Water Efficiency Watch March 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...

Time to Act: August 17 Deadline for Efficiency Stimulus Projects

money-netThe $4 Billion awarded to the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) and the $2 Billion awarded to the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) in the stimulus package both carry a 20% mandatory set-aside for green infrastructure and water efficiency projects. However, there is a catch. Here's what we have learned...

States are to make a concerted effort to solicit green infrastructure, water and energy efficiency projects, and innovative environmental projects for 120 days following the signing of the bill into law. On August 17, 2009 (180 days after the bill was signed), states may certify that there are not sufficient projects for green infrastructure, energy and water efficiency projects or innovative environmental projects and can then utilize the funding for other SRF projects. Therefore it is very important to get your water efficiency projects on your state list for the CWSRF and DWSRF as soon as possible. 

Some concern has been expressed that water efficiency projects do not qualify for funding as stand-alone projects. Recently released EPA guidance indicates that this is not true.

Visit the Alliance for Water Efficiency economic stimulus update page for a variety of resources and documents, as well as a link to a breakdown of stimulus funds being received by each state. 

EPA Releases Final Guidance for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act

America-FlagThe Environmental Protection Agency released its official guidance for the portion of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) that includes the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) and Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) programs. The ARRA has allocated 20 percent of the $6 billion appropriated to the CWSRF and DWSRF programs to green activities such as water efficiency projects. The EPA guidance refers to the funding for these types of projects as the Green Project Reserve. States are required to make a concerted effort to fund activities under the Green Project Reserve.

A State may take up to one year to provide funding for projects, and is encouraged to solicit new projects for the Green Project Reserve to add to its Intended Use Plan (IUP). However, after August 17, 2009 (180 days after the President signed the Act), States may certify in writing that there are insufficient applications for green infrastructure and water efficiency projects. If EPA approves this certification, States will be allowed to use Green Reserve funds for conventional SRF projects.  

The water conservation community must prevent this from happening by ensuring that the project lists under the Green Project Reserve submitted by each State are genuinely green. EPA will not likely have the resources to police these lists; therefore it is up to stakeholder groups to make sure water efficiency project submittals are not being unjustly ignored, and that the green projects on States' IUPs are legitimate.

Here's a plan for action:

  1. Submit water efficiency and green infrastructure projects to your local CWSRF and DWSRF agency as soon as possible to be included in its IUP. Agencies have 180 days to solicit these projects, but the ARRA states, "...recipients shall give preference to activities that can be started and completed expeditiously, including a goal of using at least 50 percent of the funds for activities that can be initiated not later than 120 days after the date of the enactment of this Act." The sooner projects are submitted the better the chance of being added to the IUP.
  2. If your State CWSRF or DWSRF contacts tell you water efficiency projects do not qualify, please report this to your EPA Regional Office. There seems to be some confusion about this. Water efficiency projects definitely qualify for funding as stand-alone projects.
  3. If your State has closed the project list and will not accept new applications, request a copy of your State's Intended Use Plan to make sure conventional projects are not being passed off as "green." The IUPs are public information and should be available to you.

For copy of the EPA guidance and more information about the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act click here.

California Officially Declares Drought

drought-monitor-3-12-09According to the National Drought Mitigation Center, this January and February of 2009 haves been the driest on record since the US began recording weather data:  since 1895.  Drought has hit Texas particularly hard this year as well as California.  California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger proclaimed a state of emergency due to drought at the end of February.  California is entering its third year of drought with below average precipitation and primary reservoirs at critically low levels.  Schwarzenegger’s declaration calls for state agencies to join together to implement a state wide emergency plan to assist all Californians affected by the drought.

"This is the first time a California Governor has ever declared a statewide emergency due to drought. Even in droughts of two and three decades ago, this step was not taken," according to Rick Soehren, Assistant Deputy of Water Use Efficiency for the California Department of Water Resources.

The Governor’s order directs state agencies to immediately implement a water use reduction plan.  Urban water users have been asked to reduce demand by 20%.  Read the full text of the drought declaration proclamation here.

California's mountain snowpack was measured at 80% of normal on March 2 despite recent storms, far from enough to ease a prolonged drought that is forcing water rationing in cities and sharp cutbacks in irrigation supplies to farmers, state water officials said.

"Although recent storms have added to the snowpack, California remains in a serious drought," said Lester Snow, director of the state's Department of Water Resources.

"This year's precipitation levels are still below average. On the heels of two critically dry years it is unlikely we will make up the deficit and be able to refill our reservoirs before winter's end. It's very important that Californians continue to save water at home and in their businesses," Snow said.

California Farmers Fallow Land for Lack of Water

thirsty-cropFacing the probability of a zero allocation of Central Valley Project water deliveries, many western San Joaquin Valley farmers will abandon plans for planting annual crops like cotton and processing tomatoes in order to divert whatever water they have to permanent crops like almonds, pistachios and grapes.

That’s what Mendota farmer Mike Wood and his brother, Doug, are doing. Partners in Wood Brothers Farming, located some 15 miles west of Mendota on farmland adjacent to the California Aqueduct, the Woods are fallowing about 750 acres of the 2,000 that they farm. Their primary effort will be focused on keeping alive the 300 acres of 4-year-old almond trees that they own and another 500 acres of almonds that they manage for a neighbor.  Learn more here at the excellent Aquafornia web site.

AWE Suggests Maximum Water Use Thresholds for Efficient Products

As a service to water utilities and regulatory bodies, the Alliance for Water Efficiency has developed suggested maximum water use thresholds for a variety of products that are commonly rebated or promoted as water efficient.  This template of thresholds was developed by a multi-stakeholder group in which water utilities and manufacturers participated, and reflects those categories where quality product is available, product performance is proven, reference standards are available, and water utilities have a track record of experience with the products. 

Download a free copy here:  Thresholds in Gallons  or Thresholds in Liters.

Plumbing Efficiency Research Coalition Identifies Drainline Transport As First Project

pipe-plumbingThe newly-named Plumbing Efficiency Research Coalition (PERC), formed last month through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed in Washington DC, has identified Drainline Transport as its first research project. The Coalition is comprised of five industry organizations seeking to conduct much-needed research in a number of areas. Representing the Coalition on the initial conference call to establish the first project were: Mary Ann Dickinson, Alliance for Water Efficiency (AWE); Pete De Marco, International Association of Plumbing & Mechanical Officials (IAPMO); Jay Peters, International Code Council (ICC); Ike Casey, Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association (PHCC); and Barbara Higgens, Plumbing Manufacturers Institute (PMI).

More information and the complete press release can be found here. 

AWE and American Rivers Release White Paper on Green Jobs


The Alliance for Water Efficiency and American Rivers have released a white paper on stimulating the economy with “green” jobs.  Titled, Creating Jobs and Stimulating the Economy through Investment in Green Water Infrastructure ,  this report demonstrates how investment in green infrastructure and water efficiency retrofit projects will have a significant stimulus effect on local, regional and national economies. Download a copy of the report here.

The Nation’s economy is distressed and the nation’s decaying infrastructure is threatening long-term economic competitiveness. In order to reverse these trends, Congress and the Obama Administration are considering an economic stimulus package that would put Americans to work and build a solid foundation for the future.

Investments in “green” water infrastructure projects must be a key part of this package, as they promise to provide both an immediate economic boost and adequate clean water to drive future economic growth. The stimulus package presents the nation with a unique opportunity to realize a new vision for water management that fully integrates green and grey water solutions everywhere, not in just some places or as a marginal component. By investing in green infrastructure, we can put Americans to work building sustainable, adaptable water infrastructure that will be our legacy to future generations.

While the environmental benefits of green infrastructure have been well documented, the short-term economic benefits have not been explored as extensively. This paper examines three categories of green water infrastructure projects: green roofs, water efficiency, and wetland restoration. It is illustrated how each would provide a significant stimulus to the national economy.

Colorado Contemplates Impact of Lower Basin Compact Call

(adapted from High Country News)

colorado-riverMore than 3 million people in Colorado -- roughly two-thirds of the state's population -- rely on water from the Colorado River. The river sustains alfalfa, apples and pears, Olathe sweet corn, and ski and ranch towns across the Western Slope. Yet its water may be even more important to the Front Range -- Denver and its cluster of urban and suburban satellites that lie hard against the eastern foothills of the Rockies.

More than a dozen tunnels channel water underneath the Continental Divide to roughly 2.5 million people on the Front Range. Moreover, the state is expected to grow by 2.9 million people over the next 25 years, and the Colorado River has long been seen as the only real source of water for the future.

It's not surprising that water managers have, for years, privately asked: How much more of the Colorado River can the state use?  Publicly, the state's water managers tend to stick to a time-worn mantra: Under the terms of the interstate treaties that govern the river, Colorado still has as much as 1.5 million acre-feet left to develop. That's enough water for about 12 million new residents, more than four times the state's official population projection for the next quarter of a century.

But there has always been an unspoken acknowledgment of a much grimmer possibility. Six other states also rely on the Colorado River. And between the peculiarities of the so-called Law of the River and mistaken assumptions about the river's long-term performance, Colorado may have to content itself with little more than "the right to leftovers," as two observers once put it. In a severe drought, in fact, cities and farms within the state could be pitted against each other in a fight for water.  Read more about the complex future of the Colorado River here.

LA Toilet Purchase Specification To Be Phased Out

For over 8 years, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power's (LADWP) Supplementary Purchase Specification (SPS) for toilet fixtures has guided purchasers, specifiers, and water utility rebate programs all over North America in identifying fixtures that are most likely to assure continued water savings.  This specification will now be phased out as ANSI and WaterSense make the SPS effort duplicative. 

The SPS contains specific requirements for durable flappers, part number marking of flappers, flush volume adjustability and fill valves.  Since its inception in 2000, the first two requirements have been incorporated into the ANSI national standard for all fixtures.  The second two requirements are also incorporated into the WaterSense specification for HETs.  Read LADWP's announcement to learn more the SPS and how it will be phased out over a period of time. 

Texas Facing Water Shortages in Near Future: Comptroller

texasDeveloping and protecting local water resources is a pressing long-term issue facing Texas, according to state Comptroller Susan Combs said.  Ensuring adequate and reliable sources of clean water is essential to protect the health of Texas citizens and the strength of the state economy.

"By 2060, more than 46 million people could be living in Texas, and demand for water will increase by an estimated 27 percent," Combs said.  "According to the Texas Water Development Board, failing to meet this demand could cost businesses and workers in the state approximately $9.1 billion per year by 2010 and $98.4 billion per year by 2060."

The state could lose $466 million in tax revenue in 2010 and up to $5.4 billion by 2060 due to decreased business activity caused by insufficient water.

In addition to population growth, Texas' vulnerability to drought makes long-term water planning both imperative and challenging, Combs said.  Each of the several one- or two-year droughts in Texas during the past decade has cost agricultural producers and businesses between $1 billion and $4 billion annually.

Combs released a new report,  Liquid Assets: The State of Texas' Water Resources, examining Texas' current and future water resources, the practical and policy barriers facing local and statewide water planners and possible funding mechanisms that could be tapped to develop Texas' water resources. The report also looks at the progress made by Texas' 16 regional water planning groups and the challenges those groups face in addressing their water needs.

California Must Use Less Water and Pay More for it: AWE Board Member Tim Brick

The way Californians have been using water is simply not sustainable, according to AWE Board Member Tim Brick. Writing with William Patzert in the February 24 Los Angeles Times, Brick noted that Californians, “have no choice” but to use less and to pay more for it.

Patzert and Brick note that the West was settled during an unusually wet period in its history. Today, even a three-year drought causes serious shortages for end users, but there is ample geologic evidence of previous droughts measured in decades.

Southern California has not experienced the reality of water limits and widespread mandatory conservation for nearly a generation and according to Patzert and Brick, has “never squarely faced the future.”  Read the full opinion piece here.

West Must Adapt to Water Woes

(adapted from the  Las Vegas Sun Feb 27, 2009 )

stone-archThe drought-prone southwestern United States is entirely dependent on shrinking snowpack and unreliable rainfall and may be heading toward environmental catastrophe.  The problem of climate change in the Southwest is complex, but can be summed up in one word: water. 

 “A lot of people say that in global warming there will be winners and losers. In the Southwest, we’ll be in the losers’ category,” University of Arizona climatologist Jonathan Overpeck said at a symposium on global warming’s effect on the Southwest.

Overpeck discussed the latest scientific consensus on climate change at the Feb. 19 symposium, hosted by the Urban Land Institute in Las Vegas.  He was joined by Southern Nevada Water Authority General Manager Pat Mulroy, who discussed what can be done on a local, national and international scale to head off disaster.

The most up-to-date climate models available show that if humans reduce carbon emissions significantly starting now, water flow in the Colorado River Basin will be reduced by 5 percent to 40 percent over the next few decades.  If we do nothing, it will be worse, Overpeck said.

“The United States is a voracious consumer of natural resources,” Mulroy said. “Those days are over. We can’t afford to use natural resources at the rate we’re currently using them.”

Mulroy suggested regionwide management and conservation of water resources including regulation of agriculture, specifying what crops can be grown in drought-prone areas, significant urban water conservation, wastewater recycling and more efficient management of snowmelt and rainfall through underground catchment basins.

Arizona Water Institute Loses Funding

Arizona-water-instituteThe  Arizona Water Institute, a consortium of the state's three research universities -  UA ASU, and  NAU - has fallen victim to the state's budget woes. Director Kathy Jacobs has been told to close up her shop by 1 July 2009.

Arizona Republic reporter Shaun McKinnon writes at  Waterblogged:

“In recent years, the Arizona Legislature has thumbed its collective nose at attempts to fix the state's broken water laws and address resource management. Now lawmakers apparently want to make sure no one else tries to think too much about the issue.

“One of the casualties of the recent blood-letting among state-funded programs was the  Arizona Water Institute, an inventive consortium of the state's three universities that was coming into its own with new approaches to old problems.

“The Institute was a pet project of former Gov. Janet Napolitano, whose pet projects are being retired to the pet cemetery one by one. The AWI's tight link to the universities, who took deep cuts in all their programs, also didn't help.”

AWE Update on Drainline Carry and HET Installations – No Problems Reported in Residential Applications

In November 2008, the AWE posted a cautionary statement relating to potential drainline issues associated with the replacement of high-volume flushometer toilets in certain types of non-residential applications.  That statement has been updated to clarify that there have been no such issues reported for WaterSense-certified toilet fixtures installed in residential applications.  Download the updated statement here. 

AWE Supports Washington State Toilet Legislation

The Alliance for Water Efficiency has submitted a letter proudly supporting the concept of SB 5948, requiring the sale of high efficiency toilets and urinals by 2014 in Washington State.  The letter explains that EPA WaterSense high efficiency toilets have undergone extensive third party testing for performance, are currently available from 24 different manufacturers, and have very high consumer satisfaction.  The technology has been proven in thousands of installations across the United States to work well.  California has already adopted similar legislation, and Texas is considering the same.  AWE firmly believes that it is time to upgrade all state and federal minimum standards.  Read the full letter text here. 

DOE Considers Increasing Appliance Efficiency Standards

clothes-washerThe Energy Department is considering a stiffening of pending federal energy-efficiency standards for appliances, Energy Secretary Steven Chu said.

"I am going to be looking at those because I have become more convinced that they are not as aggressive as they could be," Chu said at a conference held by the Alliance to Save Energy. "So we will look at making them more aggressive."

Chu did not list any specific pending standards that may be toughened.  Increasing energy efficiency standards for appliances such as clothes washers and dishwashers could have the added benefit of increasing water efficiency at the same time.  Read more here.

Pacific Energy Center to Host Water Conservation Showcase

On March 24, 2009 the Pacific Energy Center will be hosting a Water Conservation Showcase in San Francisco, CA. The annual Water Showcase provides information on water-conserving strategies for building designers, managers and operators through presentations and tabletop displays.

Companies and non-profits are encouraged to showcase their water-related products and services as exhibitors at this year's Water Conservation Showcase. To learn more about this event, click here.

California Bill Seeks $520 million for Conservation

With California in the midst of a historic drought, California State Senator Dave Cogdill has announced SB 371, legislation to ensure California has a safe and reliable water supply now and into the future.   

“Recent rainfall has been a blessing, but it’s just a drop in the bucket when compared to the epic drought the state is currently facing. Investing in our aging water infrastructure plays a vital role in our state’s economic growth and in protecting the quality of life for every Californian,” said Cogdill.   

The comprehensive proposal calls for issuing $9.98 billion in general obligation bonds to invest in the state’s aging water infrastructure. Included in the legislation is a $520 million provision to increase conservation and water use efficiency programs.

In early April, the bill will face its first hearing in the Senate Natural Resources Committee.  Read more here.

EPA Seeks Nominations for 2009 WaterSense Awards

WaterSense LogoEPA is seeking nominations for its 2009 WaterSense Partner of the Year awards. The awards are intended to recognize partners who help to advance the overall mission of WaterSense, increase awareness of the WaterSense brand in a measurable way, or that demonstrate overall excellence in the water-efficiency arena.

EPA will formally recognize the 2009 award winners at the Water Smart Innovations Conference and Tradeshow scheduled for October 7-9, 2009 in Las Vegas, Nevada. To be eligible, an organization must have joined WaterSense before January 1, 2009. Nominations are due by April 10, 2009. To nominate an organization (including your own), visit:  http://www.epa.gov/watersense/awards.htm.

More Water Woes for Jordan – Radioactivity

Ancient groundwater being tapped by Jordan, one of the 10 most water-deprived nations in the world, has been found to contain twenty times the radiation considered safe for drinking water in a new study by an international team of researchers.

"The combined activities of 228 radium and 226 radium – the two long-lived isotopes of radium – in the groundwater we tested are up to 2000 percent higher than international drinking standards," said Avner Vengosh, associate professor of earth and ocean sciences in the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University.

Making the water safe for long-term human consumption is possible, he said, but it will require extra steps to reduce its radioactivity.  Read more here.

CWWA Plans October Conservation Workshop in Victoria, B.C.

british-columbiaThe Canadian Water and Wastewater Association is has announced the 3rd National Workshop on Water Efficiency and Conservation to take place October 13- 16, 2009 in Victoria B.C. This Workshop - organized with the assistance of the members of CWWA's National Water Efficiency Committee follows last years successful Workshop in Waterloo , Ontario. CWWA plans that the Victoria event will be followed by other national workshops every second year, at different locations across Canada.  Presentation abstracts can be submitted here.

New Web Resources, Research, and Information

Potty Girl Toilet Rebate Page – Looking for a utility toilet rebate in your area?  Look no further.  A terrific new web site by the eponymous “Potty Girl” offers a list of many rebate programs across the U.S.  Check it out at -  http://pottygirl.wordpress.com/2009/02/18/toilet-rebate-programs-in-the-us/

Updated Listing of High-Efficiency Urinals (HEUs) Available – The Alliance for Water Efficiency is continually updating lists of performance tested fixtures.  The listing of high efficiency urinals was recently updated and is available here. 

New report highlights importance of water in the “energy equation” – The relationship between water and energy takes on new urgency with mounting pressure on limited freshwater resources, underlines  new World Economic Forum report.

Bottled Water -  Bottled Energy? - As the second most highly purchased beverage in the nation, bottled water ranks right behind soft drinks. But  new research shows the energy costs of bottled water are extraordinarily high. A report recently published in  Environmental Research Letters takes a rigorous look at the power required to deliver  bottled water from source to shelf.  Authored by Peter H. Gleick and Heather Cooley of the Pacific Institute, the report is one the first peer-reviewed papers to examine the connection between  energy and bottled water.

Unquenchable  – America’s Water Crisis and What to Do About It - New Book by Robert Glennon - In the middle of the Mojave Desert, Las Vegas casinos use billions of gallons of water for fountains, pirate lagoons, wave machines, and indoor canals. Meanwhile, the town of Orme, Tennessee, must truck in water from Alabama because it has literally run out. Robert Glennon captures the irony—and tragedy—of America’s water crisis in a book that is both frightening and wickedly comical.   Learn more here.

Sacramento Bee Calls for Stepped Up Metering - Sacramento is installing water meters (at last), but very slowly.  The Sacramento Bee is calling for an accellerated program given the water crisis in California.  We agree.  Read the full Bee Editorial Here. 

DSIRE Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency – Terrific site for energy efficiency rebates.  If only we could arrange a hook up with Potty Girl…  http://www.dsireusa.org/index.cfm

GreenPlumbers Introduces Online Training - GreenPlumbers has released their first online training course,  Solar Hot Water. The launch of the sustainable online training website,  GreenPlumbersTraining.com, enables plumbers to ream in competitive in their industry while helping our nation meet the growing demand for 'green collar' workers.

Powerful and Ironic Water Video from Circle of Blue - Can irony help explain the global fresh water crisis? Circle of Blue thinks so.  Decide for yourself.  Watch the video at  http://www.circleofblue.org/waternews/arts/video-no-reason/.

Front Range Sustainable Landscape Symposium – Download the presentations from this excellent event held in Denver in late February.  http://frslc.wetpaint.com/page/Downloads

Water Efficient Development Proposal for Douglas County, Colorado – Beorn Courtney and Laura Belanger of Headwaters Inc. have created a unique proposal for a new water efficient development in one the fastest growing areas in Colorado.  This work was in support of a planned development zoning application and the proposal is now in the hands of County decision makers awaiting approval.  Learn more here -  http://www.douglas.co.us/community/planning/Sterling_Ranch.html

Chinese Toilet Separates Liquid and Solids – Yellow is the new green in one Chinese home.  http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/27/opinion/27george.html?_r=2&pagewanted=1&th&emc=th

Mysterious Water Conservation Measures Site – Who does this water conservation site belong to?   It appears to be a private outfit out of Canada.   http://waterconservationmeasures.com/basics.php

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.