Water Efficiency Watch May 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...

AWE Testifies Before Senate Subcommittee on Water and Wildlife

MAD-AWE 09-03-31 Testifying2The Alliance for Water Efficiency (AWE) urged Congress to ramp up the funding for WaterSense, the federal government’s three-year-old program to promote and label more water efficient appliances and plumbing products.

AWE Executive Director Mary Ann Dickinson told a key Senate subcommittee that despite low levels of funding, the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) has made “extraordinary strides” launching the WaterSense program to test and label hundreds of products, but that much more funding is needed to achieve real progress towards water savings.

“A WaterSense-labeled product provides the consumer with a guarantee of not only water efficiency, but superior performance,” Dickinson told the Senate Subcommittee on Water and Wildlife.  “More products need to be labeled in the marketplace, and funding constraints are preventing that from happening quickly.”

Dickinson urged the subcommittee to increase WaterSense funding from the current “unacceptable” level of $2.4 million a year to $10 million.

“Energy Star is funded at twenty times the level of the WaterSense program. With drought gripping much of the country and with water supplies in shortage conditions in many locations, the time is right for the federal government to carefully assess water efficiency as a beneficial strategy,” Dickinson said.

Dickinson also addressed the need for water efficiency research and the need for federal funding for water efficiency programs in general.

Texas Considering Plumbing Efficiency Legislation  

TexasThe State of Texas is considering legislation that would specify performance standards for plumbing fixtures. If this bill passes, all toilets sold on or after January 1, 2014 would be required to be 1.28 gallons per flush or less, and would make Texas only the second state, after California, to mandate sale of HETs. It also would be the first piece of legislation anywhere to directly reference the WaterSense program. AWE is keeping close watch on this effort and will provide updates about further developments. A copy of the draft legislation can be found here. A copy of AWE’s support letter can be found here. 

AWE Plans Water Loss Workshops

AWE, in conjunction with Miya, will conduct three water loss workshops this summer featuring international water loss experts Julian Thornton, Paul Fanner, and Andrew Chastain-Howley.  Attend a workshop and learn how to manage your utility's non-revenue water. Conservation needs to also happen on the utility side of the meter!  Registration fees are only $100. The dates and locations for the workshops are:
Friday, June 19, 2009.  9:00AM-3:00PM
Dallas City Hall
Conference Auditorium
1500 Marilla Street
Dallas, TX 75201
Tuesday, June 23, 2009.  9:00AM-3:00PM
Jardine Water Purification Plant Auditorium
1000 East Ohio
Chicago, IL 60611
Thursday, June 25, 2009.  9:00AM-3:00PM
JEA Pearl Street Service Center
Main Conference Room
2434 Pearl Street
Jacksonville, FL 32206 

For more information and to register, click here.

MWD Cuts Supply to Retailers by 10%

The board of Southern California's major water wholesaler voted in April to effectively cut water deliveries across the region by 10% this summer.

The Metropolitan Water District (MWD) of Southern California has warned for months that the state's drought and environmentally driven cutbacks in water shipments from Northern California could leave demand higher than the supply.

"We're short," said Jeffrey Kightlinger, MWD’s general manager.

The cuts are the agency's first since the early 1990s drought.

The Metropolitan Water District, which imports water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin delta and the Colorado River and sells it to local water districts, will achieve the reductions by imposing penalty rates. Local utilities that use more than their allocation will have to pay more.

In anticipation, Los Angeles is poised to adopt conservation rates aimed at getting residents to reduce their water use by 15%.  Statewide water conditions have improved in recent months but they remain below average for the third consecutive year.  Read more about MWD’s summer water restrictions here.

Lake Mead Water Level Approaches 1965 Level

Lake MeadIn the summer of 2009, drought-stricken Lake Mead is expected to drop to its lowest level since May 1965, and water managers say it is approaching the trigger point for restrictions on water use by Nevada and Arizona.  A U.S. Bureau of Reclamation report projects that by July, Lake Mead will stabilize at 1,092 feet above sea level, about 13 feet below its current level.  Colorado River Basin has experienced varying drought conditions since 2001.

The report predicts the level of Lake Mead will drop below 1,100 feet for the first time in 44 years.  If Lake Mead’s water level should fall by another 17 feet to the 1,075-foot elevation it would trigger a shortage declaration under a sweeping interstate pact signed in December 2007.

That 20-year agreement involving all Colorado River Basin states including California, Arizona, Nevada, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico provided rules for jointly operating the Lake Mead and Lake Powell reservoirs during drought. such as the one that has gripped the Southwest since 2001.  Read more about Lake Mead and the Colorado River here.

John Flowers, EPA Water Conservation Sparkplug, to Retire

John FlowersJohn Flowers, who has long been the leader and inspiration for water efficiency efforts at the US Environmental Protection Agency, will retire on May 1.  Flowers has spent 29 years at the EPA finishing his career in the Office of Water.  His position has changed and evolved over time, but many significant conservation efforts over the past 15 years might well never have happened without him.  Flowers was instrumental in the creation of the WaterSense program, the Alliance for Water Efficiency, the WaterWiser clearinghouse, and for facilitating research efforts such as the recent AwwaRF study on water budget rate structures, the water conservation retrofit studies conducted in Seattle, Oakland, and Tampa, and the on-going EPA New Home Water Use study.

Flowers plans to retire to his home in Maryland and will spend time with his grand daughter, volunteering for the local meals on wheel program, and fishing with his wife Penny.  A retrospective on Flower’s career and impact on water conservation will be included in a future issue of Water Efficiency Watch.  We wish him all the best as he rides off into the sunset.  His contributions to water conservation in the United States will not be forgotten and his legacy lives on!

Bozeman Toilet Program a First for Montana

MontanaThe City of Bozeman, with the help of an enthused and engaged citizen, has implemented the first partnership with EPA WaterSense in Montana.

Kent Madin, owner of a Bozeman adventure travel company, read about Bozeman’s plan to partner with WaterSense and contacted city staff with an idea to create a promotional wholesale toilet replacement event.  Bozeman had planned on implementing a toilet rebate program and was willing to hear Madin’s ideas for the promotional event.  This conversation ignited a collaborative effort of multiple partners and ultimately spawned the wildly successful “Greater Gallatin Toilet Tradeout” affectionately known as “G2T2”.

Through this effort a total of 875 WaterSense toilets were sold over the three months the event ran, and more than 300 rebate applications were processed by the City, representing 3% of all customer accounts in Bozeman.  It is estimated that this program resulted in between 3.5 and 8 million gallons per year of water savings.

Bozeman_toiletThe G2T2 supported Bozeman’s goal of conserving water and the City agreed to partner with the event, allocate available resources, and support the program.  Ferguson Enterprises provided WaterSense® labeled high-efficiency toilets at a reasonable price.  The City of Bozeman offered rebates to municipal water customers that further reduced the cost of the fixtures for its customers. 

Madin and a local State Representative led a print, TV, and radio advertising campaign.  The City provided printing, postage, and its customer mailing list for an event flier delivered in a monthly water bill.  Ferguson showcased G2T2 toilet models in their product trailer at a World Water Day event.  The Southwest Montana Builder’s Industry Association donated booth space at their annual builder’s fair for the Ferguson trailer.  Allied Waste Services provided a dumpster for disposal of old toilets that were later crushed into road aggregate by a local gravel company.  Several local plumbers offered their installation services at a reduced price. 

CUWCC and Partners to Host Business Water Efficiency Workshop May 11-12, 2009

The California Urban Water Conservation Council is partnering with the East Bay Municipal Utilities District and Kennedy/Jenks Consultants to host a 2-Day on efficient water use for business. The workshop will be held at the Food Service Technology Center in San Ramon, CA on May 11 - May 12, 2009 from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The registration deadline is Monday, May 4, 2009.  For more information and to register for this event, click here.

Xeriscape Advocate Wins Court Battle With HOA

Scott Varner, Executive Director of the Xeriscape Council of New Mexico, recently won a court battle with the Towne Park Homeowners Association over landscape water management.

The XeriscaperVarner, one of the nation’s leading Xeriscape experts and advocates, worked with about 130 homeowners in the Towne Park development to replace their irrigated turf landscapes with Xeriscape.  Although these Xeriscapes are not connected to the Towne Park irrigation system, Varner and his fellow homeowners were required to pay for irrigation water used by others.

"I've been paying to maintain their grass," Varner said.

Albuquerque Court Arbitrator Timothy M. Sheehan apparently agreed with Varner and ordered Towne Park to repay him $84 for the last year he had to pay for turf landscape maintenance.  Sheehan wrote in his decision that Towne Park was effectively restricting water conservation efforts like installing xeriscaping in place of a lawn by charging a homeowner twice.  The Towne Park HOA was also ordered to pay more than $13,000 in attorney fees and other costs associated with the arbitration.

Varner's attorney, Hess Yntema, said the decision was only binding to Varner, but it would be "prudent and fair" for the association to stop charging other residents who xeriscape for water costs.

Towne Park homeowners who install Xeriscape are required to disconnect from the common irrigation system and pay their own water costs. But they were also charged for the maintenance of the common irrigation system, Varner said.

This is not the first victory for Varner in his battle for landscape water conservation.  In 1997, the HOA sued a resident for xeriscaping her front yard in violation of local covenants. With Varner's help, the resident counter-sued and a settlement was reached that allowed the xeriscaping to remain in place.  The t-shirt pictured here (courtesy of Jim Knopf) was sold to help defray costs from Varner's earlier suit.

Northern California Agencies Cope with Drought

In spite of spring snow in the Sierra’s and rain in other areas, the State of California still faces serious drought conditions and demand reductions have been ordered.  Water agencies in Sonoma and Mendocino counties in Northern California that depend on the Russian River are asking customers to cut back as they plan to steeply increase their rates to compensate for income losses.

“We’re going to have to double our rates,” said Sean White, executive director of the Russian River Flood Control and Water Conservation Improvement District. The district’s budget is dependent on the water it sells wholesale to water agencies and farmers between Lake Mendocino and Hopland.

Water remains remarkably inexpensive in the region.  The water agency plans to increase its rates from $47 an acre foot to $94 an acre foot to make up for a 50 percent loss of revenue, White said. The size of the rate increase has not yet been decided by the agency’s board of directors. An acre foot of water is approximately 326,000 gallons which is typically enough to supply the indoor demands of four average households for one year.  Read more about the water supply situation in northern California here.

Andean Glaciers in Retreat

andesA new World Bank report focused South American glaciers found that Bolivia’s famed Chacaltaya glacier has lost 80 percent of its surface area since 1982 while Peruvian glaciers have lost more than one-fifth of their mass in the past 35 years, reducing by 12 percent the water flow to the country's coastal region, home to 60 percent of Peru's population.

The study concludes that if warming trends continue, many of the Andes' tropical glaciers will disappear within 20 years, not only threatening the water supplies of 77 million people in the region, but also reducing hydropower production, which accounts for roughly half of the electricity generated in Bolivia, Peru, and Ecuador.

Learn more about this study and download the World Bank report here.

Helix Water District Uses GIS to Establish Irrigation Water Budgets

Helix_GISThe digital age is helping the Helix Water District in La Mesa, CA (near San Diego) target water conservation.   Water conservation specialist Jeff Barnes uses satellite images and a geographic information system (GIS) to find out where water is being used outdoors.

Using an infrared layer overlayed on a satellite photo, Barns can determine how much solar radiation bounces off any parcel. Different plants -- grass, shrubs, trees -- reflect different amounts of infrared.

"We can see the bulk of the water use is right here, this turf area," Barnes said, pointing at a blood red patch. "Over here is a lighter shade of red. It's probably shrubs."  The GIS is also linked to the Helix water billing database which enables Barnes to quickly pull up the consumption history for any parcel or interest.

A $380,000 program developed by the San Diego County Water Authority and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation tells Barnes how much landscaping is present at every parcel in the Helix district have, down to the square foot. The program uses the climate zone each parcel sits in along with the landscape area to estimate a reasonable water budget to meet annual landscape water needs. This “theoretical irrigation requirement” can then be compared against actual outdoor consumption at the site to determine if a utility sponsored water conservation intervention makes sense.

In the coming months, all Helix customers with dedicated irrigation meters will receive notices containing water budget and usage information for their property. Helix hopes this guideline will help people understand not only how much water they use, but how much they should be using.  Read more about the Helix water budget program here.

WaterSense Product Certification System Released

image010In April the US EPA began utilizing a new WaterSense product certification system. The certification system outlines the procedures for independent third-party product certification, which is the keystone for all products bearing the WaterSense label. The new certification system supersedes the interim certification process outlined in Appendix A of the WaterSense program guidelines.

The WaterSense product certification system becomes effective on April 1, 2009, although EPA will be transitioning from the interim certification process through April 1, 2010. Certifying bodies not currently licensed by EPA should be accredited directly to these requirements. To learn more about the WaterSense product certification system, please visit the WaterSense web site.

Water consumption tracker wins U of Washington Prize

HydroSense, a team of seven students from the University of Washington, won first place and $10,000 in the inaugural UW Environmental Innovation Challenge for their practical solution of tracking water usage in the home. The HydroSense product can calculate real-time water flow and then infer the specific source of use such as the toilet, shower, etc., and detect leaks.

Chicago Lawns Need Minimal Supplemental Irrigation Says Turf Expert

Adapted from the Chicago Tribune

ChicagoThe average Chicago lawn rarely needs to be watered according to Bruce Augustin, chief agronomist for Scotts Miracle-Gro Co. 

The Chicago area gets about 36 inches of rain a year on average, but turf grass in Chicago needs only about 43 inches annually, Augustin said.

Augustin explained that overwatering is often bad for grass. It encourages weak, stunted roots that can’t keep the grass alive when the weather gets dry. It fosters fungus diseases and provides a perfect home for root-munching grubs.

Others in Chicago recommend the use of raw water or rain water for irrigation.  Using potable water for lawns is wasteful, and "your lawn doesn’t really need fluoride," said Debra Shore, commissioner of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago.

“We have a moral obligation to show that we are using it wisely and carefully and respectfully," Shore said.  Read more recommendations for landscape maintenance in the Chicago area here.

NYC Water Rates to Increase

California is not the only place where water rates are increasing significantly.  New Yorkers will pay an additional 14% for water starting July 1, according to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). DEP said the rate increase is necessary to cover high construction costs confronting the organization.

"We know an increase of any size is never easy, and especially now," DEP Acting Commissioner Steve Lawitts told the Water Board, which will set the rate in coming months.

He said DEP has cut its budget 5%, but can't slow down its multi-billion-dollar building schedule because many of its water and sewer improvements are required by court order.

DEP has watched its revenue fall 5% during the recession -- mostly because New Yorkers are using less water, but also because some are having a harder time paying their bills.

Lawitts said a sudden and unexpected 6% drop in water use will force DEP to charge more for the water it still supplies.

"In the month of March, New York City reported the lowest water usage since the 1960s," Lawitts said. "Such a large decrease in water consumption does have an influence on the rate."  Read more about the rate increase in New York here.

LADWP ordered to return nearly $30 million to customers

DollarsWater utility revenue may not be a good source of funding for non-water related services.  A Superior Court judge has tentatively ruled that the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) must pay back nearly $30 million in utility funds set aside to help balance the city budget. If the decision is upheld, refunds or credits on future bills may be issued.

The tentative ruling, which was issued in April, said the DWP's long-standing practice of moving money from its water fund into the city's general fund -- which pays for such services as police, fire protection, street maintenance and libraries -- violates provisions of the California’s anti-tax measure Proposition 218.

The ruling calls on the city to recalculate its water rates for the 2006-07 fiscal year -- when the money was collected -- and give customers either refunds or credits on future bills.  Read more about the case here.

Georgia Drought is Over for Now, Conservation Still Requested

GeorgiaGeorgia's state climatologist has declared the state's three-year-old drought officially over.  This announcement was quickly followed by new requests for citizens to conserve water.  Outdoor watering restrictions in the region will remain indefinitely because Lake Lanier is still recovering and still stands more than 9 feet below capacity. The lake is the water source for more than 3 million people in metropolitan Atlanta.

“Soil moisture is near normal, stream flows are near normal. Small and medium-sized reservoirs are full,” state climatologist David Stooksbury said. “But there is still the 500-pound gorilla sitting in the room and that’s Lanier.”

Atlanta is still more than an inch below normal rainfall this year, but the climatological drought is over according to Stooksbury.  It is not unusual for climatologists and water resource managers to adopt different definitions for drought declaration and termination, however maintaining a consistent message to the public is of critical importance if water use restrictions are to be kept in place. Read more about the drought situation in Georgia here.

AWE Launches Legislative Watch Web Page

The Alliance for Water Efficiency has established a new page on its web site dedicated to following federal legislation related to water efficiency. There is plenty of action on Capitol Hill regarding water efficiency and AWE has consolidated available information in one place to keep you informed. Visit the Alliance's legislative watch page here.

Handbook for Integrated Water Resources Management in Basins Released

The Global Water Partnership (GWP) and the International Network of Basin Organizations (INBO) have jointly produced a handbook to provide guidance for improving the governance of freshwater resources. In particular, the focus is on effective implementation of the integrated water resources management (IWRM) approach in lake, river and aquifer basins.

This handbook is written primarily for basin managers and government officials who need to make decisions related to water management. Together, they have to put in place management systems that will mitigate the impacts of natural hazards, supply water for productive purposes (agriculture, industry, energy, transport, tourism, fishing, etc.), supply water for social purposes (health and domestic services) and protect the environment. They must, therefore, manage conflicts on water resource issues between many different users.

Download the handbook here.

News Briefs, Web Resources, Research, and Information

AWE Receives 2009 Education and Public Service award from the Universities Council on Water Resources.  Executive Director Mary Ann Dickinson, AWE Board Member Alice Miller Keyes, and others will be on hand to receive the award this July in Chicago.

New Mexico Gallons Per Capita Per Day Calculator On-line - The New Mexico Office of the State Engineer GPCD Calculator is on-line.  New Mexico is one of the only states that has developed a methodology to allow for an “apples to apples” comparison of water use between different providers.  Learn more and download the calculator here.

Achieving Water Independence in Buildings – Navigating the Challenges of Water Reuse in Oregon.  This new report explains water reuse strategies and what current Oregon regulations allow. The approach helped achieve statewide rainwater and greywater allowances in Oregon and may offer guidance for those in other states wishing explore the possibilities of water reuse in buildings and those wishing to reform limiting regulation.  Download the report here. 

Tampa Bay Water Quantifies Economic Benefits of Conservation - Tampa Bay Water recently presented information on the economic benefits of conservation to the board of directors.  In the Tampa area, conserved water has real economic benefits.  Every 1 mgd saved = $10m capital cost deferment.  A 1 year deferral of $100m capital project saves $5m in interest.

Australian Behavioral Change in Household Water Consumption Study - “Promoting Behavioral Change in Household Water Consumption,” SmartWater (2007) summarizes the principal theories of behavioral change related to water use in residential situations and also considers the application of the theories to actual behavioral change initiatives.  Download this report here.  A similar study on water conservation behavior change efforts in the US will be published by the Water Research Foundation (formerly AwwaRF) later in 2009.

Santa Rosa, CA Offers Free QWEL Trainer Training - The Qualified Water Efficient Landscaper (QWEL) training is a recognized 20-hour course focusing on all aspects of the landscape as they relate to water conservation (i.e. irrigation equipment, design, plant selection, soil types, irrigation audits, water budgets, irrigation scheduling, etc).  The City of Santa Rosa, Sonoma County Water Agency and the California Landscape Contractor Association are pleased to announce a QWEL “Train the Trainer” event on June 8th – 10th in Santa Rosa, California.  For information or to sign-up for this free training call Heather Bauman at (707) 547-1942.

Professional Sessions at WaterSmart Innovations 2009 - The full slate of professional sessions for WSI, October 7-9, 2009 at the South Point Hotel and Conference Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, is available on the conference Web site, http://www.watersmartinnovations.com

Climate Change Clearinghouse Announced - The Water Research Foundation (WRF), the nation’s leading water research organization, has launched a beta version of its Web site dedicated to providing scientific information and practical advice about climate change’s impact on water. The site, www.theclimatechangeclearinghouse.org, will be a “one-stop shop” for water utilities and the public seeking information about topic.

California Energy Commission Landscape Irrigation Committee Workshop - The transcript of the April 1 Efficiency Committee Workshop on Landscape Irrigation Efficiency Standards is now available for free download here.

Conservation Cruise On June 16 in San Diego -  Mark your calendar for the traditional Water Conservation Division dinner cruise during the AWWA annual conference. The event is still in the planning stages but the boat is confirmed! Click here for more information. Save the date!

AWWA-Water Conservation Division Social Event
San Diego Harbor Dinner Cruise
San Diego Harbor Excursion
1050 North Harbor Drive
Tuesday, June 16, 2009

UK Faucet Displays Water Use. 
A number of people are working on ways to provide better information to customers on their water use patterns.  Learn more about the faucet shown here at this site.

July is Smart Irrigation Month.  Get more information and promotional materials here. 

Peter Gleick Water Blog – Dr. Peter Gleick, founder of the Pacific Institute and water conservation heavy-hitter, has recently stepped into the blogospere.  You can follow his blog here. 

Time-Lapse Video:  Retreating Glacier – Do you or does someone you know have trouble picturing just exactly what climate change is doing to the earth?  This time-lapse video from National Geographic may be instructive.

Greenwashing – It turns out just about anyone can get a green label attached to their product if the price is right.  The Wall Street Journal Tackles the issue here

The Ditches of Boulder – Learn about the history and importance of the irrigation ditches of Boulder, Colorado at this informative new web site - www.ditchproject.org.

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.