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...

Drought Conditions Persist in Texas and California

Serious drought conditions continue to impact significant portions of Texas and California triggering drought response action and forcing mandatory watering restrictions in many areas.  The news briefs below provide information on drought response activities in both states.  Click on a link for more information on the situation in California or Texas.

Significant Water Savings Seen in Los Angeles and San Diego

California_droughtThe Los Angeles Department of Water and Power in California's Los Angeles County reported that water demand in the second-biggest US city dropped by 12.7% in June compared to consumption in June 2008. Water conservation became mandatory at the beginning of the month due to ongoing drought and Federal reductions in the water supply.  Sprinkler watchers even caught irrigation violations at the LA Mayor’s residence.  Read more here.

The San Diego County Water Authority of California reported that two factors -- cool weather and strenuous conservation efforts -- led to a significant drop in water consumption in San Diego County during the first half of the year. Municipal and industrial water use decreased by nearly 9% compared to the same period in 2008, while urban water use dropped 24% in June compared with a year earlier. The agency credited mandatory restrictions and public-awareness programs for the savings.

Sacramento Struggles to Rein in Irrigation

Meanwhile, the Sacramento Bee reports that many of the city of Sacramento's biggest water users increased their watering dramatically, including some familiar locations: the City Cemetery, Land Park and Curtis Park.   A Bee investigation of water use in Sacramento, based on an examination of three years of billing records, reveals city government itself as the top water user needing improvement.  Read more here. 

In Temecula, homeowner association members battled over rules requiring green front lawns which are in clear conflict with utility imposed watering restrictions.  Read more about the dispute here.

Texas Endures Extreme and Exceptional Drought Levels

Texas_droughtAccording to the US Department of Agriculture, 77 of the 254 counties in Texas are in extreme or exceptional drought, the most severe categories. Hundreds of public water agencies have instituted mandatory water restrictions as temperatures of 100 F and higher persist and waterways dry up. Among the most seriously affected reservoirs are Lake Travis and Lake Buchanan along the Colorado River near Austin, which provide drinking water for more than 1 million people. The city of San Antonio in Bexar County, which relies upon the Edwards Aquifer, is enduring its driest 23-month period since weather data were first recorded in 1885. The end could be in sight, however: Victor Murphy of the National Weather Service said that the periodic weather pattern El Nino is developing in the Pacific Ocean. It usually brings increased rainfall to Texas.  Click here for more information on the Texas drought.

Mexico Experiences Severe Drought

A months-long drought has affected broad swaths of the country, from the U.S. border to the Yucatan Peninsula, leaving crop fields parched and many reservoirs low. The need for rain is so dire that water officials have been rooting openly for a hurricane or two to provide a good drenching.

"We really are in a difficult situation," said Felipe Arreguin Cortes, deputy technical director for Mexico's National Water Commission.  Read more here.

New York City Teams Up with EPA to Promote Water Efficiency

MPj04020080000[1].jpgNew York City is known as the Big Apple and the Big Apple is definitely green.  NYC is promoting the importance of conserving water by partnering with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) through the Agency’s WaterSense program, which promotes water efficiency strategies, and identifies and labels products that use less water. The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) hopes to raise awareness about the importance of conserving water in the nation’s largest city.

“The motto of EPA’s WaterSense program is ‘Every Drop Counts,’ and nowhere is that more appropriate or important than New York City,” said EPA Acting Regional Administrator George Pavlou. “In a city of 8 million people, small improvements to how we use water can mean saving millions of gallons per day, which is good for the environment and the economy alike.”
Read more here.

UN Says Wealthy Nations Will Confront Water Shortages

The UN has warned that water shortages, floods, and hurricanes are equal opportunity disasters.  The growing shortage of water - a perennial problem in the world's poorer nations - is expected impact the rich nations in the Western world as climate change impacts ripple across the globe. The United States, Spain, Australia and the Netherlands are likely to face the consequences of climate change resulting in water-related disasters, including droughts, floods, hurricanes and sea-level rise.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, citing official U.S. figures, said the state of California, the world's fifth largest economy, "could see prime farmland reduced to a dustbowl, and major cities running out of water by the end of the century". Blaming it on the negative impact of global warming, he said that climate is changing – globally – and that many nations and regions must prepare.  Read more here.

California Plan Moves Climate Adaptation to Front Burner

CaliforniaA one-fifth reduction in per capita water use by 2020 is among the goals outlined in a new California state report on adapting to climate change.

Released by the California Natural Resources Agency as a "discussion draft,"  the 2009 California Climate Adaptation Strategy is being billed as the nation's first comprehensive game plan for adaptation to climate change.

Most of the state's high-profile climate initiatives (and battles) have been about mitigation:  how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to slow down warming. This report swings the spotlight over to adaptation, and what needs to be done to accommodate the climate change effects that are already "in the pipeline." Read more here.

California Water Legislation Sinks as Session Ends

Last minute disagreements over a huge bond proposal torpedoed an ambitious California legislative water package that would have brought some resolution to some of California's most contentious water issues.  As the clock ticked toward adjournment of the legislative session, Democratic leaders realized they didn't have the votes and shelved a wide-ranging set of water measures.  A special session on water this fall is now a possibility.

"Everyone agrees that we are close and that we have made a decade's worth of progress in just a few weeks," Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg of Sacramento said in a statement after deciding not to move the legislation to the floor.

The Democrats combined five proposals into one policy bill and -- in a partial bow to Republican demands -- crafted a $12-billion bond measure late in the week to pay for new water infrastructure, ecosystem restoration and supply projects such as water recycling and desalination.

The water package mandated a statewide groundwater monitoring program and a 20% cut in statewide per-capita urban water use by 2020. As the legislation rolled out of a joint conference committee last week, there was some resistance to the conservation, water rights and groundwater provisions.

"I think what we're trying to do is to start building a new paradigm on water issues in California that everyone knows is necessary," said Barry Nelson, of the Natural Resources Defense Council.  Read more here.

WaterSense Seeks Input on Commercial Program, Plans Vegas Meeting on 10/5

image010Do you have an opinion about what a WaterSense program for commercial buildings look like?  How can water efficiency be encouraged in universities and hotels or at golf courses and car washes?

WaterSense EPA is considering expanding WaterSense to include the commercial and institutional sector, and as a first step is seeking feedback on the design of their commercial water efficiency program efforts.  WaterSense has released a white paper, Water Efficiency in the Commercial and Institutional Sector: Considerations for a WaterSense Program, and seeks broad input and guidance in developing a WaterSense program for the commercial and institutional sector. In particular, EPA is interested in hearing stakeholders’ responses to our current research needs and program design options. EPA invites comments, which may be submitted to watersense-ci@erg.com through September 20, 2009.  

WaterSense will hold a meeting to discuss potential commercial and institutional sector program options coinciding with the WaterSmart Innovations Conference on Monday, October 5, 2009, from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at The South Point Hotel and Conference Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. There is no registration fee for this meeting. If you are interested in attending, please contact the WaterSense Helpline at (866) WTR-SENS (987-7367) or e-mail watersense-ci@erg.com.

WaterSense Pre-Rinse Spray Valve Research Study Scope Meeting

The EPA will hold a teleconference and webinar meeting to discuss the pre-rinse spray valve research study scope and next steps in the WaterSense specification development process on September 30, 2009, from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. Eastern time,. To review the study scope and to register for the meeting, please click here.  

Budget Constraints, Anomalies Delay USGS Water Data Release

What are the national water use trends in the US over the past five years?  Unfortunately, nobody knows.  Budget and personnel issues have delayed the 2005 U.S. Geological Survey national water use data, leaving many in the water world anxiously awaiting its release.

Eric Evenson, USGS Coordinator for the National Water Census, said that resource constraints and database fact checking are what has held the data back.

“It’s an activity that we basically conduct on a shoestring,” he said of the data collection.

The report, which tracks water use down to the county level, is released every five years. According to the USGS Web site, the 2000 data was released in March 2004, a four-year-and-three-month process. The 1995 data was made available in 1998, taking a little over three years.

As of August 2009, four years and seven months have passed, leaving some in the water world scratching their heads.  When will Congress allocate sufficient funding to this fundamental data collection effort?

Dwarf Planets to Rock AWE/EPA Banquet

dwarf_planetsDwarf Planets, a six-piece rock band from Boulder, Colorado that features the editor of this newsletter (Peter Mayer) on guitar and vocals will provide the musical entertainment at the AWE/EPA WaterSense Award Banquet at WaterSmart Innovations. The Banquet is being held at the South Point Hotel and Conference Center on October 7, 2009, and will begin with a cocktail reception at 6:00 p.m.

The water efficiency community has been waiting for years (literally) for a conference event that really rocks and swings.  The wait is almost over.  Dwarf Planets plays out of this world original, eclectic indie rock and world music that been called “Dazzling” by Carmen Allgood host of the Indie Music Wave.  Pack your party clothes and dancing shoes.  Get ready to let your hair down, shake your booty, and have a great time.  This will be a night and a party to be remembered.
For more information about the banquet and to buy tickets click here. For more information about Dwarf Planets or to listen to their recently released EP the “Far and Away Sessions” click here.

Alliance for Water Efficiency Meetings Prior to 2009 WaterSmart Innovations

The Alliance for Water Efficiency will be holding its Annual Member meeting and meetings for the three Alliance committees at the South Point Hotel and Conference Center one day before the start of WaterSmart Innovations. The meetings are open to all and take place on October 6, 2009 as follows:

WaterSense & Water Efficient Products Committee Meeting

  • 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm
  • South Point Casino, Mission Bay Room, Las Vegas, NV

Water Efficiency Research Committee Meeting

  • 2:15 pm to 3:15 pm
  • South Point Casino, Mission Bay Room, Las Vegas, NV

AWE Education and Outreach Committee Meeting

  • 3:30 pm to 4:30 pm
  • South Point Casino, Mission Bay Room, Las Vegas, NV

AWE Annual Membership Meeting

  • 5:00 pm to 6:00 pm (Reception to follow)
  • South Point Casino, Monterey Bay Room, Las Vegas, NV

Public Meeting on DOE Residential Clothes Washer Rule Making Sept. 21

The Department of Energy (DOE) has announced a public meeting in Washington on Monday, September 21, 2009 on the "framework document" for a rulemaking to consider new energy and water efficiency standards for residential clothes washers.  The framework document itself is available here.   

DOE is getting off to a late start.   This rulemaking must -- by statute -- be completed by the end of 2011, and will set standards for all new washers sold or imported in the US as of January 1, 2015.  The potential savings for both energy and water are significant if DOE does a credible job of reviewing the issues and takes timely action to issue a meaningful rule.

IAPMO's Green Plumbing and Mechanical Code Supplement Now Available for Comment

IapmoIAPMO's Green Plumbing and Mechanical Code Supplement, a comprehensive document to standardize sustainable residential and commercial plumbing and mechanical systems, is now available for peer review and comment. The 45-day review period will conclude at 5 p.m. on Friday, October 9.
To obtain a copy of the Draft IAPMO Green Plumbing and Mechanical Code Supplement click here. Please email comments to Maria Bazan. Comments will only be accepted electronically via e-mail. For more information about the Green Supplement click here.

Canadians Spur Ontario Government Towards “World-Class Water Strategy”

A coalition of Canadian water professionals, university think-tanks, environmental and citizen-based groups called on the Ontario government to take immediate and aggressive action on water conservation. H2Ontario: A Blueprint for a Comprehensive Water Conservation Strategy outlines a strategy for making Ontario world-leaders in cutting wasteful water practices, and urges Ontarians to support development of a world-class action plan.  

The blueprint coincides with the release of a government white paper outlining options for a new water strategy. Peer reviewed by the country’s leading water experts, H2Ontario sets a course for the development of a progressive and pragmatic plan.  

 “A commitment to water conservation would also spur job growth in a broad range of industries such as plumbing, landscaping, engineering, construction and design, and in manufacturing sectors involved in supplying everything from rain barrels to dishwashers,” said Mary Ann Dickinson, Executive Director of the Alliance for Water Efficiency.   

The Blueprint establishes a coherent strategy organized around 10 priority actions and 25 specific recommendations.  Download the report here.

Submissions for Inaugural Imagine H2O Prize Now Being Accepted

The inaugural Imagine H2O Prize competition is now open for submissions.  The competition offers prizes of $70,000 in cash and in-kind services to business plans that promise the greatest breakthroughs in the efficient use and supply of water.\

Areas of interest include solutions to improve water efficiency in agriculture, commercial, industrial, or residential applications, such as water demand reduction, improved water use, water recycling, and/or reuse. 

Entries will be accepted from around the world through November 16, 2009.  For more details and to participate, please visit www.imagineh2o.org.

WRc in UK Launches Water Efficiency Calculator

WRc has announced the launch of an online water calculator which follows the methodology provided in The Water Efficiency Calculator for new dwellings report. The calculator can be used for assessing water efficiency in new dwellings in support of The British Code for Sustainable Homes and the new Part G of the Building Regulations. From October 2009 in the UK, all new dwellings will be required to prove the water using products installed in the home meet the requirement of 125 litres per person per day consumption, as calculated by this methodology.

The online version, produced by WRc, is freely available for everyone including plumbers, architects, designers, Building Control and Approved Inspectors to use to ensure that new dwellings meet this requirement. The calculator can be found here. 

Russia To Invest $20 billion in Water by 2020

russia-flagRussia plans to invest over $20 billion in managing its water resources and infrastructure upgrades, announced Prime Minister Vladimir Putin during a government meeting last week. With over 20% of the world's fresh water, Russia is second only to Brazil in global fresh water resources. "Apart from state budget funding, we need to create conditions for private sector inflows... On the whole this sector can be attractive for private investment," Putin said. Soviet leaders drafted plans to divert water from Siberian rivers to European Russia, but the plans were dropped in the late 1980s. Some Russian politicians, including Moscow's mayor Yuri Luzhkov, have called for their re-examination. http://www.european-waternews.com/news/id735-Russia_Sees__bln_Investment_in_Water_by.html

Indian Sanitation Innovator Receives Stockholm Water Prize

SWP_laureate_2009Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak has received the Stockholm Water Prize from H.R.H. Prince Carl Philip of Sweden during the 2009 World Water Week in Stockholm. The founder of the Sulabh Sanitation Movement in India, Dr. Pathak is known around the world for his wide-ranging work in the sanitation field to improve public health, advance social progress, and improve human rights in his home nation and other countries.  Read more here.

Can Hunter and Gatherer Cultures Teach Us to Survive Our Future

Bushmen_bookHeart of Dryness: How the Last Bushmen Can Help Us Endure the Coming Age of Permanent Drought   by James Workman is the story of Botswana's Bushmen, how they cope with their dry landscape, and what lessons we might learn from them.  This nonfiction narrative set in the Kalahari dramatizes the timeless struggle over water, the fulcrum of political power. Facing drought, scarcity and climate change, the besieged indigenous Bushmen use voluntary survival strategies while Botswana’s government enforces regulatory rule. Their rivalry foreshadows our world, where two in three thirsty humans will soon endure shortages, resource conflict, a $900 billion market, and a global fight for water as a human right.

News Briefs and Web Links

  • Ensuring a Sustainable Future: An Energy Management Workshop for Water and Wastewater Utilities – the event will be held  October 15, 2009 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. in Denver, Colorado.  To view the agenda and to register, please visit the EPA Region 8 website.  
  • 35 Years of Water Policy: The 1973 National Water Commission and Present Challenges – a new report from the Congressional Research Service offers a retrospective look at the recommendations of the 1973 National Water Commission and efforts to implement the recommendations from that group.  The report provides a brief history of attempts to coordinate water policy and change certain policies since 1973, as well as an overview of what's been tried and why developing a lasting national policy is so difficult. 
  • Golf course water efficiency – The New York Times covers water efficiency improvements at the country club or public course.  
  • Last week, Business Week alerted its readership to the increasing profitability of water. According to reporter David Bogoslaw, we should expect a "surge in water investments to begin over the next one to three years." Investors are apparently starting to view water as the potential key to salvaging their flailing portfolios.  Read more here.
  • The Warmest Seas on Record - According to the Sydney Morning Herald, "For as long as people have taken the temperature of the seas they have never been so warm."  Global ocean surface temperatures for June 2009 were the highest since records began, in 1880, breaking the record set in 2005 according to the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration in the U.S.   The average sea surface temperature for June, measured by satellites and buoys, was 0.59 degrees above the 20th-century average of 16.4 degrees.
  • A Clear Blue Future - How Greening California Cities Can Address Water Resources and Climate Challenges in the 21st Century – this new report from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is available for free download.
  • 2009 AWRA Annual Water Resources Conference will be held in Seattle, WA,  November 9-12, 2009 The AWRA Annual Water Resources Conference always provides a forum for participants to explore the many multidisciplinary aspects of water resources research, policy, and management.   This year's conference program is full of presentations that will inform and challenge your mind.  Learn more here. 
  • Water Consciousness is a solution-focused guide to one of the world's greatest environmental crises. This book includes straightforward essays written by the world's leading environmentalists and stunning photographs illuminating our global water crisis and solutions. For more info, visit the Water Consciousness page.
  • Colorado Pipeline Gets Wyoming Scrutiny - Governor Dave Freudenthal of Wyoming sent a letter to the US Army Corps of Engineers urging the agency to scrutinize a proposal by Colorado businessman Aaron Million with a wary eye. Million is seeking permission to divert 250,000 acre-feet of water from the Green River Basin in Wyoming and deliver 25,000 acre-feet to the Platte River Basin in Wyoming. The remaining 225,000 acre-feet would go to the South Platte and Arkansas River Basins in Colorado. Freudenthal opposes the project, saying that lowering flows in the upper Green River will increase water temperatures, putting fish populations at risk, and damage tourism in the Flaming Gorge Reservoir, a popular fishing and boating area.
  • Nile countries delay water sharing pact for six months - At a meeting in Al-Iskandariyya (Alexandria), Egypt, water ministers from the nine countries that share the waters of the Nile River decided to hold off signing a water-sharing pact that's already been rejected by Egypt and Sudan. A draft drawn up in June omitted mention of Egypt and Sudan's claims to the vast majority of the Nile's water under a 1929 treaty between Egypt and the UK, then acting on behalf of its African colonies. The treaty gave Egypt veto power over upstream projects. Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, and the Democratic Republic of Congo are demanding a more equitable agreement. Egypt, which relies upon the Nile for the majority of its water, argues that upstream countries could make better use of rainfall and have other sources of water.
  • San Francisco Bay Tunnel to Carry Water - General Manager Ed Harrington of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission in California, said that a new tunnel in the Bay area will ensure residents of an adequate water supply in the event of a major earthquake. A 5-mile-long tunnel and pipeline will be built beneath San Francisco Bay to distribute potable water in case of catastrophe in the quake-prone region. The project is expected to cost $347 million.
  • Guide to a “Green” Commercial Lease Published - Building tenants, and what goes on in tenant space, are critical to the ongoing management and continual improvement of any building. The Building Owners Management Association (BOMA) International gathered a team of members with experience in executing leases and a proven track record for sustainability to “green” The Guide to Writing a Commercial Real Estate Lease, by Steven A. Teitelbaum, Jones Day, first published in 2005. The result, the new BOMA Green Lease Guide, walks you through the complex language of commercial real estate leases.  Check it out here.  
  • Water in Utah vs. Arizona – Author and educator Dr. Robert Glennon wants us to think of our water supply as a giant milkshake glass. And imagine each demand for water as a straw in the glass. Most American states allow a limitless number of straws in the single glass. It's an invitation to excessive water use that is utterly unsustainable. Glennon goes on to compare water rights, rules and regulations in Utah and Arizona.  It makes for interesting reading.
  • Water Shortages Hamper Iraq Reconstruction - Iraq's reconstruction efforts are being hampered by the water shortages affecting the entire region.  Although the Iraqi government blames Turkey and Syria for siphoning off much of the water from the Euphrates and Tigris rivers by building upstream dams, Deputy Director Dr. David Molden of the Sri Lanka-based International Water Management Institute adds population growth, wasteful irrigation techniques, salinization, and ignorance of water conservation to Iraq's list of problems. The degree of salinization is around 400 parts per million, so only extremely salt-tolerant crops do well. Although the United States has invested $130 million in repairing and extending the Saddam Canal to help reduce salts in irrigation water, it's up to the government to teach farmers how to conserve water and to cut the subsidies that encourage water waste.
  • The Great Himalayan WatershedPopulations collide with climate change near the roof of the world.
  • Salazar Releases Report Detailing Glaciers Shrinking in Alaska and Washington -
    A report on long-term glacier measurements released by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar shows that glaciers are dramatically changing in mass, length and thickness as a result of climate change. Over the past 50 years, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists have monitored the melting of Alaska’s Gulkana and Wolverine Glaciers and Washington’s South Cascade Glacier, yielding the longest such records in North America.  Read more here.
  • Lowest Rainfalls in Over Two Decades Leave India’s Largest State Unplanted - With monsoon rainfall the lowest in over twenty years, farmers in Lucknow, India, are suffering through a drought that has left 50 percent of farmland unplanted, according to The Times of India.
  • German Study Finds Conservation a Detriment to Sewer Flow - Although Germans use less water than ever before, sewage treatment officials in the country call for households to turn their taps on more often. The German Federal Association for Energy and Water (BDEW) warned that water conservation in the country is so effective that the insufficient water flow causes stagnation and corrosion in the water pipes that serve some of Germany’s biggest cities, Deutsche Welle reported last week.  Read more here. 
  • Peak oil?  What about peak water?  - Read more about the looming threat of “peak water” here. 
  • What Constitutes a Good Shower?  -  The New York Times covers this vexing conservation issue in a recent article. 

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.