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...

DOE Institutes Enforcement Action Against Non-Compliant Showerhead Manufacturers

DOE LogoManufacturers of showerheads with flow rates that exceed the 2.5 gallon per minute maximum beware.  The Office of General Counsel of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has issued Notices of Proposed Civil Penalty to four manufacturers for failing to certify that their showerheads meet the applicable water conservation standard as required by the Energy Policy Conservation Act and DOE regulations.  These Notices of Proposed Civil Penalty collectively propose penalties of over $3 million. 

Unless the manufacturers settle these claims within thirty days, the DOE can file actions in District Court or with an Administrative Law Judge to demand payment for the failure to certify these products.  Notices of Proposed Civil Penalty were issued to Zoe Industries, Altmans Products LLC, EZ-FLO International, and Watermark Designs, Ltd. after complaints were received about non-conserving products being sold by these companies.

Under federal law, manufacturers of products covered by the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (including showerheads) are required to certify with the DOE that their fixtures meet the applicable water conservation standards.  These certifications provide assurance that American consumers are buying products that deliver significant water and cost savings.

Conservation professionals have been concerned about the prevalence of high-flow showerheads on the market for several years and submitted information to the DOE on suspected scofflaws. On December 9, 2009, DOE announced that manufacturers would be granted a 30-day grace period to submit certification data to DOE, after which time DOE would begin to aggressively enforce violations of its certification requirements, including seeking civil penalties or fines.  The actions against these four manufacturers are the first to be taken following expiration of the 30-day grace period.

- Click here for the DOE's original on-line Press Release dated January 28, 2010
- Click here for a .pdf of the DOE's Notice of Proposed Civil Penalty to Altmans Products
- Click here for a .pdf of the DOE's Notice of Proposed Civil Penalty to EZ-FLO International
- Click here for a .pdf of the DOE's Notice of Proposed Civil Penalty to Watermark Designs
- Click here for a .pdf of the DOE's Notice of Proposed Civil Penalty to Zoe Industries

DOE is not finished with this action.  Anyone wishing to report  potential violations of showerhead certification requirements of EPAct should forward their request, along with the manufacturer name, address, and model number to:   energyefficiencyenforcement@hq.doe.gov. 

U.S. Department of the Interior Launches WaterSMART Initiative

DOI Small LogoThe Department of the Interior is jumping on the water conservation band wagon.  On February 23, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar signed an order establishing a new water sustainability strategy for the United States, and a kickoff workshop was convened in Las Vegas with over 150 water stakeholders. The "SMART" in WaterSMART stands for "Sustain and Manage America's Resources for Tomorrow."

 "The federal government's existing water policies and programs simply aren't built for 21st century pressures on water supplies," Salazar said. "Population growth.  Climate change.  Rising energy demands.  Environmental needs.  Aging infrastructure.  Risks to drinking water supplies.  Those are just some of the challenges."

Salazar noted that the 2011 budget proposed by President Obama for the Department of the Interior doubles the current enacted 2010 appropriations for water programs to move the initiative forward. It includes $72.9 million for the WaterSMART program, which is a total increase of $36.4 million over 2010.

"Local entities - water districts, water users, and local governments –have demonstrated the greatest foresight and leadership in recent years," added Salazar.  " I believe it is time for the federal government to join the movement toward a more sustainable water future."

The WaterSMART program is centered on water conservation but includes a broader focus.  Officials announced that WaterSMART will provide a national framework to integrate and coordinate water sustainability efforts of the Department and its federal, state and private partners and will also expand on the Bureau of Reclamation's various grant programs and its’ studies of entire river basins. WaterSMART will also give a big boost to the U.S. Geological Survey's National Water Census, which will be conducted for the first time in 30 years.

Mary Ann Dickinson, Alliance for Water Efficiency President and CEO, was a featured speaker at the Las Vegas workshop. Click here to read more about the WaterSMART Initiative.

Water Efficiency Watch Interview

James Workman, author of Heart of Dryness: How the Last Bushmen Can Help Us Endure the Coming Age of Permanent Drought

JGWorkman_color_photo_smJames Workman is an author and co-founder of SmartMarkets, LLC, a business focused on web-enabled ecommerce, online social networks, and the green movement with the goal of improving water and energy use.  Workman will be the keynote speaker at the AWE Networking Event on Monday, June 21, 2010 at the Shedd Aquarium, Chicago – an event held in conjunction with the AWWA Annual Conference and Exposition.

Water Efficiency Watch: How long have you been working/researching/interested in water and water conservation and how did you first get started? 

James Workman: In 1994 U.S. Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt hired me as a writer to help prepare remarks and position resource policies. I was excited by sexier charismatic issues like endangered species, wildland fire, salmon, national parks, and wildlife refuges, but I quickly discovered that all these issues trace back through their roots to increasingly scarce water. Soon I was hooked; I grew obsessed with the removal of old, obsolete dams, and I came to realize the fate of civilization turns decisively who controls fresh water.

Cover-Heart-of-dryness_smWEW: Your book refers to “the coming age of permanent drought”.  What do you mean by this and what sort of future do you think water utilities in North America should be preparing for?

JW: For hydrologists and engineers, drought has a narrower technical meaning. As a non-scientist, the book defines drought for the lay reader as arriving through the inexorable convergence of booming populations, worsening pollution, rising prosperity, careless waste, distorted economies and unprecedented climate flux. Augmenting supply is rarely an option outside of conjunctive use; even where rainfall may increase it comes too fast and furious to store. And whether they are private or public, North American water utilities operate as “natural monopolies,” which limits options when it comes to reducing demand.  You can unilaterally impose higher rates, or crack down with rations, but both risk political backlash and lost operating revenues. We’ve been forced between Scylla and Charybdis, until the Bushmen showed us an alternate route.

WEW: Your book has been praised for the way it describes the plight of the Kalahari Bushmen.  What are the three most important things the last Bushmen can teach North Americans about water resources management?

JW: First, let people own their water. Bushmen respect informal title to water resources, whether that means water in sip wells, springbok bladders, baobab trees, ostrich eggshell canteens, plastic barrels, or tsama melons. Given the human instinct to care for what you own, it makes sense to entrust end users with equal daily shares of the first, say, 50-100 gallons that flows through their meter. It’s their water, after all; utilities hold it in trust. Letting people own some makes it politically easier to charge steeply for anything more.

Second. encourage trade. Romantics think of them as “proto-Marxists,” but Bushmen truck, barter, and exchange water resources, negotiating informally within their transparent network and beyond their bands. Trade is the counterpart to ownership. A proposed “human right to water” – as a global movement now advocates – is self-defeating unless that water can be defined, owned and exchanged. Only then is there an incentive to use less rather than more. Frugal and innovative individuals who reduce their demand out of greed for valuable efficiency credits will expand resilience and efficiency for all.

bushmen_smThird, unlock monopolies. In the Kalahari, no species dominates. No chief rules. Interaction is voluntary. And nature abhors a monopoly. Bushmen are freer than the average voter or Fortune 500 CEO in the U.S. because they do not depend on one central monolithic entity for the very source of their existence. Utilities who loosen the rigid, brittle forces of monopoly can breathe with flux. They become resilient, gain efficiencies, and negotiate with end users as partners rather than as rivals. 

WEW: Some believe that we will have roughly the same amount of water falling from the sky in the future, but that it will be distributed differently and that there will be water supply “winners and losers” in the future.  Do you agree?  What can we do today to mitigate the impending water crisis?

JW: I do agree; but the climate models and current observations indicate the wet places will know floods, the dry places will know droughts, and all places will grow hotter and evaporate faster. Right now people migrate to the very cities – Atlanta, San Antonio, Las Vegas, San Diego – that are drying up. Sure, trade in goods with embedded water will help mitigate the crisis, but it won’t diminish its vice grip. So the way things stand the ‘losers’ will be the same they have always been: poor people and aquatic ecosystems. The winners will buy Evian, use A/C and vacation in New Zealand. For me, and for Bushmen, the essence of resilience is liberty to choose, and that’s why we need a mitigation system that lets us voluntarily save, own, and trade shares of water efficiency credits within utilities.

WEW: Are there too many people on Earth?  What do you see as the linkage between population growth and the climate and resource challenges we face today? 

JW:  Affluent Americans often draw this ‘population bomb’ conclusion, and claim my book supports their position since Bushmen keep families small, unlike so many of the world’s poor. I respectfully disagree. I suspect the world could support 15 billion people if we all conserved and innovated efficiently like the Bushmen, or it can support three billion people if they all consumed like me and my profligate American family of four. The Earth’s population matters far less than how we use its resources.

Kahalari-squeezing-water-frWEW: What are the three things you remember with the most satisfaction in your career so far? 

JW: Reworking drafts with my mentor, Bruce Babbitt. Publishing a book that synthesized my experience in a dramatic narrative. And translating the lessons of the Bushmen into an ambitious new business venture that partners with utilities to scale up Kalahari coping mechanisms.

WEW: What do you wish you had done differently? 

JW: Life provides its own correctives. If I hadn’t been such a self-righteous young man in a hurry, I might have seen the folly of trying to ‘rescue’ Bushmen where they lived; but then I broke down in the middle of the Kalahari, which was a wonderfully humbling experience. If I hadn’t been so focused on defensively “conserving wild nature” I might have seen earlier that conservation is really all about proactively harnessing “human nature.” Again, that epiphany came through a conversion in the desert.

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

JW: Evolutionary behavioral psychology, game theory, the locovore movement and what my colleague Monty Simus coined as the “watergy nexus” of quantifying the carbon footprint of water use, and the water footprint of electricity use.

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

JW: There’s a lot of excitement about how “stationarity is dead” and how “climate change undermines this basic assumptions about water management.” But I think it would be a mistake for students and professionals to obsess on a quest for a new paradigm that relies on expensive climate models using more complex data points. I believe that we don’t manage water; water manages us. By that I mean that resilience and development and risk reduction will come less through understanding and ‘improving’ natural systems than on understanding and improving human systems.

WEW: How can our readers contact you? 

JW: By all means, and thank you! For information on the book visit www.heartofdryness.com or www.smart-markets.com (for the business emerging from it) and people can then either reach me through the sites or through my e-mail address.

AWWA Report Calls for Standardized Water Conservation Metrics

A new technical report from the American Water Works Association Water Conservation Division recommends standardizing water conservation metrics such as customer types and classifications and points out the need to investigate the use of conservation indexes for indoor and outdoor use for benchmarking.

Appropriate Design and Evaluation of Water Use and Conservation Metrics and Benchmarks was prepared by researchers Dr. Ben Dziegielewski and Dr. Jack Kiefer.  The volunteer project advisory committee was lead by AWE President and CEO Mary Ann Dickinson.

Using data from seven utilities as reference points for water production, water sales, water use, customer accounts and population served over a five-year period, the researchers were able to identify a range of variables that make benchmarking and accurate comparisons about water use and efficiency difficult.

Turf is OK: Correction on Turfgrass Carbon Sequestration Study Reverses Findings

sprinkler_systemThe American Geophysical Union (AGU) and a researcher from the University of California, Irvine have acknowledged errors in their recently released study entitled, “Carbon Sequestration and Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Urban Turf.” The initial findings blamed common turf grass for contributing to global warming, but the findings were found to be based on incorrect data. When the computations were corrected, it was found that turfgrass actually is a net sequesterer of carbon dioxide, reversing the conclusions of the original report.

CSA Issues Draft Standard for Non-potable Water Treatment Systems

The Canadian Standards Association (CSA) recently released a draft of Standard B128.3 performance of non-potable water treatment systems for public review. The document is open for comment until April 24, 2010. To view the document click here.  To comment on the draft standard click here

British Columbia to Hold Water Management Workshops

The Water Act is the primary law in British Columbia, Canada for managing water resources and has a key role in ensuring the sustainability of B.C.’s water resources.  To respond to new challenges that exist for managing our water including dealing with population growth and climate change, the government is looking at ways to modernize the Water Act. The Ministry of Environment will be hosting regional multi-sector workshops during March and April 2010 to share information, discuss principles for a new Water Act, and explore proposals for change.  Learn more and register here

IAPMO Releases First-Ever Green Plumbing and Mechanical Code Supplement

IAPMO_logoThe Sustainable Building Industry has a powerful and revolutionary new tool at its disposal with the formal release of IAPMO’s Green Plumbing and Mechanical Code Supplement, the most comprehensive document ever created to standardize sustainable residential and commercial plumbing and mechanical systems.

“The building codes are perhaps the biggest hindrance to the adoption of green buildings,” said Dave Viola, IAPMO director of Special Services and staff liaison to the Green Technical Committee (GTC) that developed the document.  “There’s so little information about how to do green systems properly and safely within existing building codes, so we’ve rolled out a document that shows exactly how it’s done.”

The Green Supplement serves as a complement to any adopted plumbing and mechanical code, smoothly bridging the previously troublesome gap between existing codes and established green building programs. Where code language and green building concepts lack cohesion, the Green Supplement creates harmony by addressing such areas as:

  • Use of alternate water sources (gray water, rainwater harvesting)
  • Proper use of high-efficiency plumbing products
  • Conservation of hot water
  • Energy conservation in HVAC systems
  • Training/education in green plumbing systems

Additionally, IAPMO will make a $1 donation to the Alliance for Water Efficiency for each copy of the new code that is sold.  To obtain a copy of this document visit the IAPMO site.

ASHRAE Creates New Standard for High Performance Buildings

ASHRAE_logoA new green building standard that includes key water efficiency provisions has been published.  The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), in conjunction with the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IES) and the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), recently published Standard 189.1, Standard for the Design of High-Performance, Green Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings. Standard 189.1 is the first code-intended commercial green building standard in the United States. The standard covers key elements of water use efficiency (with the assistance of the Alliance for Water Efficiency) and other factors such as energy efficiency, site sustainability, and the building's impact on other environmental categories. For complete information on the standard, including a readable copy, click here.  To obtain a hardcopy contact ASHRAE Customer Service at 1-800-527-4723 (U.S. and Canada) or 404-636-8400(worldwide) or visit the ASHRAE bookstore. 

A fact sheet about the new code can be viewed here.

AWE Comments on EPA Water Loss Guidance Document

The Alliance for Water Efficiency has submitted comments to the EPA on their recent publication Control and Mitigation of Drinking Water Losses in Distribution Systems.  AWE joined with American Rivers and the Natural Resources Defense Council in preparing the comments which praise the EPA for the effort, but offer a brief series of suggestions for improving the document.  A copy of AWE’s comments can be found here

Colorado Water Efficiency Found Highly Cost Effective

ColoradoEconomists have bolstered the case for Colorado water conservation.  Summit Economics and Tucker Hart Adams found that each acre-foot of water (325,851 gallons) used in Front Range cities such as Denver, Aurora, and Colorado Springs returns a whopping $132,000 to the state economy.  By comparison, the same amount of water in an agricultural region of the state returns between $1,200 - $12,000 to the state economy.  Urban water conservation programs in Colorado can typically save an acre-foot of water for $2,000 - $9,000 per acre-foot, a remarkable bargain compared with the economic benefit to urban areas in the state.

The study was funded by the Front Range Water Council in an attempt to rebut western slope water users doubts about the value of water use in the Front Range.  To the surprise of many, the report proposed an aggressive water efficiency program for the entire Front Range, adopting efficiency standards from drought-plagued Australia.  With a greater than 10 to 1 return on urban water efficiency investments, water conservation can apparently deliver a much better return on investment than your local bank.  Read more here.

Survey Finds High Demand for Turf Alternatives

The fourth quarter Business Quarterly survey asked firm contacts about client demand and design alternatives for traditional turfgrass. Overall, 35.2 percent of firms reported increased demand for turfgrass alternatives. The top reasons clients request alternatives include saving money on utility/maintenance costs (42.7 percent), meeting green design benchmarks like the Sustainable Sites Initiative (39.6 percent), lowered upkeep time and effort (39.3 percent), reducing environmental harm (28.8 percent), and meeting a government ordinance or code (24.8 percent). The top design alternatives were regionally appropriate vegetation (57.7 percent), incorporating water harvesting elements (41.4 percent), using native grass (37.0 percent), and incorporating hardscapes/permeable surfaces (35.5 percent).  Read more here.

Oregon Researchers Challenge Long Held Assumptions about Soil and Water

Researchers at Oregon State University are challenging some of the most fundamental assumptions about how water moves through soil in a seasonally dry climate such as the Pacific Northwest.  If these results hold up it is likely that a century of research based on those assumptions will have to be reconsidered.

The new study by scientists from OSU and the Environmental Protection Agency showed – much to the surprise of the researchers – that soil clings tenaciously to the first precipitation after a dry summer, and holds it so tightly that it almost never mixes with other water.  The finding is so significant, researchers said, that they aren’t even sure yet what it may mean. But it could affect our understanding of how pollutants move through soils, how nutrients get transported from soils to streams, how streams function and even how vegetation might respond to climate change.

The findings could have significant implications for how effective precipitation is calculated for urban landscapes.  The research was recently published online in Nature Geoscience, a professional journal. 

Penn State Researchers Find Mixed Water Portfolios Are Best

It turns out a diversified portfolio makes sense for water resources as well as the stock market. Computer simulations for drought-prone areas suggest that if urban water planners combine three approaches of buying water -- permanent rights, options and leases -- the result avoids surplus water and high costs while reducing shortages, according to an engineering professor from Penn State University.

Patrick Reed, associate professor of civil engineering, Penn State and his colleagues hope to understand the benefits and trade-offs associated with buying water using a mix of market instruments.  They are studying the Lower Rio Grande Valley of southern Texas. Reed’s models incorporated the various purchasing options, along with variables such as cost, amount of surplus water and the probability of water shortages.

Reed and his team of researchers found that when cities in the region rely solely on permanent water rights, they incur higher costs  and require surplus water yet still face significant supply failures in drought years. Alternatively, a careful mix of permanent rights, options and leases can dramatically lower costs  and increase water available to the environment and avoid supply failures during droughts.

Water Footprint Manual Released

The Water Footprint Network has launched its Water Footprint Manual, covering a comprehensive set of methods for water-footprint accounting. It shows how water footprints can be calculated for individual processes and products, as well as for consumers, nations and businesses, and includes methods for water footprint sustainability assessment and a library of water footprint response options. The creators of this manual are seeking comments and suggestions on the current version through May 2010 and in particular are seeking studies and the experience of end users. Submit comments here.  Read more about the Water Footprint Manual here.

News Briefs and Web Links

  • Fix a Leak Week. Nationwide, more than 1 trillion gallons of water leak from U.S. homes each year. That's why WaterSense is promoting Fix a Leak Week from March 15 to 21, 2010, to remind Americans to check their plumbing fixtures and irrigation systems for leaks.
  • Nominations Sought for WaterSense Partner of the Year. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is now accepting nominations for the 2010 WaterSense Partner of the Year awards. Now in its third year, the program honors partners who have increased awareness of WaterSense. Categories include manufacturers, retail/distributors, irrigation and promotional partners. Learn more here.
  • Updated MaP Toilet Testing Results are Posted.  There are now 628 toilets that have earned the WaterSense label.  AWE has free downloads of the latest product listing and the 16th Edition of the Maximum Performance (MaP) report which contains the flush performance and physical characteristics of approximately 1,200 different fixture models that have been MaP tested, of which about 80 are flushometer combinations for commercial applications. Get the latest toilet testing results from AWE here
  • AWE’s Coffee Featured. Save My Planet episode features water efficiency and AWE board member Joyce Coffee.  View the episode on-line here.
  • New Water Job Page. Looking for a water job?  The AWRA has launched a new on-line career center.  Visit it here.
  • Wyoming Vulnerable. Researchers a the University of Wyoming say the state’s reliance on mountain snow may render it particularly vulnerable to climate change-induced water shortages.  Read more here.
  • Pipeline Plans Proceed. The Army Corps of Engineers is conducting a review of a proposed 560 mile pipeline which could cost between $3 and $6 billion to construct. The Million Conservation Resource Group pipeline project would send water across the Continental Divide: from the Flaming Gorge Reservoir in Wyoming to urban areas along the Front Range east of the Rockies in Colorado. The pipeline, which would be laid on federally-owned land for highways and utilities, would end south of Denver, in Pueblo, Colorado.  Read more about the plan and anticipated users of this water here.
  • AWWA Journal Publishes Annual Conservation Issue.  The annual issued of the AWWA Journal dedicated to water conservation has been published.  A listing of articles is available for free and AWWA members can download full text versions here.
  • MWD Creates “Top 10 Tips for Saving Water” Video.  Check out this new 2-minute video here.
  • Utah Rainwater Law Advances. Citizens of Utah may soon be able to legally collect and store up to 2,500 gallons of rainwater.  A bill to legalize rainwater harvesting passed the Utah senate in early February.  Read more here.
  • NPR Covers Water Budgets.  A recent story on NPR featured an interview with Fiona Sanchez of Irvine Ranch Water District talking about their water budget-based rate structure.  Listen in here.
  • PMI Hires Director of Strategy and Technology.  The Plumbing Manufacturers Institute (PMI) has hired David Hagopian as director of strategy and technology. In this position, Hagopian will be responsible for analyzing and reporting proposed code and standard changes, maintaining and managing effective relationships with PMI members, certification agencies and industry peers and representing PMI at various industry meetings.
  • World Plumbing Day is March 11, 2010. The inaugural World Plumbing Day will make a global impact on March 11 as the plumbing community unites to bring awareness to the value of this industry in relation to health and sanitation.  For more info click here
  • Himalayan Glaciers to Last Longer than Predicted Due to Math Error. A prediction suggesting that Himalayan glaciers might disappear by the year 2035 was ‘poorly substantiated' and a lapse in standards, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has admitted. The claim was made in the organization’s 2007 Fourth Assessment Report, which warned of accelerating climate change. One paragraph declared that the probability of the Himalayan glaciers ‘disappearing by the year 2035 and perhaps sooner is very high'. Read more.
  • Stimulus Year 1 – American Rivers Updated on Water Funding.  One year later: Communities and clean water benefit from economic stimulus spending 
    Green Reserve – Water Infrastructure in the Stimulus at One Year
  • Whistle Blower Exposes Faulty, Leaking Water Pipes. State and local governments across the country may have to replace their water systems because of defective pipes, according to a whistle-blower lawsuit unsealed this week.  The whistle-blower accused his former employer, one of the world’s largest pipe manufacturers, of falsifying test results about the quality of its products. Pipes that should last 50 years are in some cases rupturing in their very first year.  Read more here.
  • NIWR-USGS National Competitive Grants Program.  The Request for Proposals for the FY 2010 National Competitive Grants Program authorized by section 104G of the Water Resources Research Act of 1984 has been posted on niwr.netThe RFP may be obtained here.
  • Water Footprint iPhone App Released.  Want to calculate your water footprint while having dinner at your local bistro?  It’s possible with a new iPhone app that calculates the embedded water in everyday life.  Learn more here.
  • Customizable Messaging Tool for Water Quality.  There is a new on-line tool for producing customizable messaging for local officials on options for protecting water quality. It's produced by a well-known social marketing firm. -  http://www.yourwateryourdecision.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.