Water Efficiency Watch May - June 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...

Incremental Progress in Water Efficiency Plumbing Codes

IAPMO Committee Narrowly Approves Shower Revision, Support Needed

by Tom Pape

Proposals to improve water efficiency measures in the plumbing codes progress towards enactment, but as Yogi Berra said, “It ain’t over til it’s over.”  At the recent International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO) Uniform Plumbing Code (UPC) meeting in Denver, the UPC Technical Committee (TC) voted in favor of limiting showerheads to one per shower stall.  The proposed amendment eliminates the rapidly growing trend of shower devices that subvert the Energy Policy Act requirement of 2.5 GPM flow limit.  This water efficiency proposal was accepted by a slim one-vote margin, and will likely be highly contested at the IAPMO General Assembly in the coming months.  Support by AWE and its members is needed to assure water efficiency requirements are maintained within the model plumbing code.

shower1The proposal to limit showerhead quantities does not create any new shower water use restrictions that are not already contained in the Energy Policy Act.  The proposal merely supports the intent of the 2.5 GPM maximum flow requirements.  The Energy Policy Act does not contain language limiting the quantity of showerheads installed in any one shower stall; though the intent and spirit of the law is clear.   Plumbing equipment manufacturers, homebuilders, plumbing contractors, and users have subverted the law by: a) labeling water wasting showers as body spas, rain machines, water saunas, etc.; and b) installing multiple shower heads in single user shower enclosures.  Currently, there is nothing in the model plumbing codes to address this situation.   The code change proposed by water efficiency proponents limits flow rates to 2.5 GPM per single-person shower stall typically found in homes.  

When the proposed code amendment was first presented to the UPC TC in April of 2007, the proposal was soundly defeated.  The ensuing IAPMO Comment Period allowed more than 15 AWE members to submit Comments to IAPMO, voicing the need for the codes to support water efficiency.  Clearly, the voices of the Alliance and its members were heard, and the UPC TC took notice.   In May, the Technical Committee accepted Proposal Item 38, the proposed code of:

402.4 Showerhead Water Discharge. The water discharge of an individual showerhead shall not exceed 2.5 gallons per minute (9.5 L/min) at 80 psi. In addition, when multiple showerheads are installed in a shower compartment with a floor area up to two thousand five hundred (2,500) square inches (1.61 m2), the total water consumption shall not exceed 2.5 gallons per minute (9.5 L/min) when all or any combination of showerheads are operating. Where the floor area of the shower compartment exceeds two thousand five hundred (2,500) square inches (1.61 m2), the total maximum water output shall not exceed 2.5 gallons per minute, per two thousand (2,000) square inches of additional floor area.

Additional hurdles remain before this item becomes part of the model code for the 2009 edition of the Uniform Plumbing Code.  The TC members have an opportunity to recast their votes in June and the TC can overturn its own decision.  On October 1, 2008, the IAPMO General Assembly will cast its final vote as to accept or reject the recommendations of the TC.  This final vote of the General Assembly can only be overturned through an arduous appeals process with the IAPMO Standards Committee.

It should be noted that only IAPMO members that attend the Annual Business Conference are eligible  to vote.  The conference is to be held in Atlanta this year.   As municipal and utility budgets have become tighter every year, many code officials are unable to attend the Annual Meeting to vote.  Conversely, plumbers and pipe fitters from the area the meeting is located often attend in great numbers.   Pipe fitters trade alliances often conduct adjoining conferences, which results in greater representation for voting on code amendment proposals.  Historically, the plumbing trades have not voted in favor of water efficiency proposals that might appear to limit their work.

Significant work remains to be done to correct the plumbing codes to maximize water efficiency.   Alliance members and all water efficiency advocates can assist in this endeavor by taking the following actions:

  • Contact your local plumbing code enforcement agencies and ask them to support the UPC Proposal Item # 38, amending Section 402. of the Uniform Plumbing Code. 
  • Attend the IAPMO Meeting on October 1, and express your views to the General Assembly.  You must register before June 1 to attend the meeting (no fee).  To register electronically, click here.

For more immediate results; propose code amendments to your local plumbing code jurisdictions (cities, counties and states).    Changes in this cycle of model code revision will not be published until 2009, and likely not become effective in your area until after 2012.   Local cities and counties can amend their current code and immediately stop the water waste from multiple shower heads.  Contact AWE if you need assistance in proposing amendments to your local plumbing codes.

New SWAT Protocols for Soil Moisture Sensors and Smart Controllers Near Approval

If you have strong feelings about the testing methods for soil moisture sensors and smart controllers, now is the time to act.  The public comment period for two Smart Water Application Technologies (SWAT) protocols will end at the beginning of June. 

SWAT2Interested parties are invited to read protocol documents and submit comments using the online form. Comments will be made public.

1) Comment period ends June 1, 2008 for Soil Moisture Sensor-based Controller Draft Protocols for Phase 1: Indoor Lab Screening Tests (6th draft) combined with Phase 2; Operational Test on Virtual Landscape (3rd draft). The protocol is designed to test the efficacy of soil moisture sensor-based controllers suitable for use with residential and light commercial irrigation systems.  To read and comment, click here.

 2) Comment period ends June 2, 2008 for Climatologically-based Controller Draft Protocols Review (7th draft).  Under SWAT guidelines, every three years protocols undergo a 90-day review open for public comment.  This protocol review is an important step in identifying strengths and weaknesses so that improvements can be made.  To read and comment, click here. 

DeKalb County Georgia Passes Retrofit on Reconnect Ordinance

DeKalb CourthouseDeKalb County, Georgia which includes much of the City of Atlanta recently enacted a retrofit upon reconnect ordinance.  Under this ordinance, all homes that establish new connections will be required by their water supplier to replace toilets that use greater than 1.6 gallons per flush with toilets that are 1.6 gallons per flush or less.

The "inefficient plumbing fixtures replacement plan" approved by DeKalb County commissioners and signed by Chief Executive Officer Vernon Jones in March will affect the sale of all homes built before 1993. Beginning in January, it will apply to the sale of all buildings of that vintage, with exceptions for economic hardship and properties transferred within the family. 

"This is good legislation for conservation," Jones said.

All homes built after January 1, 1994 should be equipped with 1.6 gallon per flush or less toilets due to the provisions of the Energy Policy Act of 1992, and all new toilets available in the marketplace use 1.6 gallons per flush or less. DeKalb County's new ordinance will speed up the natural replacement of inefficient toilets in homes built before 1994. 

As many as 165,000 homes were built in DeKalb before 1993.  DeKalb officials calculate that if all of those houses and all the similarly old apartments and offices, stores and restaurants and other buildings were to sell this year, and if all the buyers did what they were supposed to, 6 million gallons of water a day would be saved.  The ordinance is available for download here.

Nobel Laureate Climatologist to Address WaterSmart Innovations Conference

image014Dr. Johnathan Overpeck, coordinating lead author for the United Nations' Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment, will be the keynote luncheon speaker at the WaterSmart Innovations Conference on Thursday, October 9.

Overpeck will discuss climate change and water supply which is of particular interest to conservation professionals.  Dr. Overpeck is the director of the Institute for the Study of Planet Earth at the University of Arizona in Tucson, where he also is a professor of Geosciences and a professor of Atmospheric Sciences.

Also during the October 9 luncheon ceremony, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Assistant Administrator for Water Benjamin Grumbles will present the inaugural EPA WaterSense Awards.

In February, EPA announced the first WaterSense awards program, designed to recognize WaterSense partners who helped advance the overall mission of WaterSense, increased awareness of the WaterSense brand in a measurable way and demonstrated overall excellence in the water-efficiency arena. EPA will recognize partners in the following categories:

  • Promotional Partner of the Year  
  • Manufacturer Partner of the Year
  • Retailer/Distributor Partner of the Year
  • Irrigation Partner of the Year

The WaterSmart Innovations Conference will be held from October 8-10, 2008 at the South Point Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.  For more information and registration visit http://www.watersmartinnovations.com/.  Discounted “early bird” registration rates are available until July 11, 2008.

WaterSense New Homes Specification Released

The US Environmental Protection Agency has relased the draft specification for the water efficient new homes program.  The draft specification incorporates EPA's criteria for product categories earning the WaterSense label (toilets and faucets) and requires many other practices and technologies aimed at bringing water efficiency into the entire home.

watersenseLogoThe movement to make new homes water-efficient couldn't be happening at a better time.  Residential water use accounts for more than half of publicly supplied water in the United States—more than is supplied to both business and commercial industries combined.  When final, this new specification will provide a starting point for homeowners to be water efficient right out of the gate.  On average, and depending on homeowners' water habits, a WaterSense labeled new home will be designed to use about 20 percent less water per year than other new homes built today.

In addition to WaterSense labeled toilets and faucets, as well as other water-efficient plumbing devices, WaterSense labeled new homes will feature ENERGY STAR® qualified dishwashers and washing machines. They also will feature a hot water distribution system that decreases how long hot water takes to get to the tap.

WaterSense labeled new homes will be water-efficient outside, too: if an irrigation system is utilized in the home, it must be installed by a WaterSense irrigation partner, and the surrounding landscape should feature native plant species that require minimal watering.

These new specifications can have a significant impact not only on water efficiency but on energy efficiency as well.  EPA expects to finalize its new homes specification at the end of 2008. To download the specification or obtain the latest news about WaterSense New Homes, visit the WaterSense Web site.

Plumbing Industry Proves the Power of Retrofits after Orme Tennessee Runs Dry

Orme1Located about 40 miles southwest of Chattanooga, the small town of  Orme Tennessee literally ran dry.  The severe drought in the southeast dried up the water supply for all 144 Orme residents and the town was reduced to trucking in water daily in order to provide a meager three hours of running water per day.  This type of intermittent supply is common in many developing countries, but is unheard of in the United States.

Enter the US plumbing industry led by Robert Easter of H20 Guard and Barb Higgens of the Plumbing Manufacturers Institute (PMI).  To remedy the situation in Orme, the plumbing industry stepped up and donated products and labor to retrofit the entire town on short order.  Bemis Co. donated self-closing toilet seats. Gerber pitched in toilets. Brass Craft offered connections and wall valves. Roto-Rooter sent trucks. Delta provided faucets and showerheads.  Nearly everyone sent people.

Cars, trucks, toilets and plumbing professionals set out from Texas, Tennessee, New Jersey, Alabama, Indianapolis, New York, Illinois and Georgia.  On November 17, 2007 the entire town was retrofit with efficient fixtures.

The results were immediate and dramatic.  Three hours of daily usage became 12 essential quadrupling the effective supply.  Not bad for a days work.  In the ensuing months Orme was able to tap into a supply pipeline connecting it to the water utility in Bridgeport, AL thus providing a long term supply solution.  But the impact of the Orme retrofit stands as a clear example of the power of volunteer action and water efficient plumbing fixtures.

For more information on the Orme retrofit visit http://www.safeplumbing.com/efficiency/.

US Lacks Annual Water Demand Metric

How much water is consumed in the United States per year and how is that number changing?   The US Geological Survey has updated national water consumption data every five years, but nothing has appeared since 2000 and although a 2005 update is on the way, it may not appear for a year or more.  

The authors of the State of Green Business 2008 were "shocked to discover that there is no annually updated metric for national water use" when the sought to prepare their report on water efficiency.  Compared with the data that are available on energy consumption, they deemed the five year water use updates, "inadequate."  No argument here.

Given the uncertainty of future water supplies in the face of climate change and increased drought frequency not to mention a growing population, information on national water demand will be of vital importance.  These data are time consuming and expensive to obtain and require considerable effort on behalf of state and local officials as well and water providers and other supply organizations.  If annual water demands are to be reported in a timely fashion, national investment in a more streamlined and automated reporting mechanism will be required along with substantial incentive to ensure reporting occurs on time.

In case you are wondering, water withdrawals in the United States remained essentially unchanged from 1995 to 2000 in spite of population growth according to the USGS.

awelogomini_alt AWE’s Top Ten Water Efficiency Policies for Water Utilities

At the request of an Alliance for Water Efficiency member, Executive Director Mary Ann Dickinson and staff member Bill Christiansen developed a “Top Ten” list of water efficiency policies for water utilities.  We thought the readers of Water Efficiency Watch might appreciate the list as well so here it is.  If you have ideas, additions, comments or suggestions for this list, please send them to: Bill Christiansen .

  1. Start with the water utility itself.  Implement system water audits, pressure optimization, and leak detection and repair to reduce UFW system leaks to below the industry standard of 10%.  Implement the new International Water Association Water Balance accounting methodology.  Hire or designate a water efficiency, conservation and reuse coordinator.   Compute the embedded value of energy in the drinking water supplied and wastewater treated.
  2. Meter everyone.  Meter all new connections, retrofit meters to existing connections, and require sub-metering of new institutional and multi-family construction.
  3. Price water appropriately.  Bill volumetrically.  Implement aggressive conservation pricing with steep tiers or water budgets.  Reward conserving customers with lower rates for baseline use and higher penalty rates for excessive use. Consider seasonal rates.  Bill monthly and in gallon increments, not cubic feet.  Provide historical data on water usage (previous year, previous month).  Fund conservation incentives out of high-use penalty funds.
  4. Educate the public.  Conduct consumer information campaigns, school education programs
  5. Audit all customer sectors and provide incentives for retrofits.  Provide residential and ICI water audits.  Offer rebates, trade-in, direct installation or other incentives for retrofitting of plumbing fixtures and appliances.  Good examples are HETs, HEWs, showerheads, urinals, and pre-rinse spray valves.
  6. Focus on the landscape.  Require dedicated irrigation meters for large landscapes, assign water budgets and create a significantly higher rate for irrigation water (as compared with other residential/ICI water).
  7. Adopt ordinances.  Allow graywater and rainwater harvesting.  Prohibit gutter flooding, non-recirculating fountains, non-recircuating car washes, and irrigation during the middle of the day.  Require “retrofit on resale” or “retrofit on reconnect” for communities where significant portion of housing stock is pre-1994.
  8. Designate staff.   Hire or designate a water efficiency, conservation and reuse coordinator.
  9. Plan for the future.  Think about requiring dual plumbing for all new construction to enable future use of recycled, reused, or graywater for toilet flushing and outdoor irrigation.
  10. Water for the environment.  Implement a policy that dedicates a portion of conserved water to go back to the river or watershed.

Virginia Tech Researchers Document the Water Consumed by Energy Production and Usage

It is easy to overlook that most of the energy consumed daily, such as electricity or natural gas, is produced with the help of a dwindling resource – fresh water. Virginia Tech professor Tamim Younos and undergraduate student Rachelle Hill are researching the water-efficiency of some of the most common energy sources and power generating methods.

power plantYounos and Hill analyzed 11 types of energy sources, including coal, fuel ethanol, natural gas, and oil; and five power generating methods, including hydroelectric, fossil fuel thermoelectric, and nuclear methods.

According to the study, the most water-efficient energy sources are natural gas and synthetic fuels produced by coal gasification. The least water-efficient energy sources are fuel ethanol and biodiesel.

In terms of power generation, Younos and Hill have found that geothermal and hydroelectric energy types use the least amount of water, while nuclear plants use the most.

Hill took the study one step further and calculated how many gallons of water are required to burn one 60-watt incandescent light bulb for 12 hours a day, over the course of one year. She found that the bulb would consume between 3,000 and 6,000 gallons of water, depending on the water-efficiency of the supplying power plant.

Hill added that the results are estimates of the water consumption based on energy produced by fossil fuel thermoelectric plants, which produce most of the Unites State’s power – about 53 percent. “The numbers are even more staggering if you multiply the water consumed by the same light bulb by the approximately 111 million U.S. homes,” said Hill. “The water usage then gets as high as 655 billion gallons of water a year.”

By contrast, burning a compact fluorescent bulb for the same amount of time would save about 2,000 to 4,000 gallons of water per year.

Younos noted that the results of this analysis should be interpreted carefully. “There are several variables such as geography and climate, technology type and efficiency, and accuracy of measurements that come into play. However, by standardizing the measurement unit, we have been able to obtain a unique snapshot of the water used to produce different kinds of energy.”

For more information visit: http://www.vtnews.vt.edu/story.php?relyear=2008&itemno=260

New UNAR Toilet List Includes 220 MaP Tested HET Models

toilet1An updated list of toilet fixtures that meet or exceed the Unified North American Requirements (UNAR) is now available for free download.  This new listing shows 220 HET models that have been MaP tested and meet the requirements of UNAR (which includes fixture flush volume adjustability limits).  Download the latest UNAR and MaP testing results here. 

All of the 220 fixtures would meet the requirements of the U.S. EPA's WaterSense Program, but only a portion have been submitted for that testing by an accredited lab.  Of the 220 models qualified, 177 are WaterSense certified by an accredited lab for the U.S. EPA program.   

Another 30 to 40 HET models exist in the marketplace but are not included on this list because they either have not been submitted for WaterSense or MaP testing or they failed to meet the minimum requirements of UNAR.

For those using this information in association with retrofit and rebate programs, it is very important to note that both Kohler and Toto sometimes use nearly identical model nos. for ULFT and HET versions of the same model name.  It is not  unusual for a customer to purchase what they think is an HET qualifying for a rebate when, in fact, they actually purchased the ULFT equivalent.  This has caused some issues with some water utilities that have had to deal with unhappy customers (when they learned that they purchased a non-qualifying toilet).  Furthermore, store personnel may not always have the correct information on HETs and the model numbers.

In related news it is now estimated that WaterSense labeled toilets command 3 percent of the US market.  This has been achieved less than two years since the WaterSense program was launched and represents an impressive development.

Summer Reading for Water Wonks

Looking for some summer reading for yourself or the water wonk in your life?  Here are a couple of recent titles that have been well received and reviewed.dry spring

Dry Spring: The Coming Water Crisis in North America by Chris Wood

Here's what the publisher says about the book:

Written in the tradition of Jared Diamond's Collapse and Tim Flannery's The Weather Makers , Dry Spring is an explosive  book on the coming water crisis—and what we need to do to prevent it.

The globe is running out of water. Lakes, aquifers and rivers disappear, but we consume more than ever. Many fast-growing places—the U.S. Southwest, B.C.'s Okanagan, the Great Lakes area—face deadly scarcity. Yet even as the world dries, some parts are getting more violently stormy.

Dry Spring tells dramatic stories of floods and droughts that will worsen over the next 25 years. We see what's happening to cities, farms, ranches and orchards—and people. Chris Wood shows that Canada overall will get more water—and America less. He calls provocatively upon Canada to find solutions and opportunities jointly with the U.S. And he describes inspiring choices by which we can save this precious resource for our future.

For more information visit: http://services.raincoast.com/scripts/b2b.wsc/fmp/978155192/9781551928142.htm

Mirage: Florida and the Vanishing Water of the Eastern U.S. by Cynthia Barnett

mirageHere are excerpts from an on-line review by Michael Campana, Director of the Institute for Water and Watersheds at Oregon State University:

Mirage is a well-researched, well-written book. It definitely ranks up there with the late Marc Reisner's Cadillac Desert, which mesmerized me just about 20 years ago. I could not put Mirage down.  The book provides a warning: just because you live in a "wet" place, don't think water woes, even those pertaining to quantity, will bypass you.  One would've figured that Florida would be "immune" to water woes - at least those involving quantity. It is one of our wettest states. But the growth and agriculture have taken their toll, and now water/environmental quality problems have reared their ugly heads as well.  Real estate developers and big agriculture  spent a lot of effort and money in Florida's early days trying to get rid of water; now, they (especially the former) want it back to fuel continued growth.

One thing that struck me: Florida is like California in many ways, but  especially in the distribution of water and people/growth: most of the former is in the north and most of the people and growth are in the south. Florida also reminds me of the Southwest USA: it wants it all - growth, environmental quality, a strong economy, and, of course, water for everything. Its politicians also are carbon-copies of some Western politicians in that they talk out of both sides of their mouths vis-a-vis water. They acknowledge serious water quality and quantity problems and the need for environmental protection, yet are addicted to growth.

To read Michael Campana’s full review visit: http://aquadoc.typepad.com/waterwired/2007/10/florida-water-f.html

New Report Examines Water and Energy Efficiency Connection

A new report titled Water and Energy: Leveraging Voluntary Programs to Save Both Water and Energy  analyzes the indirect (i.e., embedded) energy savings due water efficiency strategies. Completed by ICF International for the U.S. EPA Climate Protection Partnerships Division and Municipal Support Division, the report evaluates current strategies such as use of EPAct toilets and urinals and ENERGY STAR clothes washers and dishwashers, as well as hypothetical strategies such as reduction in water loss during supply. 

The report examines both the direct water savings and the indirect energy savings estimates for each water saving strategy.  Indirect energy savings were estimated using national average energy intensity data for water supply and treatment systems.   This report provides the latest compendium of national estimates on imbedded energy savings.  The methodologies can be applied to evaluate imbedded energy savings under this study and the national estimates can be used for benchmarking CA specific estimates for water conservation initiatives.

Water and Energy: Leveraging Voluntary Programs to Save Both Water and Energy is available for free download here. 

How to Submit Content for Water Efficiency Watch

Water Efficiency Watch welcomes submission of articles, photos, stories, commentary, new technologies, web links, etc.  Please e-mail your submission to Peter Mayer.