Water Efficiency Watch February 2009

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...

Signed Stimulus Package Includes Water Efficiency Recommendations


President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act on February 17, 2009 in Denver, Colorado.  The Act allocates $6 billion for local clean and drinking water infrastructure improvements:  $4 billion for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) program; and $2 billion for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) program.

The water efficiency language is included thanks in large part to the efforts of American Rivers as well as the Alliance for Water Efficiency, who prepared a list of available water efficiency projects that could be ready to go with federal funding. The package that President Obama signed into law includes a 20% mandatory set-aside funding for water efficiency or other green infrastructure projects.  AWE plans on working closely with states and water utilities to make sure that the stimulus funds approved by Congress can be used quickly and without barriers.

AWE's leadership and fast action appears to have had a significant impact on discussions for water efficiency funding in the stimulus package.  First AWE prepared information on the economic impact and job creation potential of funding water efficiency.  Secondly, AWE assembled an extensive list of 575 "shovel ready" water efficiency projects totaling $2.5 billion for review by Congress.

"American Rivers and the Alliance worked hard to ensure water efficiency was considered in the stimulus package,” said AWE Executive Director Mary Ann Dickinson. “The meaningful levels of funding included in both the House and Senate versions are indications that our efforts have borne fruit.  Now we need to make sure that the money is spent on useful and significant projects."

"We may be at the start of the worst California drought in modern history."

CaliforniaThis according to Lester Snow, California Department of Water Resources (DWR).  The DWR Sierra snow pack survey in early February  showed it is at 61 percent of normal with no snow in sight. A growing number of water experts are warning Californians the outlook for adequate water to irrigate crops, fight fires, run businesses, flush toilets, and water lawns is growing dismal with each passing day of dry winter weather. Current estimates are that deliveries from the State Water Project may be less than 10% of normal in 2009.

With the threat of a deepening drought in the coming months, water managers across the state are starting to draw up plans on how to implement water rationing this summer.  California is entering its third year of below normal rainfall.  Last year Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger urged the Legislature to adopt a 20% reduction in per capita consumption goal by 2020.  This year looks to be even more dire.  Conserving water now will be essential to making it through a long, hot summer.

It hasn't really dawned on people yet, but it will," said Don Kendall, general manager of Calleguas Municipal Water District, which supplies most of eastern Ventura County with water. "This could be one of the worst droughts ever."

Experts have offered a grim water outlook for Nevada as well as California, saying farmers can again expect to receive less water than normal this year because of a drought.

Lake Oroville

  A grim view of Lake Oroville, a large storage reservoir for
  California’s State Water Project (photo courtesy of the 
  California Department of Water Resources).

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation officials, meeting with water users at a conference last week in Reno, said the snowpack water content is again averaging below normal so far this winter in both states.

In Nevada, it's currently running 71 percent in the Lake Tahoe basin, 68 percent in both the Truckee River and Carson River watersheds, 62 percent in the Walker River basin and 78 percent in the Humboldt River watershed, said Kenneth Parr, the agency's Lahontan Basin Area Office manager in Carson City.

Parr said that in addition to his fear for farmers, he also is concerned about the impact of a skimpy snowpack on smaller ski resorts around Lake Tahoe.

"The corporate ski resorts are facing no problem," he said. "I'm worried about the smaller ski resorts up there."

Ron Milligan, the bureau's Central Valley operations manager in Sacramento, Calif., said his office's initial water allocations will be "relatively low" this year because of the drought.

His office, which oversees farmers in California's Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys, plans to wait until Feb. 20 to announce specific figures to gain a better idea of the Sierra snow pack.

"Clearly, this is going to be a tight year," Milligan said. "The amount of water in storage is very low and the run-off projections at this point are very low. It's going to be very challenging to meet the various needs."

Unfortunately, this could be just the start.

Supreme Court Rejects Atlanta on Lake Lanier

supreme courtThe U.S. Supreme Court has struck down Georgia's last-ditch attempt to open more of Lake Lanier's water to drinkers in the Atlanta metropolitan area.

The court denied the state's request for appeal, leaving in place a lower court decision that invalidates a deal among the state, local governments and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The 20-year agreement would have allocated 50 percent more water to the Atlanta area.

Lake Lanier is the primary drinking source for the area's 3 million residents, and water planners say no other source can take its place.

Alabama and Florida last year sued to block the deal, saying Georgia was taking more than its legal share at their expense. Georgia maintains that the deal would redistribute far less water than the three states are fighting about and more fairly distribute the operating costs of Lanier's dam.

The legal battle over the water now returns to a federal court in Jacksonville, Fla., where the states will argues their cases.

Georgia Water Conservation Implementation Plan Now On-Line

GeorgiaGeorgia’s water conservation implementation plan (WCIP) is designed to foster a culture of conservation in the state and is intended to guide Georgia business owners, farmers, homeowners, water service providers, and government officials toward greater water efficiency in an effort to help sustain Georgia’s precious water resources.  Download a complete copy of the DRAFT WCIP, here.  Read AWE's comments on the Georgia WCIP here

Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District Issues 2008 Water & Wastewater Rates Survey

Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District has issued the 2008 Water & Wastewater Rates Survey for the greater Atlanta, Georgia area.  A copy of this Survey can be obtained at here.

Water Conservation Bills Move Through House of Representatives

The House has passed two bills aimed at boosting water conservation amid growing concern over climate change. 

H.R. 631, sponsored by Rep. Jim Matheson (D-Utah), directs U.S. EPA to create a research and development program to improve water efficiency and conservation technologies.  The bill is intended to spur innovation in the collection, treatment and reuse of stormwater and water from sinks, baths and kitchen appliances. The bill would require the launch of four water-efficiency technology projects in residential and commercial buildings and the establishment of a national clearinghouse on technologies and processes to promote conservation. It also includes funding for watershed-based water efficiency planning.

Under the measure, EPA would create a strategic plan for water-use efficiency and conservation and work with the National Academy of Sciences to investigate and report on strategies for the management of water supply, wastewater and stormwater.

The House also approved H.R. 469, sponsored by Rep. Ralph Hall (R-Texas), which directs the Energy Department to establish a program aimed at improving technologies to allow farmers and municipalities to use water extracted from energy projects. The measure would authorize $20 million annually from fiscal 2010 through fiscal 2013.

"At least 35 states are predicted to experience droughts in the next five years," said House Science and Technology Chairman Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.). "We need to begin now looking for ways for the federal government to spur new technological innovations in water research and development that will protect the country from an impending water scarcity crisis and the corresponding economic impact."

New Report - Climate Change and Water Resources Management: A Federal Perspective

Many challenges, including climate change, face North American water managers.  A new interagency report prepared by the U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration explores strategies to improve water management by tracking, anticipating, and responding to climate change. This report describes the existing and still needed underpinning science crucial to addressing the many impacts of climate change on water resources management.  Download the report here.

Texas Faces Drought - No Significant Rain Since August in Much of State

texasA drought of Texas-sized proportions is threatening the largest of the lower 48 as no significant rain has fallen over much of Texas since August. 

According to the New York Times, winter wheat crops have failed, ponds have dried up, and ranchers are spending heavily on hay and feed pellets to get their cattle through the winter. Some wonder if they will have to slaughter their herds come summer. Farmers say the soil is too dry for seeds to germinate and are considering not planting.

“The last time we had a drought this bad was in January 1918,” said John Nielsen-Gammon, the state climatologist. “The droughts in the 1950s in individual years were not as bad as this.”  Read more about drought conditions in Texas here

WaterSense Promotes “Fix A Leak Week”

Fix A Leak Week (sm)March 16 to 20, 2009 marks the WaterSense program's first "Fix a Leak Week," a time to remind Americans to attack leaks in their household fixtures and irrigation systems. While leaks might sometimes seem like small problems, over time they waste both valuable water resources and money. On average, a U.S. household wastes more than 11,000 gallons of water per year—enough to fill a backyard swimming pool.

Common types of leaks found in the home are leaking toilet flappers, dripping faucets, and other leaking valves. These types of leaks are easily correctable, in many cases requiring only a few tools and hardware, such as a wrench and drops of food coloring, which will easily pay for themselves in water savings.  Learn more tips and information about Fix a Leak Week here.

SWAT Update:  Comment Period for Add-on Devices Opens and Rain Sensor Summary Review Posted

SWAT2.pngThe Smart Water Application Technologies (SWAT) group has two new postings.

1. A 90-day public comment period began at the end of January for a first draft of recommendations for testing add-on controller devices that can work with new or existing systems.  View the 1st Draft: Recommendations, Add-on Devices here.  Please note: This is a draft position paper and it will not be part of the protocols for climatologically- or soil moisture sensor-based controllers.

2. The summary review comments on the draft protocol for rain sensors are available here.

"The End of Ag?" DOE’s Chu Drops a Climate Bombshell

Stephen Chu - DOEHigher temperatures and drier conditions could destroy California's vineyards by the end of the century if Americans do not act fast to slow global warming, Secretary of Energy Stephen Chu said in February in his first interview since joining the Obama cabinet.  Chu, a California native, warned that increased water shortages in the West and a loss of up to 90 percent of the Sierra snowpack are likely to have a severe impact on the state's agricultural industries as well as California's cities.

"I don't think the American public has gripped in its gut what could happen," Chu told the Los Angeles Times .  "We're looking at a scenario where there's no more agriculture in California."

AWWA to Partner on WaterSmart Innovations Conference

The American Water Works Association (AWWA) is entering into a partnering agreement with the WaterSmart Innovations conference and plans to co-sponsor the 2009 event scheduled for October 7-9, 2009, at the South Point Hotel and Conference Center in Las Vegas.  More than 270 abstracts were received for this event by the January 30 deadline, indicating the high level of interest in this conference.  It is unclear what will happen to AWWA’s bi-annual Sustainable Water Sources conference, last held in Reno in 2008, in light of the decision to partner on the WaterSmart Innovations event.  The AWWA Conservation Workshop held this January in Portland, OR had about 80 participants, fewer than in past years.

Irrigation Association Creates PAC

The Irrigation Association's Board of Directors has approved the formation of the Irrigation Association Political Action Committee (IrrigationPAC), to help IA achieve its legislative objectives and increase the industry's visibility with elected officials and political candidates at the federal level.

"IrrigationPAC is a necessary and useful tool for the Irrigation Association to become the recognized authority on irrigation," said President Stephen W. Smith. "Increasing our presence with elected officials and policy makers will help IA promote the message of efficient irrigation and better water management."

The PAC will be headed by John Farner, federal affairs director for IA, under the direction of IrrigationPAC's Board of Advisors.

IrrigationPAC intends to:

  • Support the election or reelection of U.S. congressional candidates who share a commitment to efficient irrigation.
  • Educate policymakers about the economic and environmental benefits of efficient irrigation.
  • Represent industry stakeholders' interests and take a leadership role in the water management debate.

For more information, visit www.irrigation.org.

“National Drinking Water Agenda” Submitted to Obama Administration

AWWA and three other national drinking water organizations have submitted “A National Drinking Water Agenda” to the Obama administration in hopes of influencing policy and funding.  The document recommends significant investment in drinking water infrastructure improvements within the stimulus package, but sadly makes barely a passing reference to water conservation and demand management.  Download a copy of “A National Drinking Water Agenda” here.

Deep Trouble for Wells in Eastern Washington

Washington stateA groundwater-mapping study that tracks how water trickles under Eastern Washington State shows deep wells in four counties are in trouble.  The two-year study done by the Columbia Basin Groundwater Management Area, based in Othello, found that aquifer levels are dropping so fast that most deep wells in the study area are drawing water left from the ice-age floods at least 10,000 years ago, and that there is virtually no chance Lake Roosevelt is recharging deep wells in Eastern Washington's driest counties.

 "This is a major issue for cities and big irrigators," said Paul Stoker, executive director of the groundwater agency.

Franklin, Adams, Grant and Lincoln counties are most affected in a study area covering about 8,000 square miles.

"Water-level records show groundwater mining is occurring with many wells declining faster than they can naturally recharge," Stoker said in a release last week.  Learn more here.

South Australia Faces Water Supply Shortage

South Australia (SA) Water has said that the State's reservoirs are about 70 per cent full, which is enough to last seven or eight months. The chief operating officer says SA Water is doing everything it can to ensure that South Australia does not run out of water. This follows a decrease in Adelaide's average daily consumption from 533 mgL per day in 2002 to 374 mgL/day in 2008.  Learn more about the situation in South Australia here.

Water supply plan for southeast Wisconsin nears completion

WisconsinThe Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (SEWRPC) has released its preliminary recommended water supply plan for seven southeastern Wisconsin counties. The plan, which was launched in 2006, is intended to identify options for sustainably meeting the region’s water needs through 2035. When finalized, the plan will identify water conservation measures and alternative water sources for communities facing critical water shortages or water quality problems. For more information, visit:  www.sewrpc.org

Denver Water Ups Incentives for Commercial Customers

Denver Water LogoGoing “green” can get you green in Colorado. Denver Water has increased monetary incentives for commercial, industrial, and institutional customers who save water. Incentives have increased from $14 per 1,000 gallons of water saved to $21.50 per 1,000 gallons saved over a one-year period with improved indoor commercial equipment.  Participants can receive up to $40,000 for improving water-saving equipment and/or practices.  Learn more here.

Diverse Group Releases Report Measuring Agriculture Sustainability

ag imageCrop production is already making progress toward reducing its environmental footprint, according to a new Environmental Resource Indicators Report developed by a diverse alliance.

Field to Market, the Keystone Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture, evaluated national-scale metrics over the past two decades for land use, water use, energy use, soil loss and climate impact in U.S. corn, soy, cotton and wheat production. This report is the first step in an ongoing effort to quantify the environmental, socio-economic and health impacts of agriculture production.  Learn more and download full report here - http://keystone.org/spp/env-sustain_ag.html

Water Re-Use, Recycling and Reclamation Grant Program Bill Reintroduced in US House

U.S. Rep. Jerry McNerney of D-California has reintroduced his water re-use, recycling and reclamation grant program legislation in the 111th US Congress.  The Healthy Communities Water Supply Act, H.R. 700 would authorize $250 million in funding for projects that increase the useable water supply by encouraging innovations in water conservation, recharge, recycling, reuse and reclamation.  See http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/D?d111:14:./temp/~bdi9uG::|/bss/111search.html| for additional details.

Center for Sustainable Innovation Develops Water Gauge

The Center for Sustainable Innovation (CSI) has released a new tool for measuring and reporting the sustainability of water use.  The Corporate Water Gauge™ provides a tool that can be used to measure the ecological sustainability of an organization’s water use.  This new tool can be used to measure and report single and enterprise-wide facility-based levels of water use and compares it against local precipitation and population conditions.  See www.sustainableinnovation.org/Corporate-Water-Gauge.pdf for additional details.  

Water Footprinting Summit to be Held in Miami, Florida February 26-27, 2009   

MiamiAmerican Business Conferences, in association with GE Water & Process Technologies, is hosting a two day summit titled "Making the Business Case for Measuring and Reducing Corporate Water Footprints". The summit will be held February 26 - 27, 2009 in Doral, Florida at the Intercontinental West Miami. This summit will provide information on comparing methodologies and solutions for measuring and reducing water consumption within internal operations and throughout the supply chain.

As a supporting organization of this event, Alliance for Water Efficiency members receive a 15% discount on the registration fee. Visit www.water-footprint-usa.com to learn more about the water footprinting summit.

Abstract Deadline for Efficient2009 in Sydney Australia Extended

The fifth International Water Association specialist conference on efficient use and management of urban water supply will be held October 25-28, 2009 in Sydney, Australia. This promises to be an important gathering of international water efficiency advocates.  The deadline for abstract submittal has been extended to Friday, February 27, 2009.  For more information and to submit an abstract, visit www.efficient2009.com/abstracts.htm.

India Faces Supply Challenges and the Politicization of Water

India rickshaw copyIt’s an election year and India’s opposition party has begun setting its agenda on green issues. Hindu fundamentalist candidate LK Advani has pledged to make access to drinking water a fundamental right and water conservation a fundamental duty for all Indians.  India must move beyond rhetoric and election soundbites to properly integrate its water resources and set up better regulatory mechanisms that monitor water use efficiency.

India’s water situation looks bleak with key industrial zones located in water stressed areas. Poor water storage capacities and subsidies given to the agricultural sector have resulted in excessive water wastage and over exploitation of ground water. Furthermore, India is still very dependent on the weather, melting glaciers and patchy monsoons spelling doom for the economy. Rampant urban growth has caused the sudden depletion of wetland areas in many parts: for example, of the 261 lakes in and around Bangalore city in 1961, only 34 remain.  Learn more about India’s water challenges here.

New Web Resources, Research, and Information

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