconsin Names Jeff Ripp Assistant Administrator for Water

Jeff_Ripp_WisconsinActive AWE member and volunteer Jeff Ripp has been named the Assistant Administrator for Water in the Wisconsin Public Service Commission’s Division of Water, Compliance, and Consumer Affairs.  Mr. Ripp previously served as the PSC’s water conservation coordinator and water policy advisor.  In his new position, he will oversee the Commission’s water regulatory programs, including water rates, water utility construction, and water conservation and efficiency programs.  He replaces long-time Assistant Administrator David Sheard, who retired in June 2011 after 32 years with the Commission.  Congratulations Jeff!

News Briefs and Web Links

  • Saltwater Intrusion Spoils Florida Wells – A wall of salt water is snaking up the South Florida coast.  Hallandale Beach has abandoned six of its eight drinking water wells because saltwater has advanced underground across two-thirds of the city.  The Miami Herald has the story.
  • San Diego County Publishes WaterSmart Landscape Guide – A Homeowner’s Guide to a WaterSmart Landscape is available for free download here.
  • Texas Outlaws Unlicensed Irrigation Installation – In Texas you need a license to install an irrigation system now that Gov. Rick Perry signed into law HB2507 in June.  This legislation makes it a class C misdemeanor for an individual to install an irrigation system without a license.  Learn more here.
  • Green Plumbers Offers Five Courses and WaterSmart Innovations - Take all five Green Plumbers courses and become an Accredited Green Plumber in one week! Learn more and register here.
  • Long Beach Launches “Laundry to Lawn” - Long Beach, California, has unveiled “Laundry to Landscape” a program that will allow residents to recycle graywater from their washing machines into their irrigation systems for gardens, shrubs, and trees. Learn more here.
  • GOVgreen Conference Set - The Center for Environmental Innovation and Leadership is hosting the 2011 GOVgreen Conference and Exposition on November 30th and December 1st in Washington, DC.  Learn more and register here.
  • Wave of the Future: Water Policy in Western Canada – This new report from the Canada West Foundation presents viewpoints from over 50 individuals with a background in water management, governance or the study of water.  Learn more here.
  • Code & Standard Pipeline newsletter chock full of news on plumbing initiatives – This newsletter from Ron George of Plumb-Tech Design and Consulting Services provides extensive information on codes, standards, and plumbing news from around the globe.  Download the current issue here.
  • “Going green but getting nowhere” – Gernot Wagner, an economist at the Environmental Defense Fund, published an op-ed in the New York Times that identifies challenges associated with sustainability efforts.  Read the op-ed here.
  • Colorado Regional Freshwater Forum to be Held Tuesday, October 18, 2011 – AWE CEO Mary Ann Dickinson is one of the featured speakers.  Learn more here.
  • Colorado Water newsletter focused on climate – This publication from Colorado State University features recent and relevant research on water issues in Colorado and the west.  Download the current issue here.
  • Opposition to Flaming Gorge Pipeline Builds in Wyoming and Colorado – Western Resource Advocates conducted a telephone town hall meeting that provided 7,400 members of the public the opportunity to learn and ask questions about the proposed Flaming Gorge pipeline.  Learn more here.
  • Rick the Drip Says “Wasting Water is Weird” – Check out the public service announcement here.
  • “Our Common Waters” Video - Fresh water is finite. Patagonia’s environmental campaign, Our Common Waters, spotlights the need to balance human water needs with those of animals and plants.  Check it out here.
  • DOE Launches Kid-Oriented Energy Efficiency Site – Check out Roofus’ Home here.
  • CNN Reports on Las Vegas’ “Water Addiction” – News Flash! Water Efficiency Watch has learned water isn’t the only thing Las Vegas is hooked on.  It turns out Vegas is also addicted to air… just like the rest of the world.  Silly CNN headline.
  • In Case You Thought Shipping Bottled Water from Fiji was a Good IdeaThis detailed blog report outlines many of the problems associated with this business venture.
  • A Solution to Earth’s Water Shortage a Mere 12 Billion Light-Years Away - Two teams of astronomers have discovered the largest and farthest reservoir of water ever detected in the universe. The water, equivalent to 140 trillion times all the water in the world's oceans, surrounds a huge, feeding black hole, called a quasar, more than 12 billion light-years away. Will some engineer propose a pipeline?  Read more here.

How to Submit Content for Water Efficiency Watch

Water Efficiency Watch welcomes submission of articles, photos, stories, commentary, new technologies, web links, etc.  Please e-mail your submission to Peter Mayer – mayer@aquacraft.com.

DISCLAIMER: The Alliance for Water Efficiency reports on research and information as a service. This should not be considered an explicit or implicit endorsement of any product, service, research effort, analysis, etc. unless specifically so indicated.