Water Efficiency Watch July - August 2008

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 Wants More, Better Water Efficiency in LEED 2009

The Alliance for Water Efficiency and dozens of other organizations have submitted comments to the US Green Building Council (USGBC) requesting a greater role for water efficiency in LEED 2009.  As LEED undergoes major revision, the time is now to spotlight the need for greater water priority in the LEED points process.  It is not too late to show your support for these recommended changes.  Click  here  to get more information and to review the letter sent by the Alliance on June 22 to USGBC.  Click here to email your support for these improvements and to be part of the national network of organizations working for water reform in LEED.

Texas Sized Steps to Improve Water Efficiency in Landscape Irrigation

Texas landscapes could become more efficient in the near future.  At the direction of the 80th Texas Legislature, the states’ environmental agency, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), on June 4, 2008 adopted new rules regulating landscape irrigation in Texas. The legislature said the rules must specifically address: The connection of irrigation systems to any water supply; the design, installation and operation of irrigation systems; water conservation; and the duties and responsibilities of irrigators. The new rules become effective January 1, 2009.

texasTexas irrigators will be faced with some additional requirements designed to result in more efficient irrigation systems.  Among the major changes – the irrigator must complete an irrigation plan for every new installation, and the plan must be on the site during construction of the system.  Once the system is complete, the irrigator must provide a copy of the plan reflecting any changes made during installation to the property owner. The owner must receive instructions for operating the system efficiently including the precipitation rate and flow rate of each irrigation zone, and a recommended watering schedule based on evapotranspiration. The new system must include rain or moisture shut off technology. Some specific design standards include no overhead spray irrigation in areas with a width less than 48”, e.g., between a curb and walk. No water may be thrown onto impervious cover.

Beginning Jan 1, 2010, a licensed irrigator or licensed technician must be on the site during all new irrigation construction.  The licensed technician is a new license developed to provide on-site supervision of the ongoing work.

Enforcement of the states’ irrigation laws and rules has been an ongoing problem since the inception of the irrigator licensing law some 35 years ago. In the past, the state has attempted to provide enforcement with a very limited staff. With the passage of HB 1656, the legislature required all municipalities with a population of over 20,000 to enforce the new rules, and require permits for new irrigation systems. Now, there will be enforcement officers on the streets to catch unlicensed operators and ensure the systems are being installed efficiently.

Water Efficiency - Lots of Action, Lots of Players

A Message from the AWE Executive Director

By Mary Ann Dickinson

For those of us who have been in the water conservation world since the 1980’s, these past few years have been truly remarkable.  Once a fringe concept promoted by a few quirky people, water efficiency is now getting so much mainstream traction our heads are spinning.  Droughts, excessive water consumption, and dwindling drinking water supplies are in daily media reports.  And with climate change, population growth, migration patterns, reduced stream flow, and over-drafting of aquifers, we are beginning to have a “perfect storm” requiring unprecedented action in nearly 40 of the 50 states and many Canadian provinces.

We gave birth to the Alliance for Water Efficiency (AWE) in 2007 to help water utilities and other stakeholders all across North America deal with the pressing water issues now becoming so prevalent.  We could hardly have picked a better time.  The universe of water conservation needs a strong driver and AWE is the perfect vehicle for bringing together the voices, technologies, and hard work of people across North America.  In the U.S. alone, an EPA Gap Analysis projected more than $650 billion in needed drinking water and wastewater capital improvements between now and 2019.  If water conservation can eliminate the need for only one-percent of that infrastructure, the savings are immense: $6.5 billion!

So what can AWE do about all this?  Plenty.  We have already become an authoritative national voice for water conservation in a short few months.  We have developed water efficiency research recommendations for congressional funding.  We are working actively on plumbing codes and standards committees.  We are pushing for water efficiency reform in green building specifications.  We have conducted conservation training workshops in three major cities.  We are building a detailed web site clearinghouse on water-efficient products, practices, and programs.  We are developing consumer information materials.  And all this since September 1, 2007.

In these very early stages of our existence, we have also been very concerned about surviving in this world of so many other competing demands.  Our work has to be funded somehow.   To that end we are actively working to build membership and support, to contact foundations, and to raise the needed revenue.  Fund-raising is the bane of every non-profit organization.  How to establish identity and value for our membership?

Thus, we can hardly afford confusion.  And confusion we do have.  The very words “water efficiency” are not copyrighted, and thus those words can be freely used by a large number of different organizations and companies.  Water Efficiency Magazine is a case in point.  AWE members and stakeholders have mistakenly assumed for months that this for-profit magazine is published by us, whereas it is in reality published by Forester Communications, a private publisher located in California.  AWE members and stakeholders have also mistakenly assumed that the magazine’s Water EC conference in March in 2009 is also AWE’s conference, whereas that conference is also a private undertaking of Forester Communications.  Further confusing water conservation colleagues are the regular emails from Forester that some have mistakenly assumed come also from AWE. 

Perhaps some of the confusion comes from seeing my name on the magazine’s editorial advisory board.  A formal connection was thus naturally assumed by many people.  Indeed, new members to AWE automatically get a copy of the magazine to encourage them to sign up for the magazine’s mailing list.  And that has probably increased the confusion among our membership as well.

AWE is not alone in being concerned about this.  Water Efficiency Magazine is also concerned about the need for clear definition between the organizations.  Therefore, I was removed from the magazine’s Editorial Advisory Board by the publisher and you will no longer see my name on their magazine masthead.  I want to make clear that any views and opinions that you read in Water Efficiency Magazine are the sole purview of Forester Communications, and in no way represent any views or opinions of the Alliance for Water Efficiency.  If an email communication to you does not say Alliance for Water Efficiency at the top, it is NOT from us.

All that said, it is good to see so much interest in water efficiency at long last.  Perhaps now we can finally achieve the respect and attention that this issue has deserved for such a long time.  We just need to keep all the players straight.

Water Efficiency Watch Spotlight – Doug Bennett, Conservation Manager, Southern Nevada Water Authority

This is the eleventh appearance of the Spotlight. With this feature we hope to call your attention to people and programs that are making a positive impact on water conservation. Suggestions for future spotlight candidates are welcome. 

Water Efficiency Watch:  How long have you been in the water conservation field?

Doug Bennett:  Twenty one years. I first promoted principles of xeriscaping and urban irrigation as a horticulturist for New Mexico State University in 1987. My first water utility job was with the City of Albuquerque in 1995. I have been with the Southern Nevada Water Authority since 2000.

Only in Las Vegas : Rocker Tommy Lee (left) and rapper Ludacris (right), celebrate their Guinness World Record for the world's largest shower with Doug Bennett of the Southern Nevada Water Authority (center left) and an official from the Guinness Book of World Records (center right). The music artists promoted showering with friends as a publicity stunt to increase water conservation awareness in their new television show, "Battleground Earth." The show will air in the fall of 2008 on the Discovery network.

  WEW: What is the most significant change you’ve seen in the industry in that time?

Bennett: For the longest time, water conservation professionals were considered to be public relations specialists: You know, “the balloon and coloring book people.” The profession is now widely recognized as a technical discipline and has gained respect among our peers in the financial, engineering and water resources professions. The emergence of green building and sustainability practices in the commercial sector has created high demand for water efficiency expertise.

Despite the overdue reverence for our technical know-how, I wouldn’t pass up the opportunity to wear a giant cartoon water drop costume every once in a while. Email, spreadsheets and committee meetings are not anyone's idea of fun.

WEW: What are the three things you remember with the most satisfaction in your career so far?

Bennett: All of my accomplishments are derived from the leadership of the agencies I worked for, the dedication and innovation of my coworkers and support from water efficiency professionals in other communities.

  1. In my first conservation position with the City of Albuquerque, I was fortunate to work for a highly progressive program. Working with Jean Witherspoon (since-retired Water Conservation Officer), we developed the nation’s most innovative water waste enforcement program by making the policy a utility service rule rather than a citable civil violation.
  2. I was given the challenge of developing Albuquerque’s xeriscape rebate program. Though we weren’t the first, we were innovative. My philosophy was that any incentive program should operate with a one-page agreement. By keeping it as simple as possible, the program reached far more participants than any similar program. More than a decade later, one-page agreements have been used to execute nearly $100 million dollars in incentives in Southern Nevada.
  3. I am very proud to be part of a team of exceptional people at the Southern Nevada Water Authority. Together, we created the nation’s largest program for water efficient new homes (Water Smart Home) and created the largest program for converting to water efficient landscape. We were the first utility to be recognized with an EPA Water Efficiency Leadership Award.

While it’s gratifying to look back, I am most eager about what’s around the corner. SNWA recently commissioned the manufacture of irrigation controls that will automate compliance with our seasonal watering restrictions. We are also excited about the opening of the WaterSmart Innovations Conference, which will be the world’s largest conference on urban water efficiency.

WEW: What do others say that you have contributed to the water conservation industry?

Bennett: I try to bring momentum to issues. I thrive on getting new initiatives airborne then turning the controls over to other capable crew members. Some know my approach is self-serving, since the thrill of the trip is takeoff, not cruising at 34,000 feet.

A good example is the Smart Water Application Technologies (SWAT) initiative. The extraordinary leadership of others aboard that flight allowed me to not only hand off the controls, but to parachute out the back hatch (though I still maintain radio contact). We’re in the midst of pre-flight check for October’s WaterSmart Innovations Conference. Fasten your seatbelts.

WEW: What do you wish you had done differently?

Bennett: No regrets. What amazes me is that I essentially ambled into my career through exploration. I could have never imagined that a series of choices and unforeseen diversions would land me at the helm of a $48 million dollar water efficiency program. In retrospect, even the difficulties I experienced turned out to be stepping stones to future successes.

WEW:  What emerging trends/issues intrigue you right now?

Bennett:  Feedback is a powerful tool, but most water users have no idea what an appropriate amount of water is for their home or business. I am eager to see new technologies, such as resource “dashboards,” integrated into homes. These dashboards give occupants real time feedback that encourages higher efficiency. Obviously, new technologies are costly, but the gap between the technology cost and the value of the water savings is closing faster than ever.

WEW:  What words of wisdom would you offer to new water conservation professionals?


  • Know the big picture. Understand the source of your water supply and the policies that govern it.
  • Build relationships with your peers in finance, engineering, hydrology, water resources and other related disciplines. Develop an understanding of how your work intersects with theirs.
  • Explore your own curiosity. When you have time to walk a short distance down another path to see what’s there, do it.
  • Learn from a variety of people and disciplines.
  • Be passionate and sincere about what you do. Your confidence and integrity will be a source of inspiration for others.
  • Know that the decisions we make today will have consequences for all generations that come after us.

  Governor Declares Drought In California After Spring Snow No-Show

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a statewide drought on June 4 and ordered the state Department of Water Resources to quickly transfer water to areas with the most severe water shortages. 

The declaration comes after two years of below-average rainfall in California, low snowmelt runoff from the Sierra and the largest court-ordered water transfer restrictions in state history, the governor said.  The California Sierra Nevada snowpack, which looked to be good until February, dropped precipitously when the typical spring storms failed to appear.

The Governor’s executive order also calls on the state water department to coordinate with other state and federal agencies to assist water suppliers, identify risks to water supply and help farmers facing losses as a result of water shortages.

In addition, Schwarzenegger urged local water districts and agencies to promote water conservation and encouraged Californians to cut water usage by as much 20 percent.

In Dry California, Sacramento “Gushes” Water

As California struggles under severe drought conditions, the Sacramento Bee has pointed the spotlight on California’s capital city – Sacramento,  one of the last big cities in the West to install water meters (it’s happening, but very slowly).  Not surprisingly, it turns out people in Sacramento are near the top in terms of water use nationwide.  Read the Bee’s “exposé” here: http://www.sacbee.com/101/story/1024692.html

New Climate Change Report Stresses Potential Impacts to Water and Agriculture

The U.S. Climate Change Science Program (CCSP) has released Synthesis and Assessment Product 4.3 (SAP 4.3): The Effects of Climate Change on Agriculture, Land Resources, Water Resources, and Biodiversity in the United States. The CCSP integrates the federal research efforts of 13 agencies on climate and global change. The report is one of the most extensive examinations of climate impacts on U.S. ecosystems. USDA is the lead agency for this report and coordinated its production as part of its commitment to CCSP.

Water resources and efficiency were a focus of the research.  The authors note that “trends toward increased water use efficiency are likely to continue in the coming decades. Pressures for reallocation of water will be greatest in areas of highest population growth, such as the Southwest. Declining per capita (and, for some cases, total) water consumption will help mitigate the impacts of climate change on water resources."  We’ve got a lot of work to do to make this prediction come true.

The report is available for free download here.

ACEEE 2008 Forum on Water Heating and Use Addresses Low Flow Showerheads

On average, water heating accounts for 15% of residential energy consumption. In the past few years, there has been an explosion of interest in meeting domestic hot water needs more efficiently.  New hot water generating technologies, structured plumbing approaches, new demand-reduction devices (e.g., showerheads), and programs for stimulating market uptake of new approaches are all being discussed by individual communities of interest, with limited dialogue among them.  In order to foster the dialogue and explore the issues associated with hot water, the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) sponsored an important conference on this topic in June, 2008 in Sacramento, CA.  The Alliance for Water Efficiency worked with ACEEE on the program planning and participated in the conference discussions.

showerThe conference included sessions on domestic showers and shower systems.  Presentations were focused on the current standards development work underway by the ASME standards committee, WaterSense, and others; the current market trends in domestic shower systems; and the technical aspects of the plumbing systems designed to protect individuals from thermal shock and scalding while showering. 

Lowered flow rates on showerheads (e.g. flow rates below 2.5 gpm) have raised some concerns that could impact water and energy utilities promoting these technologies.  According to some experts, the failure to address the lack of scald protection systems in homes constructed prior to 1987 might put users at risk if a conventional showerhead is replaced with a head flowing at less than 2.5 gallons per minute.  Automatic compensation valves in new homes are designed to protect against severe temperature changes in the shower if a sudden pressure drop occurs.  This can happen when another significant water use occurs in the house at the same time a shower is being taken. 

Typical pressure compensation systems are only required to be tested at flow rates of 2.5 gallons per minute.  Experts assert that when a new 1.75 gallon showerhead is installed without also installing a matching automatic compensating valve, the potential for injury could be higher.  At the ACEE event, utilities were warned against giving away low-flow showerheads (below 2.5 gallons per minute) without regard for the totality of the plumbing system at the installation location.  Green builders, architects, and utilities were also provided with a warning statement setting forth the language that should be applied to showerhead and automatic compensating valve installations for domestic use.

In the area of market trends, the ACEEE showerhead session also confronted attendees with examples of the “luxury shower” phenomenon, which consists of massive multiple head shower systems comprised of a series of fully legal showerheads, sprays, and other fittings.   However, of even greater interest to the assembled professionals was the illegal product readily available in the U.S. marketplace.  This consists entirely of individual showerheads with measured (and broadly advertised!) flow rates FAR in excess of the EPAct 92 maximum of 2.5 gallons per minute.  Such products are freely displayed on websites, in showrooms, and at trade shows, clearly flaunting the Federal regulations, which have not been enforced by the Federal authorities.

Key presentations from the ACEEE event are available for download here:  http://aceee.org/conferences/2008/hwf/program

SWAT Nears Release of New Smart Controller Protocol

The Smart Water Application Technologies (SWAT) initiative, lead by the Irrigation Association, has closed the public review of testing protocols for smart climate-based controllers. This protocol is a major step toward its goal to submit the industry’s first testing protocols to EPA.  

Submission of the protocol will allow EPA to consider weather-based controllers as the first irrigation product for its WaterSense® labeling program. To date, 13 products have been voluntarily tested by irrigation manufacturers at an independent testing facility in Fresno, Calif. Only minor revisions to the existing SWAT protocols, now in its 7th draft, are expected in the next month. 

“Forwarding an industry-developed and accepted protocol for testing smart controllers to the EPA is a large step in the six-year life of the SWAT initiative,” says Brian Vinchesi, SWAT chairman. “Working toward independent third party labeling of irrigation products has always been one of SWAT’s goals. In reaching this goal later in 2008, the entire irrigation industry shows its willingness to work with water purveyors and government agencies to help manage our limited water resources.” 

SWAT is also developing testing protocols for soil moisture sensors and soil moisture-based controllers and rain sensors. While advancing industry testing protocols, SWAT has initiated programs to pave the way for product acceptance in the residential and light commercial marketplace. Over the last year, more water agencies and utilities have used customizable SWAT-developed promotional materials. Some agencies and water districts use the SWAT-posting of tested products as a rebate requirement.

To learn more about SWAT, tested products, draft protocols and view promotional material designed for water agencies, visit www.irrigation.org/SWAT/Industry

Paul Lander to Lead Colorado WaterWise Council

Dr. Paul Lander, Ph.D. has been selected as the first Executive Director of the Colorado WaterWise Council (CWWC).  In March 2008, the Colorado Water Conservation Board approved funding from the Water Efficiency Grant Program for the position of Executive Director of the Colorado Water Wise Council. After an extensive search, the Colorado WaterWise Council Board of Directors announced the selection of Paul Lander.

Lander is well known in the conservation community, having built the City of Boulder Water Conservation program over the last 16 years. He was also one of the founding members of the Colorado WaterWise Council and has been involved in board leadership roles for the past number of years.

As one of his primary duties, Lander will work to create a Colorado specific statewide Best Management Practices (BMP) manual for water conservation practices. This BMP project, funded through a water efficiency grant from the Colorado Water Conservation Board, will support meaningful water conservation efforts in Colorado.  For more information, go to www.coloradowaterwise.org.

Wisconsin Report Compares Municipal Water Use Ordinances

wisconsinMany Wisconsin water utilities face challenges in meeting peak water demands during the summer months because customers use more water for landscape irrigation and other purposes. Also, prolonged drought can place strains on municipal water sources. To address these challenges, many communities have enacted ordinances that restrict water use during declared emergencies or that limit uses such as lawn sprinkling year-round. The scope of each ordinance varies depending on the needs of the community.

The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSC) recently released a report that compares Wisconsin municipal water use ordinances and provides examples that water utilities and local officials can use when considering such regulations for their communities. For more information, visit: http://psc.wi.gov/utilityinfo/water/newsinfo/document/WIWaterUseRegulation.pdf.

2008 ENERGY STAR Appliance Partner Meeting Reaches Out to Water Utilities

The 2008 ENERGY STAR Appliance Partner Meeting will take place September 21-23, 2008 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Long Beach, California. The organizers hope to reach out to water utilities across the country this year to bring them into the meeting, which offers networking opportunities with clothes washer and dishwasher manufacturers, retailers, and energy utilities. 

Registration will begin at the end of July.   If you are interested in sponsorship opportunities, please contact Elizabeth Caiafa, D&R International at (301) 588-9387 or at ecaiafa@drintl.com.

New Washing Machine Cleans With Plastic Chips Instead of Water

A new washing machine design from the UK uses 40 lbs. of plastic chips, one cup of water, and some detergent to clean clothes according to inventor Professor Stephen Burkinshaw.

"We've shown that it can remove all sorts of everyday stains including coffee and lipstick while using a tiny fraction of the water used by conventional machines," Burkinshaw said.

The machine, dubbed the “Xeros”, is being developed and marketed in the UK and could be available to the public in 2009.  The plastic chips last for six months according to Burkinshaw, but it is not know how expensive they are or how they are separated from the clean clothes at the end of the wash cycle.  The potential for water savings is huge, but many questions about the process and technology remain.  Learn more here.

American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association

rainfallRainwater catchment — or “harvesting” — is an ancient practice now enjoying a revival as an alternate water supply. The practice involved collecting rainwater from a roof or other surface before it reaches the ground and storing it for future use.  The American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association is a great place to learn about rainwater harvesting.

Utah Water Supply Forecast:  “Disastrous Droughts Will Be Frequent” – John Wesley Powell

A new task force in Utah seeks for answers to the State’s over-allocated groundwater resources and a host of other water resources issues that have puzzled leaders for 200 years.   A proposed pipeline to Las Vegas is also stirring discontent even as good snowpack levels provide adequate water supply for the summer.  The Salt Lake City Tribune has launched a summerlong exploration of Utah's water challenges with an overall look at the issues the state faces.  Learn more about the water supply situation in Utah here.

NYC Manual on “Cool Green Roofs” Available

Green roofs are growing in popularity and people try and cope with urban heat loading.  New York City has just issued a new “how to” manual.  It is available for free download here. Look for a detailed discussion of the water pros and cons of green roofs in a future issue of Water Efficiency Watch.

CUNY Summer Program Hopes to Change Environmental Thinking

The City University of New York Institute for Sustainable Cities invites new perspectives in the environment and environmentalism every summer through workshops, seminars, lectures, and discussions featuring prominent members of the environmental community.  Learn about the Institute’s 2008 programs here.

AwwaRF Funds Climate Change Clearinghouse, Changes Name

The American Water Works Association Research Foundation (AwwaRF) will be known simply as The Water Research Foundation (WRF) starting Jan. 1, 2009.  In addition the Board of Directors have approved several new studies that fall under AwwaRF’s Climate Change Strategic Initiative for studies on utility issues related to climate change. The new studies will include the project “Developing Climate Change Resources for Water Utilities: A Guide Book and Clearinghouse Website.” (A request for proposals for this solicited project is expected to be released by the fall of this year.) The funding will also be used to co-sponsor a study in collaboration with the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and the University of Colorado, both in Boulder, Colo., addressing the impacts of hydrologic and climate variability on raw (untreated) water quality, as well as other climate change-related studies.

Deadlines for the AWWA Journal Annual Water Conservation Issue

The next issue of the Journal AWWA dedicated to water conservation will be published in February 2009.   Peer-reviewed articles should be submitted to http://jawwamsubmit.net
by September 1, 2008. This will allow time for the various steps involved in peer review.

Non-peer-reviewed articles (either general-interest articles or news department submissions) should be submitted to the editor at mlacey@awwa.org by November 1, 2008.

Half Flush – WEW News Drips, Web Leaks, and Water Falls

Toilets that Use Energy – A Step Forward?

In Japan, 68% of homes have a toilet that plugs in to the water and electric grid.  Is North America far behind?  Learn more here:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/06/24/AR2008062401285.html?hpid=topnews

Even Utility General Managers Get the Blues

The General Manager of LADWP was subject to a home water audit with some rather surprising results.  The good news is:  His water bill will be going down.  Learn more here: http://www.knbc.com/news/16696258/detail.html

Remarkable Recent Water Photos from the Boston Globe


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.