Water Efficiency Watch

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 and ACEEE Release Water-Energy Blueprint - A Blueprint for Action and Policy Agenda

Blueprint Cover SmFor the past 30 years, strategies to conserve and increase the efficiency of energy use have been widely pursued in parallel with comparable water efficiency efforts.  For the most part, efforts to conserve water and energy have not been coordinated in a coherent, collaborative manner. Today there is a growing realization that these separate activities could realize significant benefits from coordination.

Recognizing this need for collaborative actions, the Alliance for Water Efficiency (AWE) and the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) secured a grant from the Turner Foundation to bring these two communities together to establish a blueprint for future joint efforts and to envision a policy agenda that could drive actions at the federal, state, local, and watershed levels.

The blueprint addresses three broad elements: policy/codes, research, and programs.  In developing it, AWE and ACEEE have analyzed and consolidated contributions from over fifty thought-leaders from across the energy and water efficiency communities, many of whom participated in a full-day workshop on December 9, 2010.  The goal of this blueprint and policy agenda is to provide a framework for collaborative action, funding, and policy development.

“With the publication of this blueprint, the water and energy efficiency communities are committing to work together to achieve the substantial economic and environmental benefits that can result from increased efficiency,” said Steven Nadel, Executive Director of ACEEE.

The blueprint strives to learn from the experiences of both the energy and water communities, building on existing policies, programs, and relationships. The blueprint also contains a policy agenda describing the opportunities available for policymakers at every level of government.

“In simple terms, every drop of water saved, saves energy, and every kilowatt of electricity saved, saves water,” said Mary Ann Dickinson, President and CEO of AWE. “The nexus between energy and water has not received the national research and policy attention that it deserves. With this blueprint, we have brought together voices from both the energy and the water communities to outline what now needs to be done.”

Water Efficiency Legislation Introduced in the 112th Congress

congressThe authorization of the Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense program is at the heart of legislation introduced in late May by New Jersey Representative Rush Holt.  H.R. 1967, The Water Advanced Technologies for Efficient Resource Use Act of 2011, the WATER Act, takes a comprehensive “approach to boost jobs to install, sell, and manufacture water efficient products and services.”

WaterSense, launched in 2006, is the EPA partnership program that seeks to protect the future of our nation’s water supply by promoting water efficiency and expanding the market for water efficient products and services. 

H.R. 1967 mirrors the provisions that were included in H.R. 2368 (the Holt-Miller WaterSense authorization bill) and H.R. 2454 (the 2009 Waxman-Markey Climate bill) from the 111th Congress and provides for:

  • Authorization of the WaterSense program
  • Grants to establish or expand local programs that offer rebates or vouchers to consumers that purchase water efficient products and services
  • Federal agencies to purchase cost effective water efficient products.

The legislation includes $50 million in funding for the retrofit incentive program.  The bill has been referred to the House Committees on Energy and Commerce Committee, Armed Services and Oversight and Government Reform.  Download the proposed legislation here:

Volumetric Billing for Sewer in California Could Result in Water Savings: Report

A new study commissioned by the Natural Resources Defense Council and conducted by A&N Technical Services, Inc. evaluated the potential water savings that could be expected from a shift to volumetric billing for sewer service throughout California. Most California households are billed volumetrically for water use but pay for sanitary sewer service through a flat rate. The results of this research show a potential for savings of more than 280,000 acre-feet statewide. AWE has posted this document on its Water Rates and Charges page. To link directly to the full report click here.

GAO Report Identifies the High Energy Costs of Water and Wastewater Treatment

US Governemnt AccountabilityEnergy costs to run city water and wastewater systems consume up to half of municipalities’ energy bills, according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) study.

According to the report, many cities recognize that they allocate 30 to 50 percent of their energy budgets to water and wastewater systems, but they fail to use efficient technologies and equipment, upgrade infrastructure or adopt water conservation measures.

In many cities, the costs to meet regulatory standards and the needs of other city departments trump appropriating money to cut water and wastewater system energy costs, according to the report.

Download the report - Energy-Water Nexus: Amount of Energy Needed to Supply, Use, and Treat Water Is Location-Specific and Can Be Reduced by Certain Technologies and Approaches (GAO-11-225) here.

DOI Climate Report ID’s Increased Risks in Western US

DOI Small LogoThe US Department of the Interior has released a report that assesses climate change risks and how these risks could impact water operations, hydropower, flood control and fish and wildlife in the western US. The report to Congress represents the first consistent and coordinated assessment of risks to future water supplies across eight major reclamation river basins.

The report shows several increased risks to western US water resources during the 21st century. Specific projections include: a temperature increase of 5–7 degrees Fahrenheit; a precipitation increase over the north-western and north-central portions of the western US and a decrease over the south-western and south-central areas; a decrease for almost all of the April 1st snowpack; a standard benchmark measurement used to project river basin runoff; and an 8–20% decrease in average annual stream flow in several river basins including the Colorado, the Rio Grande and the San Joaquin.

Learn more and download the report here.

Residential End Uses of Water Study Launched with AWE Support

water-research-foundation-lThe Water Research Foundation (WaterRF) and the Alliance for Water Efficiency have announced the launch of a project to update and expand the landmark Residential End Uses Water Study. The original study was published in 1999, and water utilities, industry regulators and government planning agencies have considered it the industry benchmark of single-family home indoor water use.

The goal of the three-year project, which will begin in Spring 2011 and conclude in late 2013, is to investigate water use patterns in residential housing in 28 water utilities markets in the United States and Canada.  The 28 water utilities volunteered to participate in the project.  The new study will expand on the 1999 report by exploring water use over a more geographically diverse area, monitoring hot water use, examining outdoor water use (e.g., for landscaping) and assessing water conservation efforts in households. The new study also will integrate data from additional reports, in order to present a more comprehensive picture of residential water use.  

AWE-color-verticalThe study will be conducted by Aquacraft, Inc., a water engineering and management company based in Boulder, Colorado, in collaboration with Hazen and Sawyer (an environmental engineering firm), the National Research Center, Veritec Consulting and Dr. Benedykt Dziegielewski, a professor at Southern Illinois University and a national expert on water use analysis.

The total cost of the project is $1.6 million, with funding and in-kind services pooled from WaterRF, the Alliance for Water Efficiency, the Aquacraft research team, and at least nine participating water utilities.  Other participating water utilities are providing in-kind donations and contributions to the project.

“The 1999 Residential End Uses of Water study has been an essential resource for water planning and conservation ever since it was first published,” said Mary Ann Dickinson, President and CEO of the Alliance for Water Efficiency.  “AWE is pleased to be able to assist in implementing this important update that will help us better understand the changes in demand that have occurred in the last 15 years.”

Aquacraft_logo_150_dpi“There is no question that economic and environmental changes have had a significant impact on residential water use over the past decade,” said Rob Renner, Executive Director of the Water Research Foundation. “Given those changes, the time is right to assess how individuals and families use water in order to both improve the delivery of water, identify new technologies to enhance our water systems and, of course, promote water conservation.”

The updated Residential End Uses of Water Study will be published in 2013-2014.  Learn more about the project here.

Three Workshops on Greenhouse Gas Implications of Water Management Decisions

EarthWater management decisions can have significant energy impacts. Multiple factors will influence the energy intensity of the water sector in the future. Climate change will affect water supply, quality, and demand for water, potentially creating a need for new water supply options. Population growth, changing water use patterns, new technologies, and pricing policies will all affect water demand.

The Alliance for Water Efficiency is teaming with the Water Reuse Foundation, the Pacific Institute, the California Energy Commission, and the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation to present a series of three workshops in July to address water management and climate change.

The workshop schedule is presented below.  Click on the link to download information and registration materials for each workshop.

Speakers at each workshop will include: Heather Cooley, Co-Director of the Water Program at the Pacific Institute and Robert Wilkinson, Director of the Water Policy Program at the UC Santa Barbara Bren School of Environmental Science and Management.

New Efficiency Tier Established for Clothes Washers

energy-star-logo-big-imageIn late 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a proposal to pilot a new ENERGY STAR program element to identify and advance highly efficient products in the marketplace (“top tier”). The goal of this new effort – an extension of the ENERGY STAR brand – is to drive more energy-efficient products into the market more quickly. The proposal was spurred by a desire to maintain the credibility and value of ENERGY STAR for the general public while investigating opportunities to do more with this successful program.

In March 2011, EPA distributed for comment proposed 2011 recognition criteria for seven product categories: Clothes Washers, Air-source Heat Pumps, Central Air Conditioners, Furnaces, Geothermal Heat Pumps, Refrigerator-freezers, and Televisions. The EPA carefully reviewed stakeholder comments on these proposals and has now shared final recognition criteria, along with instructions for obtaining recognition in 2011.

For clothes washers, a separate category – washers with volume of 2.5 cubic feet or smaller – has

been established with criteria set at MEF ≥ 2.3 and WF ≤ 4.5. In addition, the water factor criterion for the mid to large washers has been relaxed slightly, enabling additional clothes washers to be eligible.

Learn more here.  Download a list of qualifying clothes washers (as May 2011) here.

Critical Drain line Transport Study Needs Funding Support and Receives First Donation from NRDC

PERC LogoReduced flush volumes reduce drain line flows. What is in question is whether these reduced flows are likely to cause actual blockages in the drain lines. Much of the US information on this subject is anecdotal, without foundation in fact. International studies and some field failures reported recently in Australia have indicated that flush volumes consistent with high-efficiency toilets may result in systemic drain line transport related failures in building drains or sewer lines in those countries.

The Plumbing Efficiency Research Committee (PERC) has proposed a study to scientifically evaluate drain line transport issues and to determine if the use of higher volume discharges at intermittent intervals (1 or 2% of flushes) could be an effective way to clear drain lines. Drain line carry is a critical issue that must be better understood as concerns over reduced flows have discouraged some utilities from implementing commercial high efficiency toilet replacement programs.

American Standard Tropic ToiletDue to a lack of funding, work has yet to commence on this study a full two years after PERC identified drain line transport as its first priority project and a year after the Alliance for Water Efficiency's Research Committee identified drain line carry as its highest research priority.  Stepping up to the plate, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) was the first US organization to pledged $10,000 toward the study effort.

The Alliance for Water Efficiency is inviting funding partners to step up and help get this important project launched.  The total project cost is estimated at $170,000 and only $20,000 has been committed for this research to date:  NRDC’s contribution and $10,000 from AS Flow in Australia.  Click here for a copy of the study test plan, which is posted on the AWE Water Efficiency Research Committee web page.  Contact Bill Christiansen with any questions.

Colorado Water Pact Promotes Cooperation, Conservation

Colorado colorWater leaders in Colorado have tendered a truce document that seeks to balance increasing urban water demands with environmental and agricultural needs.  If enacted, this new water pact could shift water supply planning power away from Denver and Front Range cities and towards more rural Western Slope communities such as Grand Junction, Durango, and Glenwood Springs.

The Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, signed in late April, would require Denver Water, Colorado’s largest water utility, to obtain approval from Colorado River Basin counties and river managers before trying to divert any more water to the Front Range. 

While water managers still must ratify and implement the proposed deal, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said it "demonstrates that collaboration can move mountains — and move water lawyers."

Crafted over the past four years, it brought 34 parties together for intense, mediated negotiations, including representatives of Western Colorado irrigation districts, towns, and ski resorts. The deal requires 18 signatures to become effective.

WaterSense Update – News from the US EPA

  • Revisions to WaterSense Specification for Tank-Type Toilets - WaterSense has made minor updates to the final specification for tank-type toilets. The revisions include clarifications on tanks with adjustable water use settings, requirements for certification and labeling of tanks and bowls manufactured and sold by different companies, guidance for using the WaterSense label on products and product packaging, and information on compliance with the aftermarket closure seal requirements now that three-inch adjustable flappers are readily available on the market. More information on the changes is available in the product specification section of the WaterSense website.WaterSense Logo (gif)
  • Water Softener Notice of Intent (NOI) Public Meeting Summary - On January 19, 2011, WaterSense held a public meeting to address any questions regarding the water softener NOI and gather input from stakeholders on the technology. As discussed at the meeting, WaterSense has begun participating on the NSF 44 committee on water softeners and the IAPMO IGC 091-2009 committee on anti-scaling devices. Both committees are working to develop objective performance tests for these products. Interested stakeholders may continue to submit information relevant to these technologies to watersense-products@erg.com. WaterSense does not expect to make a decision on whether to develop a specification until later this year at the earliest. More information on the proceedings of the public meeting and is available on the water softeners Web page
  • Weather-Based Irrigation Controllers – Public Meeting Summary and Comments - On February 23, 2011, WaterSense held two public meeting webinars to review the revised draft specification for weather-based irrigation controllers. EPA has posted the presentation, meeting summary, and compilation of comments on the WaterSense website for those interested in more information.
  • Updated Pre-Rinse Spray Valve Field Study Report - WaterSense conducted a pre-rinse spray valve field study from January through June 2010, and published the initial findings in February 2011. EPA has since updated the report to acknowledge those organizations that contributed to or participated in the study. The revised report is available on the WaterSense website.  

US Army Aims to Offset Water Demand at Six Sites

Fort-Bliss-TexasThe US Army identified six of its camps in April to become Net Zero water installations. Consumption of freshwater resources will be limited and water will be returned back to the same watershed in order to avoid depleting annual water resources in that region in terms of both quantity and quality. The Net Zero initiative will also focus on energy and waste.

The Net Zero initiative will involve water, energy and environment. As well as six camps in each category, two camps will be practicing conservation in all three categories: Fort Bliss, Texas (pictured here) and Fort Carson, Colorado.

Major General Dana Pittard, the commanding general of Fort Bliss, said his base is planning to build a 20 MW solar facility and a Net Zero housing community of at least 500 homes in the future. He also explained that conserving water in Texas is a challenge because of the hot, dry climate there. “The issue of water in the desert is a huge issue for us”, Pittard said.

Bliss is working with the neighboring city of El Paso on how to better use grey water. Pittard said that newly-built base housing areas have been landscaped with naturally growing desert plants, and Fort Bliss is working on renovating other parts of the base with similar landscaping (essentially getting rid of lawns and trees that require lots of watering).

The installations participating in the pilot for Net Zero water by 2020 are: Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland; Camp Rilea, Oregon; Fort Buchanan, Puerto Rico; Fort Riley, Kansas; Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington; and Tobyhanna Army Depot, Pennsylvania.  Learn more here.

US Announces Clean Water Framework

whitehouse-washington-DCThe Obama Administration released a national Clean Water Framework on April 27, 2011, that affirms its comprehensive commitment to protecting the health of America's waters. The framework recognizes the importance of clean water and healthy watersheds to our economy, environment and communities, and emphasizes the importance of partnerships and coordination with states, local communities, stakeholders, and the public to protect public health and water quality, and promote the nation’s energy and economic security.

The Obama Administration is designing and deploying innovative policies, programs and initiatives to directly address today's clean water challenges. These approaches include:

  • Promoting Innovative Partnerships
  • Enhancing Communities and Economies by Restoring Important Water Bodies
  • Innovating for More Water-Efficient Communities
  • Ensuring Clean Water to Protect Public Health
  • Enhancing Use and Enjoyment of our Waters
  • Updating the Nation's Water Policies
  • Supporting Science to Solve Water Problems

Learn more here.

MWD Lifts Mandatory Water Restrictions

MWDSC LogoWater users across southern Califonia may soon breath a sigh of relief. The board of the Metropolitan Water District in Los Angeles, California, has lifted all mandatory water use restrictions due to increased supply and decreased consumer use. The decision will allow the district’s 26 member agencies, which serve some 19 million people, to buy and store imported water without financial penalties.

Board officials said it will restore full delivery of imported water to downstream agencies, for the first time in nearly two years. That could prompt local agencies to lift restrictions on their consumers as well, such as limiting when lawns can be watered.

Metropolitan’s decision follows the announcement by California Governor Jerry Brown that he was rescinding his predecessor’s drought declaration.

Canadian Survey Finds Conservation Highly Valued, But Behavior Lagging

Canada flagA recent poll of Canadians about their attitudes toward water showed that they value conservation but pursue some practices that are not recommended for water efficiency. The 2011 Canadian Water Attitudes Study, conducted by Ipsos Reid and sponsored by the UN Water for Life Decade and two corporations, reported that 78% of Canadians polled have flushed garbage down their toilets.

According to the 2011 Canadian Water Attitudes Study, more than three-fourths of the respondents have flushed leftover food, cigarette butts, hair, bugs or dead pets or pests down their toilets.

The 2011 study is the first of the four annual surveys asking Canadians about their flushing habits. When asked to specify what items are typically flushed the responses were as follows:

  • 13 percent have flushed drugs or medication
  • 2 percent have flushed potentially harmful chemicals
  • 1 percent have flushed nail polish remover
  • 2 percent have flushed other toxic substances

The study found that 80 percent of respondents know the water in their toilet is as clean as their tap water. Another 76 percent know that almost half of household water is flushed down the toilet, using 6–20 L of water per flush.

The study found that 87 percent had confidence in the quality of their tap water, but only 48 percent drink tap water and 28 percent filter tap water with in-home devices.

Learn more about the Canadian Water Attitudes Study here.

Interior Announces 54 New Projects to Receive $24 Million in WaterSMART Grants

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced in May that the Bureau of Reclamation has selected 54 new projects in western states to receive a total of $24 million in WaterSMART Water and Energy Efficiency Grants. Once funded and completed, these projects will save an estimated 102,221 acre-feet of water each year, or enough water for more than 400,000 people. In addition, 24 of the projects are expected to save more than 15 million kilowatt-hours of electricity per year, enough electricity for more than 1,300 households.

"Drought, climate change, growing populations, energy demands and basic environmental needs are stressing our finite water and energy supplies," said Secretary Salazar. "Since we established the WaterSMART program, the 92 grants awarded will result in savings of enough water for an estimated 950,000 people. WaterSMART grants will also save energy, and help America become less dependent on sources of energy that are costly, non-renewable and harm the environment."

Established in February 2010 by Secretary Salazar, the WaterSMART program facilitates the work of all bureaus of the Department of the Interior to pursue a sustainable water supply for the nation. It establishes a framework to provide federal leadership and assistance on the efficient use of water, integrating water and energy policies to support the sustainable use of all natural resources, and coordinating the water conservation activities of the various Interior offices. The Bureau of Reclamation plays a leading role in the WaterSMART program as the Department's water management agency.  Learn more about the WaterSMART program and the grants awarded here.

News Briefs and Web Links

  • National Parks Rely on Endangered Colorado River – A new report from the National Parks Conservation Association details water management, resource threats, and economics related to the Colorado River its impact on natural and cultural resources in Dinosaur National Monument, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, and Grand Canyon National Park..  Learn more and download the report here.
  • Retail Water Rates Increased an Average of 9%, Says Circle of Blue - In the last year, the price of water in 30 U.S. metropolitan areas has increased an average of 9.4 percent for residential customers with medium consumption levels, according to data collected by Circle of Blue. The median increase for medium consumption was 8.6 percent. Water rates for high-volume consumers have increased slightly more than rates for lower consumption—an indication that utilities may be attempting to curb water use by charging higher marginal rates.  Read the full story here.
  • LADWP’s Water Bill Re-Designed to Encourage Efficiency – The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) has re-designed their water bill to provide customers information about their water use and to encourage efficiency.  Learn more about the LADWP water bill makeover here.
  • Georgia Program Seeks to Cut Use By 40 Gallons Per Day - The 40 Gallon Challenge is a call for Georgia residents and businesses to reduce water use on average by 40 gallons per person, per day. Learn more about this new effort here.
  • Water Conservation Through Behavior Change Not Easy to Achieve – This interesting article highlights the challenges associated with achieving conservation water savings through social marketing programs.  Read the full article here.
  • AWWA Article Addresses the Challenge of Declining Water Demand - For many North American utilities, residential water use has declined steadily for the last 20 years.  Learn more here.
  • CEE and WEF Offer Energy Efficiency RFP Guidance for Water and Wastewater Utilities – Are you seeking ways to conserve energy in your utility?  The Consortium for Energy Efficiency (CEE) and the Water and Environment Federation (WEF) have some useful suggestions.  Get full information here.
  • “Big Thirst” Author to Speak at WSI 2011 Luncheon - Investigative and magazine journalist Charles Fishman, author of The Big Thirst: The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water, will be keynote speaker for the WaterSmart Innovations Conference and Exposition luncheon Thursday, October 6, at 12 p.m.  Visit www.WaterSmartInnovations.com for more information.
  • Winners of the Artemis Project Water Top 50 Announced - On May 17, 2011 in Toronto, The Artemis Project announced the winners of the Artemis Project Top 50 competition. The competition identifies the most promising companies that are applying innovation in the market to address today’s dire water challenges.  Learn more here.
  • Don’t be Fooled by Floods, Water is Still Scarce – writes Jessica Reinhart, watershed inspector in Owasco Lake, New York.  Read her full opinion piece here.
  • American Rivers Lists Top 10 Endangered Rivers - Mining, gas drilling, untreated wastewater, roads, bridges and overuse are some of the primary threats to the health of rivers in the United States, according to an annual report from American Rivers (an environmental advocacy group). The report, America’s Most Endangered Rivers of 2011, identifies ten rivers that face an immediate risk.
  • Australian saveater! Awards Seek Nominees - The savewater! awards are now in their ninth year, and have emerged as Australia’s leading awards for water sustainability. These prestigious awards recognize and reward excellence in water conservation and efficiency by business, government, schools, local communities, and individuals.  Learn more and submit a nomination here.
  • Bureau of Reclamation Approves 62-Mile Pipeline in Colorado - Colorado will get a new 62-mile pipeline to bring water to the Colorado Springs area.  The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has signed final contracts with Colorado Springs Utilities, the city of Fountain, Pueblo West Metropolitan District and the Security Water District for the pipeline that will pump water from the Pueblo Reservoir, a popular recreation area that the federal Bureau of Reclamation manages, to a future water treatment plant in eastern Colorado Springs.  Learn more about this new pipeline project here.
  • National Geographic Water Footprint Calculator - Take a water tour with National Geo through your home, yard, diet, and transportation and consumer choices.  Learn more here.
  • Residential Water Use in Thailand Studied – An article in a recent issue of the AWWA Journal presents the results from a residential end use study in Thailand.  Learn more here.
  • WSJ Article Examines the Cost of Today’s Gardening Gadgets and Equipment – From smart irrigation controllers to designer plants, gardeners today have a lot of choices and the costs can add up. Read the article here.
  • Smart Phone App Locates Drinking Fountains – In an effort to help people kick the bottled water habit, the Pacific Institute has created the “WeTap” smart phone application that helps locate the nearest public drinking fountain. Learn more and get the App here.
  • Creative uses of PVC pipe in Holland – Theo Johnson creates “new forms of life” using wind-power and PVC.  Check it out 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 – 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.