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.  Like and follow AWE on Facebook and Twitter for a chance to win an iPod Touch! For residential water use information and water saving tips visit Home Water Works.

In this issue of Water Efficiency Watch...


State of the Art: AWE Scorecard Rates US States on Conservation

Scorecard Report Cover (Sm)The Alliance for Water Efficiency and the Environmental Law Institute released the final version of the report entitled, The Water Efficiency and Conservation State Scorecard: An Assessment of Laws and Policies. How does you state measure up?

This project identified state level water efficiency and conservation policies and laws throughout the 50 states via a 20-question survey.  Water efficiency and conservation laws and policies encompassed in the survey included plumbing fixture standards, water conservation requirements related to water rights, water loss control rules, conservation planning and program implementation, volumetric billing for water, funding sources for water efficiency and conservation programs, and technical assistance and other informational resources. 

In addition to collecting data on individual state level water efficiency and conservation policies, the project team graded the states based on its findings. Few states received an “A” grade. Overall, the 50 states as a group average a "C" grade.  A full AWE breakdown of the scores can be viewed in the report.  This project was funded in part by a grant from the Turner Foundation.

  • Click here to download a copy of The Water Efficiency and Conservation State Scorecard: An Assessment of Laws and Policies.
  • Click here to download a PDF of the Public Comments Appendix for the The Water Efficiency and Conservation State Scorecard: An Assessment of Laws and Policies. 

WaterSense New Home Specification Released

 WS Logo Meets CriteriaMore than three years in the making, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense program has released the Final Specification for New Homes – Version 1.1, which modifies the original specification for new homes issued in 2009.  The 2009 version had been in “draft” form since it was released.

home depot 1The final specification, which applies to homes labeled after January 1, 2013, enables apartment and condominium units to earn the WaterSense label, updates product requirements, and adjusts landscape criteria. Compared to a standard new home, a WaterSense labeled new home is expected to save up to 50,000 gallons of water per year and as much as $600 per year in water and energy bills for a family of four.

The WaterSense New Home specification includes the following provisions:

  • New apartments and condos can earn the WaterSense label as well as single-family homes.
  • WaterSense requires builders of WaterSense labeled homes to use EPA’s Water Budget Tool to inform their landscape design.
  • If an irrigation system with a weather-based irrigation controller is used to water the lawn, the controller must be a WaterSense labeled model.
  • Showerheads must be WaterSense labeled models that use 2.0 gallons per minute or less.

Learn more and download the WaterSense New Home Specification here.  

Schedule of Upcoming AWE Events at Water Smart Innovations Conference

The 5th annual Water Smart Innovations Conference will be held from Oct. 2 – 5 at the South Point Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.  AWE will hold and host the following meetings and events at WSI:

In Other WSI News: Circle of Blue’s J. Carl Ganter Will Address the Opening Session on Weds. Oct. 3

J. Carl Ganter, co-founder and director of Circle of Blue, the internationally recognized website which reports on global freshwater issues, will keynote the opening session for the 5th Annual WaterSmart Innovations Conference and Exposition on Wednesday, October 3.

An award-winning photojournalist, reporter and broadcaster, Ganter is credited with helping shape the multimedia journalism era. He co-founded Circle of Blue in 2000 to provide information about the world’s resource crises, with a focus on the nexus of water, food and energy.

View the full schedule for Water Smart Innovations here.  

Caltech Engineer Wins Gates Foundation “Reinventing the Toilet Challenge”

Toilet drawingA Caltech engineering team lead by Michael Hoffmann won the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's "Reinventing the Toilet Challenge" in August.

Hoffmann's solar-powered toilet needs no running water, electricity or septic system and does not discharge pollutants which make it ideal for use in developing countries where lack of access to sanitation is most significant.

The toilet's electrochemical reactor breaks down water and human waste into fertilizer and hydrogen, which can be stored in hydrogen fuel cells as energy. The treated water can then be reused to flush the toilet or for irrigation. Hoffmann's team was awarded a $100,000 prize for their design.

Why does one of the world’s wealthiest men care about toilets? "The current design (of toilets) has a real problem,” explained Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates. “It uses a lot of water, requires a very expensive system to bring in very clean water, then you make that water dirty. You have a very expensive system to take it away."

Loughborough University in the United Kingdom won the $60,000 second-place prize for its toilet design, which produces biological charcoal, minerals and clean water.

View photos of toilets designed for the Gates challenge here.  

Learn more about the winners here.  

Californians to Vote on Future of the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir

Hetch-hetchyThis November Californians will be voting for more than just the next President.  The future of the O'Shaughnessy Dam and Hetch Hetchy reservoir will be on the ballot.

Voters must decide if they support a plan for draining the 117-billion-gallon Hetch Hetchy reservoir in Yosemite National Park, exposing for the first time in 80 years a glacially carved, granite-ringed valley of towering waterfalls 17 miles north of the world famous Yosemite Valley. The Hetch Hetchy reservoir provides water to the city of San Francisco.

If approved, the ballot measure requires San Francisco officials to develop a modern water plan that incorporates recycling and conservation and to research the expansion of other storage reservoirs to make up the loss. Over the past decade, studies have been published by the state and others that claim it is possible for San Francisco to continue collecting water from the Tuolumne River further downstream.

San Francisco’s mayor, Ed Lee, believes the idea “ridiculous” and “a Trojan Horse for those that wish to have our public tricked into believing we have an adequate substitute for the Hetch Hetchy reservoir. We do not. There isn’t any.”

The cost of restoring the valley is estimated at between $3 and $10 billion.  Learn more here. 

Canada Considers Adding Water Efficiency to Building Codes

Canada flagA proposal is being considered to add a water-use efficiency objective to the Canadian National Building Code and the National Plumbing Code.

The Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes (CCBFC) is developing language and technical analysis to enable addition of water-use efficiency to the National Model Construction Code.

A recent report recommended that the CCBFC and the Provincial Territorial Policy Advisory Committee on Codes propose water-use efficiency objectives to address “excessive use of water” under the umbrella of the environment objective created in 2011. It also recommended that technical requirements apply only to water used by the building and its code-required systems. Water used by processes, such as manufacturing, or by appliances not regulated by the codes, such as dishwashers and clothes washers, would not be affected.  Learn more here. 

Guelph Canada Launches “Blue Built Home” Certification & Rebate Program

BlueBuilt-Colour-WebThe City of Guelph, Ontario has launched Blue Built Home certification and rebate program to improve water efficiency in new homes.  The Blue Built Home program includes a list of approved fixtures and appliances designed and third-party tested to save water and reduce utility bills by as much as 54 per cent.

Blue Built Homes are certified according three water efficiency standards and offers three tiers—Bronze, Silver, and Gold. The City of Guelph administers the Blue Built Home program and it is supported by Tarion-registered home builders.  As part of the program, Guelph offers rebates for homes meeting the Blue Built requirements.

In order to qualify for Blue Built Home certification and a rebate, a new home must include at minimum, all the appliances and fixtures outlined in the Blue Built Home Bronze standard. This includes a 2011 ENERGY STAR® qualified washing machine.

A Blue Built Home is certified during the home’s final plumbing inspection by the City’s Building Services Division. As part of this inspection, the building inspector confirms that the required water efficient appliances and fixtures are installed. Upon successful inspection, a Blue Built Home inspection sticker is applied to the home’s utility box to indicate the level of water efficiency standard achieved.

Rebates for Blue Built Homes are calculated based on the number of fixtures, appliances and eligible systems (hot water delivery, rainwater, graywater) within the home. The home builder submits this information at the time of construction and it is confirmed during final home inspection by a City inspector.  Learn more here. 

Canadians Have Little Doubt Climate Change is Occurring

A new survey released by IPAC-CO2 Research has found that 98% of Canadians believe the climate is changing and just 2% of Canadians believe climate change is not happening.

“Our survey indicates that Canadians from coast to coast overwhelmingly believe climate change is real and is occurring, at least in part due to human activity,” said Dr Carmen Dybwad, CEO of the organization that conducted the survey. 

Opinions about the causes of climate change and how to fight it are sharply divided – 54% believe it is partly due to human activity and partly due to natural climate variation. Some 35% believe that the country should promote cleaner cars while just 13% favored a tax on CO2 emissions, and 59% favor making CO2 capture and storage compulsory when building a new coal or natural gas power plant. However, there is concern about the risk associated with the practice.

Seattle Proposes Green Code Provisions that Include Water Conservation 

seattleThe City of Seattle, WA has announced a list of proposed high efficiency building code changes, entitled Green Code Provisions, which address areas including: water conservation, material conservation, sustainable transportation, and healthy landscapes.

Provisions addressing invasive species and native vegetation have drawn a lot of attention.  These draft provision would apply to all new vegetated landscapes, or those being replaced. The requirements include:

  • Existing invasive plant species shall be removed and no invasive species planted.
  • 75% of all new plantings will be native to Western Washington.
  • A vegetation plan must be submitted for review.
  • Existing native plants shall be protected whenever possible.

Seattle’s proposed Green Code Provisions related to Water Conservation can be viewed here.  

Wastewater Reuse a Key to Sustainability 

 A review in the journal Science found three main methods of addressing shortages: substituting high-quality water with lower-quality water where appropriate, creating potable water from wastewater, and reducing leakage and the volume of water needed for basic services.  Learn more here. 

SWAT High Uniformity Sprinkler Nozzles Testing Protocol Open for Public Comment

SWAT2The Smart Water Application Technologies (SWAT) working group, a collaborative initiative between the Irrigation Association and water providers, has released a new testing protocol for high uniformity sprinkler nozzles that fit spray head sprinklers. The public comment period is open until Oct. 31, 2012.

The testing protocol is designed to test how various nozzles perform individually and then how a group of nozzles with various arcs perform together in spacing configurations and arrangements at different operating pressures. The protocol will provide irrigation managers, water providers and end-users with helpful information to improve irrigation performance and efficiency.

AWE’s WaterSense and Water Efficient Products (WSWEP) Committee is developing a detailed set of comments in response to the new protocol.

The testing protocol is available for review and comment here.

Submit comments on the provided form to SWAT or contact Irrigation Association Industry Development Director Brent Mecham (703.536.7080).

2012 had 3rd Hottest Summer Since 1895 and is on Track to be Hottest Year Ever

heat-thermometer"The average temperature for the contiguous U.S. during August was 74.4°F, 1.6°F above the long term average, marking the 16th warmest August on record,” reported the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“The warmer than average August, in combination with the hottest July and a warmer than average June, contributed to the third hottest summer on record since recordkeeping began in 1895.”

The warm end to the summer also kept the U.S. on track to be the warmest year on record, with temperatures for the January to August period averaging 4 degrees above the 20th century average, and 1 full degree above the previous record year of 2006.  Lean more here. 

Record Artic Ice Melt Could Make for Wild Winter

iceberg_smArctic sea ice is melting faster than scientists ever predicted due to global warming and scientists believe it could cause extreme weather this winter in North America and Europe.

In August, researchers announced that Arctic sea ice had dwindled to the smallest size ever observed by humans, covering just half the area it did 30 years ago, when satellites and submarines measurement began.

“It’s probably going to be a very interesting winter,” said climate scientist Jennifer Francis of the Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences at Rutgers University.  Francis’ research indicates that shrinking Arctic ice is associated with recent weather events such as prolonged cold spells in Europe, heavy snows in the Northeastern U.S. and Alaska, and heat waves in Russia.

Learn more here.  

Himalaya Glaciers Show Inconsistent Melt Pattern, Water Supply Consequences Unclear

himalaya-pwmGlaciers in the eastern and central regions of the Himalaya mountain range are in retreating, similar to those in other areas of the world.  But the glaciers in the western Himalayas appear more stable and could be growing, according to a new report from the National Research Council. 

The report examines how changes to glaciers in the Hindu Kush-Himalayan region, which covers eight countries across Asia, could affect the area's river systems, water supplies, and the South Asian population.  The mountains in the region form the headwaters of several major river systems -- including the Ganges, Mekong, Yangtze, and Yellow rivers -- which serve as sources of drinking water and irrigation supplies for roughly 1.5 billion people.   

The entire Himalayan climate is changing, but how climate change will impact specific places remains unclear, said the committee that wrote the report.  Learn more here. 

ASPE and CCSF to Develop Plumbing Technician Certification Program

The American Society of Plumbing Engineers (ASPE), in collaboration with the City College of San Francisco (CCSF), has received a grant award from the National Science Foundation Advanced Technological Education to develop an associate degree program in plumbing engineering design as well as a certification program for plumbing engineering design technicians. The initiative is referred to as Program in Plumbing Engineering Design (PIPED). 

Concepts such as water conservation, solar energy, and geothermal heating will be integrated throughout the program to prepare graduates for the increasing emphasis on sustainable design and LEED certification. Collaborative activities will create meaningful career pathways for recent high school graduates and also those looking to change careers or move forward into an enhanced career path.

Learn more here.  

IAPMO Issues Revised Green Plumbing and Mechanical Code Supplement

IapmoThe second edition of the Green Plumbing and Mechanical Code Supplement (GPMCS), published by the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO®), has been released.

The culmination of two years of work by IAPMO’s Green Technical Committee, the updated GPMCS contains a number of new or revised provisions addressing areas where greater efficiency can be reasonably achieved, including:

  • Reduces the maximum flush volume for non-residential from 1.6 gpf to 1.28 gpf.
  • Reduces the maximum flow rate for kitchen faucets from 2.2 gpm to 1.8 gpm and for pre-rinse spray valves from 1.6 gpm to 1.3 gpm
  • New provisions for dipper well faucets to address unnecessary water waste resulting from the continuous flow of water at high rates
  • Maximum consumption limits set for trap primers and requires the use of alternate water source to prime traps where available
  • Requirement for dedicated water meters on irrigation systems servicing 2,500 square feet or more
  • Requirements for irrigation controls to respond to climate or soil conditions and to shut off during rain events
  • System performance requirements to prevent run off and spraying onto adjacent properties, impervious surfaces and buildings
  • System design requirements pertaining to supply line drainage and sprinkler head performance

Learn more about the IAPMO Green Plumbing and Mechanical Code Supplement here.

Minnesota Study Finds Widespread Pollution Caused by Personal Care Products

MinnesotaPersonal care products are polluting bodies of water across Minnesota according to a recent study conducted by Arizona State University.  Researchers from ASU found widespread evidence of active ingredients from personal care products in Minnesota waters.

The researchers focused on two ingredients found in antibacterial soaps – triclosan and triclocarban, which are endocrine disrupters under scrutiny due to environmental and health concerns. Concentrations of triclocarban were found to be between three and 58 times higher than those of triclosan, which is more frequently monitored. The chemicals were found both upstream and downstream of suspected discharge points.

“This study underscores the extent to which additives of antimicrobial consumer products are polluting freshwater environments in the U.S.; it also shows natural degradation processes to be too slow to counter the continuous environmental release of these endocrine disrupting chemicals,” said Rolf Halden, director of environmental security at the Biodesign Institute and professor in the Ira A. Fulton School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment at ASU.  Learn more here. 

ACTED Educates Refugees in Jordan About Water Conservation

UNICEF partner ACTED, which provides water and sanitation for Syrian refugees in transit centers in northern Jordan, is holding water conservation sessions to highlight the need to save water in this arid country, which is the fourth most water-scarce in the world. Syria has a relatively plentiful water supply compared to Jordan, and ACTED noted an initial lack of awareness among refugees of the local situation.

Singapore Strives for Water Independence

singaporeSingapore is on track to ensure an independent and sustainable water supply according to Chew Men Leong, the CEO of Singapore’s national water agency PUB. Singapore hopes to reduce or eliminate reliance on water importation agreements which are due to expire in 2016. Today approximately 40% of the country’s water comes from desalination and recycling plants throughout the country, with a further 10% from the new Marina Barrage project. The other 50% of Singapore’s water supply comes from an extensive network of reservoirs and water imports which the country hopes to stop.

Bathroom bomb? Bursting Toilets Recalled Due to “Laceration Risks”

A recall has been issued for millions of pressure-assisted toilet faulty flushing mechanisms that have caused explosions and injuries.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission issued the warning about the Flushmate III Pressure-Assisted Flushing System, which was sold at Home Depot and Lowe’s stores and to toilet manufacturers American Standard, Crane, Kohler, Eljer, Mansfield, St. Thomas and Gerber.

The recall applies to devices manufactured between 1997 and 2008 -- about 2.3 million in the United States and 9,000 in Canada and only applies to 1.6 gpf toilets, not high-efficiency 1.28 gpf toilets.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission said they have received 304 reports of the Flushmate bursting.  In 14 of these incidents “impact or laceration injuries” were reported.

A Las Vegas woman is suing Flushmate and its parent, Sloan Valve Co., in federal court in Los Angeles on the grounds that the pressure-assisted flushing mechanism caused her toilet to malfunction and leak.  The lawsuit contends that a repair kit offered as part of the recall was inadequate and the entire flushing system must be replaced by a professional plumber. Her lawsuit seeks class-action status and unspecified monetary damages.

Editor’s note: We had a Flushmate equipped toilet in our office for several years and it never exploded even once.  

News Briefs and Web Links

  • Environment Canada Releases Municipal Water Pricing Report – This new study examines trends in water rates (they are rising) and rate structures across Canada. Uniform rate structures where customers are charged the same amount per unit of water used per billing period no matter how much is consumed (like buying gasoline) are the most common form in CanadaLearn more and download the report here. 
  • Info Available on DOE Test Procedures for Showerheads, Faucets, Water Closets, Urinals, and Commercial Pre-Rinse Spray ValvesDownload information from the federal docket folder summary here. 
  • Energy Conservation Standards Rulemaking Framework Document for Commercial Clothes Washers AvailableHere. 
  • New Book Traces the Water History of the West Via Denver Water – Prof. Patricia Limerick’s new book, A Ditch in Time: Denver, the West, and Water, traces the origins and growth of the Denver Water Department and places this case study in the big picture of regional and national history. Learn more here. 
  • “Drought” Song a Hit! – Set to the tune of “Shout” (ala Otis Day and the Knights from Animal House), this drought parody may provoke prolonged smiles and chuckling.  You have been warned.
  • UK Study Finds Most Showers Exceed 5 Minutes – This research purports to burst an “urban myth” regarding shower duration, but the results won’t be surprising to those who have read the 1999 Residential End Uses of Water study which found the average shower duration to be 8.2 minutes.  Learn more here. 
  • Report Warns of High Per Capita Consumption in Saudi Arabia - A new report from Saudi Arabia’s Saline Water Conversion Corporation (SWCC) warns that per capita consumption in the kingdom is 91% higher than the international average at 250 litres per capita per day (67.5 gpcd). The country has 30 desalination plants, supplying around 70% of the country’s potable water.
  • 1 liter per flush toilet: Revolutionary or Pipe Dream? – The Auto Toilet offers a radical redesign and purports to use only 1 liter per flush – 1/6th of the current US standard.  Learn more here. 
  • World’s Largest Eco-Toilet Project Abandoned in MongoliaOdor, health issues, and maggots contributed to the demise of this effort. Project designer, the Stockholm Environment Institute, says lessons were learned for next time.

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.

Don’t forget to like and follow AWE on Facebook and Twitter for your chance to win an iPod Touch. 

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.