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 Never Waste Campaign Seeks to Change the Way America Thinks About Water

NeverWasteOrgWhat are you doing to support clean water for generations to come? Become an ambassador for wise water use and help change the way America thinks about water with the new AWE Never Waste water bottle.  Our high-quality, 20 ounce, stainless steel, BPA-free, double-walled, vacuum insulated bottle hydrates and educates with fun facts about the amount of water humans waste. Every purchase of the Never Waste water bottle supports work to conserve water in North America.

Never Waste is AWE’s bold new national campaign to build awareness about the impact of everyday water waste as water shortages become more common, and is supported by member communities, water suppliers and industry organizations nationwide.  Campaign materials are available for free to all AWE members and can be customized. 

The campaign quantifies the amount of water wasted in our daily lives by comparing it to the Never Waste water bottle volume and encourages consumers to waste less and make a measurable impact.

“Consumer awareness is vital to the long-term success of conservation programs,” said Mary Ann Dickinson, President and CEO of AWE. "Understanding how much water we waste in our daily lives becomes much easier when it can be compared to something familiar and measurable.”

A new web site, www.NeverWaste.org, offers tips to help reduce water waste, a water calculator that compares use with both water-efficient and average homes nearby, and an ecommerce portal for purchasing Never Waste water bottles and other efficiency-focused Never Waste products. Look for AWE member events and initiatives featuring Never Waste near you.

Join the Blue Revolution today with Never Waste.

National Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation Begins April 1

Wyland-FoundationCities and residents across the country will compete in the Second Annual National Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation, a friendly, community-based competition between cities across the nation to see who can be the most “water wise.”

Presented by The Wyland Foundation, the month-long Challenge takes place during the month of April and invites city leaders and their residents to pledge to conserve water. Mayors and civic leaders nationwide will challenge their residents to conserve water, energy, and other natural resources on behalf of their city through a series of informative, easy-to-use online pledges. All those who take the pledge are entered into a national competition with other communities to win hundreds of prizes – including a Toyota Prius, water saving fixtures and AWE Never Waste bottles. Last year residents from over 1,000 cities participated and pledged to save a total of 4.7 billion gallons of water. The Challenge is supported by a number of organizations, and AWE is a strategic partner this year.

To get started, city leaders sign a pledge indicating their commitment to sustainability. Once committed, the city receives free resources such as promotional materials and outreach ideas to engage residents in water and energy saving activities.

Cities then use these resources to encourage residents to sign individual pledges where they are entered into the national competition and given access to a series of informative, easy-to-use and engaging online tools to help them meet their goals.

AXE Showerpooling Supports AWE and Promotes Water Conservation

AXE-logoThe AXE nationwide “Showerpooling” campaign launched in 2012 to educate college students and citizens on the importance of water conservation and to encourage them to reduce their water footprint through small actions in their daily lives also supports AWE.

The edgy Showerpooling campaign was designed to motivate action through animated videos and providing simple water-saving tips. AXE took the shower show on the road with a campus tour to ten cities across the US promoting showerpooling, AXE products, and the importance of water conservation.  During the tour, AXE gave away 7,000 Delta H20kinetic water-efficient showerheads to help students take action to save water.

As part of the campaign, AXE Shower also provided a generous donation to the Alliance for Water Efficiency. Thanks to this contribution, AWE was able to advance critical activities that benefit water-stressed communities in need of assistance with water efficiency and conservation programs.

Record Drought Conditions Impact California’s Water Supply

CaliforniaWhat started as a promising water year in California has turned dry—very dry.

The high supply potential suggested in November and December, when precipitation was about 200 percent of average in the Northern Sierra, never materialized.  In fact, California ended February on a low water supply note, with the state setting a new record for the driest January-February period in recorded history, dating back 90 years.

The Northern Sierra snowpack index, used by the state Department of Water Resources to calculate runoff and allocate water delivered through the State Water Project, registered only 2.2 inches of precipitation during the first two months of 2013.  The average for the period is 17.1 inches.

With no significant storms on the horizon at the beginning of March, snowpack in the Northern Sierra stands at about 60 to 70 percent of normal for this time of year.   Learn more about this troubling situation here. 

Texas Moves Closer to Major Water Funding Bill that Includes 20% for Conservation

texas testFaced with the prospect of another dry summer, significant new funding for water projects in Texas are moving closer to passage. One bill, HB 4, would take money from the state’s Rainy Day Fund to start a loan program for new water projects and includes a 20% set aside for conservation. It passed unanimously in a committee, and now it heads to the House floor for a vote.  HB 4 also includes conservation as a factor for water supply projects that want funding from the new program.

“There was a lot of detail added to this bill,” said Laura Huffman, Texas State Director of the Nature Conservancy. “They’ve put in place a prioritization scheme that would ask utilities and the state agency to prioritize those projects that have good conservation plans that are implemented. Not just talked about, but implemented.”

The bill calls for $2 billion in seed funding for a water infrastructure bank that would provide low-interest loans to water projects. The repayment of the loans (plus interest) would go back into the fund, and then it would be spent on more water projects.  HB 4 stipulates that utilities with good conservation programs get premium interest rates for loans from the water bank.

“That would include things like low per capita water use, low water losses,” Huffman said. “Those kind of indicators that show a utility is really functioning at the highest level.”  Learn more here. 

Everything You Need to Know About the Texas Drought

droughtThe majority of Texas is currently experiencing drought. The whole state was under drought conditions at one time, and it has been for over a year.

State Climatologist John-Nielsen Gammon has warned that Texas could be in the midst of a drought worse than the drought of record. The drought began in October 2010 and continued through 2011. Though conditions had improved in the winter and spring of 2012, by the fall of 2012 dry conditions had returned to much of the state.

Get critical information on drought in Texas here. 

New US Evapotranspiration Map Crucial for Water Planning

US-flagFor the first time, U.S. Geological Survey scientists have mapped long-term average evapotranspiration rates across the continental United States – a crucial tool for water managers and planners because of the huge role evapotranspiration plays in water availability.

Why are evapotranspiration rates so important to know? It's because the amount of water available for people and ecosystems is the amount of annual precipitation – that is, snow or rain – minus the amount of annual evapotranspiration.  Evapotranspiration itself is the amount of water lost to the atmosphere from the ground surface.  Much of this loss is the result of the "transpiration" of water by plants, which is the plant equivalent of breathing. Just as people release water vapor when they breathe, plants do too.

"Since evapotranspiration consumes more than half of the precipitation that happens every year, knowing the evapotranspiration rates in different regions of the country is a solid leap forward in enabling water managers and policy makers to know how much water is available for use in their specific region," said Bill Werkheiser, associate director for water at the USGS.

In spite of its importance, evapotranspiration has been difficult to measure accurately on a regional or continental scale.  To produce these maps, USGS scientists Ward Sanford and David Selnick examined Landsat satellite imagery for climate and land-cover data from 1971 to 2000 and streamflow data for more than 800 watersheds for the same time period.  This information allowed them to generate a mathematical equation that can be used to more precisely estimate long-term evapotranspiration at any location in the continental United States.  

The research was published in February in the Journal of the American Water Resources Association.  Read the article and see the maps here. 

New WRF Study Shows Stagnant or Slightly Increasing Utility Operating Revenues 

Water-Research-Foundation-LogoUtility operating revenues have been largely stagnant over the past 12 years, but not all are in decline according to new work from the Water Research Foundation (WRF).  The project conducted by the Environmental Finance Center at UNC and Raftelis Financial Consultants, Inc. analyzed financial data for local government water and wastewater utilities from state agencies in California, Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas and Wisconsin.

Trends in operating revenues between Fiscal Years 2000–2012 for 2,838 utilities in these states were tracked.  Each utility’s revenues were tracked over time, and changes from one year to the next were computed.  In California, the median change in total operating revenues among 946 water municipalities and special districts between FY2001 and FY2002 was an increase of 4.5%. Between FY2009 and FY2010, the median change was an increase of 2.2% for the same 946 water municipalities and special districts.

In all of the states, the median change to operating revenues were almost always zero or positive, regardless of year. This indicates that, from year-to-year in the past decade, operating revenues for at least half of the utilities increased, despite a downturn in the economy, severe droughts and changes to customer water use patterns.  Learn more about this research here. 

Water Infrastructure Costs Overwhelm Cities, Congress Warned

pipe-pipeline-workersRepairing U.S. water infrastructure is becoming increasingly expensive, and options for funding upgrades to sewers, storm drains and drinking water systems are under threat, the National League of Cities told a congressional hearing in February.

Costs for the repairs run into the hundreds of billions of dollars, with federal estimates of needed drinking water system upgrades at $334.8 billion and updating wastewater and stormwater management infrastructure at $298.1 billion over 20 years, said Michael Sesma, a city council member of Gaithersburg, Maryland, speaking on behalf of the cities' group.

"In our estimation, these investment levels are actually an underestimate given the advancing age of our infrastructure, the burden of unfunded federal regulatory mandates, and factors not yet known as a result of our changing climate," he said.

Cities and counties operate and finance almost all of the country's water infrastructure, with help from the federal and state governments.  Get more info here. 

Ventura Water Launches Second Annual Water Take 1 Film Competition

ventura-water-logoThe second annual Water: Take 1film competition, presented by Ventura Water and Patagonia, has launched and is accepting submissions. Water: Take 1presents the best water-themed short films – narrative, documentary, comedy, drama, animation, live action – to a distinguished jury made up of leaders in water and environmental issues, entertainment professionals and influential members of the community.

AWE is a Strategic Partner of Water: Take 1 and Ventura is participating in the national Never Waste campaign to encourage consumers to make small changes that make a big difference.

Water: Take 1 serves as a mechanism to engage media savvy viewers in the creation of a social network of online content to extend the national reach of Ventura Water and its message.  Now in its second year, Water: Take 1 hopes to build upon the successes of last year, focusing on landscapes with more Ocean Friendly Gardens.

One Decade Later: MaP Testing Has Spurred Dramatic Improvements in Toilet Performance

MaP-LogoIn 2003, toilets were typically tested with sponges, kraft paper, and sometimes even ping pong balls and overall flushing performance was questionable.  That’s when two engineers, John Koeller and Bill Gauley, decided toilets should be tested more rigorously and more realistically and found Maximum Performance Testing (MaP).  Ten years later, the world is a different place and flushing performance is greatly improved.

“MaP testing has dramatically changed and improved the toilet industry by establishing a test procedure that was realistic and meaningful,” said Bill Gauley. “By publishing the test results, we gave credit where credit was due and provided an impetus for the toilet manufacturers to develop better products.”

john-koeller“I think most manufacturers will credit MaP as the catalyst for the development of top-performing HETs,” explained John Koeller.  “The MaP measuring stick of flush performance fed the competitive nature of the plumbing manufacturers.  To compete on performance, those manufacturers invested millions into new product development.”  

Koeller noted that the MaP testing started in 2003 led to the UNAR (Uniform North American Requirements) specification of 2005.  UNAR, led directly to the first WaterSense specification for tank-type high-efficiency toilets.  

“MaP provided the ideal performance measurement tool that WaterSense needed to get toilet fixtures 'off the ground' back in 2006,” Koeller said.

“While MaP testing is not perfect, it was clearly instrumental to the market acceptance of high-performance HETs and the significant reduction in per capita water demands being experienced in virtually every community in Canada and the U.S.A.,” Gauley said.

Bill-GauleyAfter transforming the toilet industry in a mere 10 years, Gauley and Koeller are not resting on their laurels.

“The concept of Maximum Performance must grow beyond just toilets,” Koeller said.  “There are many water-using products out there that are desperately in need of comparative measures of efficiency and performance based upon independent third-party testing.”

“Consumers, design professionals, and specifiers all need this kind of information, because it is not necessarily available right now from truly independent sources,” Gauley explained.  

Koeller and Gauley also understand the importance of the relationship between MaP Testing and WaterSenense.

“While we are working to create expanded MaP 'coverage', we will always be looking to WaterSense as a colleague in the MaP endeavor,” Koeller said.  “In the next 10 years, look for MaP ratings for other products as showerheads, humidifiers, water softeners, urinals, and others.”

Given the impact MaP testing has already had on the plumbing industry, we expect nothing less than another 10 years of dramatic improvements and efficiency savings.  Congratulations on 10 years gentlemen. Learn more about MaP testing here.

Growing Concern in Minnesota Over Lake Levels

MinnesotaIn Minnesota, the land of 10,000 lakes, there is growing concern that human beings are impacting the natural ecosystem and causing reductions in lake levels.  Water was once taken for granted as a resource in Minnesota. Not anymore.

Experts believe that increased pumping from the aquifer that three quarters of the Twin Cities  (Minneapolis/St. Paul) depends on for drinking, bathing and watering lawns is reducing lake levels in nearby White Bear Lake. White Bear joins a growing list of lakes in the northeast metro area that residents and water experts fear are being drained by development's thirst for new supply.

"We're not going to run out of water, but what we are doing is affecting our surface waters," said Jim Stark, director of the state's Water Science Center at the U.S. Geological Survey. "And that's where people notice things, on the edge."

Minnesota’s reliance on groundwater appears to be draining the aquifers and in turn pulling down the level of local lakes and streams.

Minnesota joins the growing list of states where consumers face a possible future marked by conservation measures, increased water costs and, ultimately, a resource that won't flow so freely.  Welcome to the club.  Read more about the water supply situation in the Twin Cities here. 

Great Lakes Water Levels Remain Low Causing Harbor Problems

chicago-lake-michiganLake Michigan and Lake Huron both set the record for all time low water levels in January 2013 and are expected to stay 2 feet below long-term averages at least through August.  Blame the extended drought and hot weather that speeds evaporation, says Keith Kompoltowicz, chief of watershed hydrology for the Army Corps of Engineers' Detroit district.

Declining lake levels are causing problems across the region, said Chuck May of the Great Lakes Small Harbors Coalition, which represents small harbors authorized and maintained by the federal government. Michigan has 56 of the 112 Great Lakes small harbors.

The mean water level in January was 576.02 feet above sea level, May said, breaking the previous record of 576.05 in March 1964. The corps started keeping records in 1918.  Learn more here. 

Conservation Hero Al Dietemann Retires from Seattle Public Utilities

Al-Dietemann-RetiresOne of the influential leaders of the water conservation movement over the past 30 years, Allan (Al) Dietemann of Seattle Public Utilities has decided to call it a career.  Dietemann was instrumental in helping Seattle conserve an estimated 286 billion gallons of water during his tenure. 

Dietemann was also a leader in the effort to secure national codes and standards for water efficient fixtures and appliances and was a founding board member of the Alliance for Water Efficiency.

Al was celebrated with an amusing and informative slide show and an epic poem saluting his accomplishments.  We wish Al all the best in his retirement, but we expect him to stay involved in the water efficiency realm.

Water Smart Conservation Videos from Colorado

The Douglas County Water Resources Authority (DCWRA) and the City of Thornton, Colorado joined forces to produce a series of water conservation videos, and the first three are available on You Tube.  They look great and appear to be broadly applicable.


A total of 10 videos were produced and the series can be customized with a utility logo for a nominal fee.  Contact Mark Shively at DCWRA for more information.

Conservation is Best Source of Water for Future - NY Academy of Sciences Panel

There is no secret source of water of the future. Conservation is the best answer, agreed panelists at a discussion held February 28 at the New York Academy of Sciences.

Using the available water is much cheaper than building more reservoirs, pipelines, desalinization plants (to remove salt from seawater) and other infrastructure, said panelist Brian Richter, director of global freshwater strategies for The Nature Conservancy.

“If I am over-drafting my personal bank account, is it going to do me any good to open up another account?” Richter asked. “You can't build your way out of the problem. We are not making any new water."

Learn more about the Academy of Sciences event here. 

EPA Ranks Cities Based on 2012 Energy Star Building Count

energy-star-logo-big-imageThe U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a list of U.S. metropolitan areas with the most Energy Star certified buildings in 2012, highlighting how owners and managers of commercial buildings across the country are taking action on climate change while delivering real financial savings to the bottom line.  Los Angeles, Washington DC, and Chicago topped the list in 2012.

“Through their partnership with EPA, the owners and managers of Energy Star certified buildings are helping reduce greenhouse gas emissions while saving on utility bills,” said EPA Acting Administrator Bob Perciasepe. “With Energy Star, cities across America are helping achieve President Obama’s goal to cut in half the energy wasted by our businesses over the next 20 years.”  Learn how your city was ranked and read more here. 

Apply for a 2013 WaterSense Partner of the Year Award Today

WaterSense LogoDid your organization go above and beyond the call of WaterSense duty in 2012?  If so, you should tell WaterSense all about it; they may just crown your organization Partner of the Year! The deadline to apply for a 2013 WaterSense Partner of the Year award is April 1, 2013.

WaterSense partners are eligible to apply if they became a partner prior to January 1, 2013. Learn more about the awards, view past winners' accomplishments, and find the 2013 application here. 

Wyland Foundation Hosts Comics for Conservation Contest

Comics all over the country are getting together to help spread the word about the importance of conserving water in this contest hosted by the Wyland Foundation.  Help your favorite comedian win $500 to the environmental charity of their choice by liking their YouTube video between March 15 – April 30. Go to the Wyland Foundation's YouTube Channel to view videos from Jon Lovitz, John Pinette and more to vote for your favorite! If you’re a comic, submit your own video about water conservation. 

Call for Abstracts Underway for Canadian Energy & Water Efficiency Conference

[INSERT CONFERENCE IMAGE] The Canadian Water and Wastewater Association and the Canadian National Water Efficiency Network are pleased to present the Canadian Energy and Water Efficiency Conference. The Conference will be held October 16-18, 2013 at The Westin Calgary in Calgary, Alberta. Abstracts must be received by April 30 via email. Learn more here.

Australian Water Conservation Survey Finds High Level of Engagement

​The Australian Smart WaterMark has commissioned a survey of public attitudes to water efficiency and saving water around the home and garden since 2006. The sixth wave of the telephone omnibus survey was undertaken between 30 November and 2 December 2012 across Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth. The core questions have remained the same since 2006 to track longitudinal trends.

The key findings in the survey include:

  • 96% of respondents have actively engaged in water saving activities with 79% of households changing their watering habits in the garden and 38% of people reporting having purchased a water efficient appliance or product using a rebate from government or a utility.
  • Public concern over the water situation across Australia’s capital cities has increased for the first time since 2006, with 82% of respondents saying the situation is serious up from 75% last year.
  • Concern in Australia’s cities is highest in Perth with 91% of residents worried about the water situation, Adelaide at 86%, and Brisbane the least concerned at 76%.
  • There has been a continued increase in households using trigger nozzles on hoses (79%) an increase over 20% in the last 6 years.
  • The use of graywater and rainwater harvesting systems has remained at similar levels to 2011. Rainwater use has steadily increased in Brisbane over the past 3 years, overtaking Adelaide this year as the city with the highest percentage of households using rainwater.

 A summary report of the survey is available for download here. 

Water Services Association of Australia: “Urban communities are now water secure”

The Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA), the Aussie counterpart to the AWWA, has issued a position paper suggesting that because of the success of water conservation, “Australian urban communities are now water secure.”

The WSAA position paper also states that, “Customers can now use water as they wish, but most importantly, use it in a way that does not waste a drop,” a statement that seems to imply increased demand may be desired to help refill water provider coffers that have been emptied by the lowered sales of the past two very wet years where floods were more of a problem than drought.

WSAA Executive Director, Adam Lovell stated, “Major infrastructure improvements, the introduction of rainfall independent water sources such as recycling and desalination, and the substantial investment water utilities made in water efficiency programs for customers in the past 15 years means Australian urban communities are now water secure.”  At least until the next drought.

Learn more and download the full WSAA position paper here. 


News Briefs and Web Links

  • California DWR Releases Bay Delta Conservation Plan Chapters for Review - The California Natural Resources Agency has released the first four of 12 draft chapters of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan. The release of these first chapters is a milestone in the seven-year effort to restore the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta ecosystem and provide a reliable water supply for two-thirds of California's population. Learn more and access the first four chapters here. 
  • Portland Critic Aims to Clamp Down on Rate Increases – A longtime water and sewer rate critic tries to wrestle Portland's water and sewer rates away from City Hall by establishing an independent, third-party People's Utility District.  Read more here. 
  • Pacific Institute and AWE Highlight Conservation Oriented Water Rates in “Need to Know” Series – Learn more about revenue stability, demand forecasting, and affordability here. 
  • Palo Alto “Great Race for Saving Water” set for April 27 – Learn more and register for this event here. 
  • Discounted Registration for AWWA’s Sustainable Water Management Conference Extended – The Sustainable Water Management Conference will be held April 7–10, 2013 in Nashville, TN.  The period for discounted registration has been extended. Full registration for this event is currently discounted to $595 for AWWA members.  Learn more and register here. 
  • MWD Spring Green Expo Set for May 16 – MWD’s free annual sustainability expo featuring green vendor exhibits, student sustainability projects, and environmental seminars will be held from 8:30 – 1:00 p.m. on May 16.  Get more info and register for this free event here. 
  • Colorado Campaign Aims to Put Conservation First – A new water conservation campaign in Colorado uses the Governor’s own words supporting conservation to pressure action at the state level.  Watch the PSA on You Tube here. 
  • Israeli Students Invent Shower Conservation System – The innovative design stores the water wasted down the drain before the shower gets hot.  Learn more here. 
  • 18 Reasons Why a Public Supplier Should Consider Water Conservation – Looking for justification for an efficiency program?  This may help. 
  • Are Cost-Indexed Rate Increases the Way to Go? – This blog from Environmental Finance at the University of North Carolina examines the pros and cons. 
  • Economic Losses from Disasters Including Drought and Flood Top $100 billion for 3rd Straight Year - Economic losses from disasters have exceeded $100 billion for three years in a row, the first time this has happened, the U.N. Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) said. Learn more here. 
  • Is Water a Commodity or a Human Right? – A BBC podcast tackles this issue with a group of international experts. 
  • “Horrific” Water Loss in India Reduced Through Metering - Smart meter use in Mumbai India eliminated 50 percent of the 700 million liters (150 million gallons) a day of water that’s wasted or leaked by broken pipes according to Itron.
  • Huff Post Green Gives Shout Out to AWE – “9 Things You Should Know About the Food, Water, Energy Nexus” included a mention of the AWE/ACEEE Water and Energy Efficiency Awards. 
  • Alliance for Water Stewardship Issues Beta Standard – The Alliance for Water Stewardship has announced the release of the Beta AWS Standard: the world’s first International Water Stewardship Standard.  Learn more here. 
  • Save Water, Drink Beer – After All It Brought Us Civilization – Jeffrey Kahn explores the link between beer and civilization in the New York Times. 
  • Of Conspiracy Theories and Sustainability – Is the sustainability movement hiding an agenda that seeks central control over all human life on planet Earth?  Glen Beck thinks so.  Read more here.  
  • Home Water Works Offers Consumer Efficiency Information – AWE’s Home Water Works web site – www.home-water-works.org – offers useful information on how to easily save water in your home or apartment and a Water Calculator to estimate how water is used.  Check it out 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 – peter.mayer@waterdm.com.

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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.