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...

Major American Cities Could Run Out of Water: 247 Wall St.com

Los_Angeles_Skyline-Ten major American cities could face severe water shortages in the coming years according to a new article from 247 Wall St.com.  The web site identifies 10 American cities that it believes are particularly vulnerable to water shortage, particularly as climate change progresses.  The 10 water-endangered cities named in the article are listed here along with a brief description of some of the key issues that impact water supply.

  1. Los Angeles , CA – Fastest growing city in the US, imported water from drought prone Colorado River, electric production also in peril as Lake Mead levels drop.
  2. Houston , TX – High drought risk, surface water supply, sea water intrusion into groundwater, and fast growth.
  3. Phoenix , AZ – 8.3 inches of rain per year, reliance on imported water from the drought prone Colorado River basin, and significant growth.
  4. San Antonio , TX – Looking for a new major water supply project ahead of the next big drought.
  5. San Francisco Bay Area, CA – Drought prone water supply, large population, and legal battles over water.
  6. Fort Worth , TX – Growth, drought-prone surface water supply, and a major pending lawsuit with Oklahoma over the Red River.
  7. Las Vegas , NV – 4 inches of rain per year, declining water levels at Lake Mead, an explosion of growth, and great distances to new sources of water.
  8. Tucson , AZ – Fast growth, 12 inches of rain per year, a shrinking groundwater supply, and political uncertainty surrounding the Central Arizona Project.
  9. Atlanta , GA – Fast growth, limited supply, and water disputes with neighboring states.
  10. Orlando , FL – As of 2013, this fast growing city can no longer increase pumping of the Floridan Aquifer.

Water conservation will play an essential role in keeping these cities viable in the years to come.  Read the full article here.

Drought-Prone Future Eminent: NCAR Report

drought_map_2000-2009The United States and many other heavily populated countries face a growing threat of severe and prolonged drought in coming decades, according to results of a new study by National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) scientist Aiguo Dai. The study was supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF), NCAR's sponsor.

drought_map_2030-2099"The work argues credibly that the worst consequences of global warming may come in the form of reductions in water resources," said Eric DeWeaver, program director in NSF's Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences, which funds NCAR. 

The detailed analysis concludes that warming temperatures associated with climate change will likely create increasingly dry conditions across much of the globe in the next 30 years as shown in the map graphics from UCAR.

The drought may reach a scale in some regions by the end of the century that has rarely, if ever, been observed in modern times.  Using an ensemble of 22 computer climate models and a comprehensive index of drought conditions, as well as analyses of previously published studies, the paper reports that by the 2030s, dryness is likely to increase substantially across most of the Western Hemisphere, along with large parts of Eurasia, Africa, and Australia.

By later this century, many of the world's most densely populated regions will be threatened with severe drought conditions.  In contrast, higher-latitude regions from Alaska to Scandinavia are likely to become more moist. Dai cautioned that the findings are based on the best current projections of greenhouse gas emissions.  What happens in coming decades will depend on many factors, including actual future emissions of greenhouse gases as well as natural climate cycles such as El Niño.  Read more about this study here.

Alliance for Water Efficiency's 2010 Water Star Award Presented to George Kunkel

GK-MAD-2010At the AWE/EPA WaterSense Awards Banquet in Las Vegas, George Kunkel was recognized for a lifetime of achievement in promoting water conservation and water use efficiency and was presented with AWE's 2010 Water Star Award.

This was a special moment for the water conservation community as it took time to recognize George, an unsung hero, as our national expert on the topic of water loss management. 

Over the years, George has singlehandedly led the effort to change national policy on measuring and accounting for water.  All the while, George has been involved with numerous other initiatives, some of which include:

  • Serving multiple terms as Chair of the AWWA Water Loss Committee
  • Revising the AWWA M36 Manual
  • Co-authoring the Water Loss Control Manual, published by McGraw Hill
  • Maintaining the Waterwiser water loss web pages, and the water audit software
  • Maintaining the AWE water loss management web pages

Regarding George's dedication to water conservation and efficiency, Mary Ann Dickinson AWE's President and CEO stated, "As North America begins to realistically gauge and recover its leakage and non-revenue water, [George] will always be at the forefront of pushing this extremely important conservation issue." 

For all that he has done, and plans to continue to do, we thank George for being a Water Star and congratulate him on this well deserved award.

Scald Hazards of Low-Flow Showerheads Assessed

showerThe American Society of Sanitary Engineering has released a white paper intended to bring attention to safety hazards associated with low-flow showerheads when used in conjunction with non-automatic compensating type shower valves. "Scald Hazards Associated with Low-Flow Showerheads: A White Paper" was developed by the American Society of Sanitary Engineering Scald Awareness Task Group; a group comprised of 24 industry professionals who have dedicated their time and expertise to this potentially lifesaving awareness effort.

According to ASSE, this white paper is issued with the goal of preventing serious scald-related injuries. "Scald Hazards Associated with Low-Flow Showerheads: A White Paper" covers the problems and hazards of using low-flow showerheads with non-automatic compensating type shower valves, examples of these problems, solutions to these problems, illustrative tables and graphs, statistics, and associated definitions.

Download a copy of "Scald Hazards Associated with Low-Flow Showerheads: A White Paper" here. 

Value of Water Survey:  Americans Willing to Pay More for Water

A new study from the ITT Corporation indicates that Americans appreciate the importance of safe, clean, and reliable water and are willing to pay more for it.  The “Value of Water Survey” queried just over 1000 individuals and 500 businesses on a variety of water topics.  Some key findings include:

  • 95% of Americans surveyed value water service more than any other including heat and electricity.
  • People everywhere regardless of age, sex, religion, or political party are willing to pay more for water if necessary.
  • On average people were willing to pay an addition $6.20 per month for improved water infrastructure.
  • 85% of voters and 83% of businesses surveyed agreed that government (federal, state, and local) should spend money to upgrade water infrastructure.

A free copy of the survey results is available here.

Water Efficiency Rebate Incentives Remain a Legislative Priority for AWE

Home Star LogoThe Alliance for Water Efficiency is supporting the Home Star Retrofit Act of 2010 as included in S. 3663. Further movement on this bill containing water efficiency rebates for homeowners remains possible as Congress is scheduled to return for business the week of November 15th, break for the Thanksgiving holiday week, return November 30th, and stay in session through the first three weeks of December. This is a pivotal time for your voice to be heard.  Click here to read more.

SWAT Update: Soil Moisture Sensor-based Controllers Protocol Open for Comments

SWAT2Combining phase one and two testing, the Smart Water Application Technology (SWAT) draft protocol for testing soil moisture sensor-based controllers is now available for public comment.
This first draft of the laboratory and operational tests combines the eighth draft of the laboratory screening tests (phase one) and the fourth draft of the operational test (phase two) on a virtual landscape. The 90-day public comment period closes Dec. 30, 2010. The SWAT Technology Working Group will post all comments and responses after the closing date. To review the draft and comment, visit www.irrigation.org/gov/swat_drafts-soil/. 

Protocols are also available for climate-based controllers, controller add-on devices, rainfall shutoff devices and pressure-regulating sprinklers.

SWAT is an initiative of the Irrigation Association and water purveyors to promote water efficient irrigation technologies through performance testing and development of marketing materials. Learn more here. 

Study Finds Conservation is Least Costly New Water Supply In Colorado

Colorado colorUtility sponsored water conservation programs offer the least costly new water supply option in Colorado’s Front Range area according to a new study from the University of Colorado Natural Resources Law Center.  Conservation can produce an acre-foot of water (326,000 gallons) for an average of $5,200 compared to $16,200 per AF for new supply projects and $14,000 per AF for major water transfers according to the report.

“Relative Costs of New Water Supply Option for Front Range Cities” by Douglas Kenney, Director of the Western Water Policy Program the University of Colorado Natural Resources Law Center assembles cost data from a wide range of water projects.

“Cost is only one consideration,” the authors note.  “Still, one cannot help but be struck that the approaches pursued by most cities – as measured by rhetoric, effort, action, and expenditures – is the opposite of what is suggested by the cost per acre-foot metric.”

Get more information and download the full report here. 

Study Compares Water Use and Conservation in Arizona

azmeterthumbWater supplies in Arizona are already a precious resource. Given estimates that the state will almost double in population over the next 45 years, water supply challenges are only going to become more difficult.

Western Resource Advocates (WRA), a non-profit organization that promotes urban water conservation as a no-regrets strategy for increasing water supplies, has produced a new report titled “Arizona Water Meter” that highlights the water conservation programs of 15 Arizona communities and evaluates their programs by seven important water conservation criteria.  The report notes that maximizing water conservation efforts and programs across the state will allow Arizona cities to do more with their existing water supplies.

The communities included in the report are: Buckeye, Casa Grande, Chandler, Clarkdale, Lake Havasu City, Mesa, Payson, Peoria, Phoenix, Prescott, Safford, Scottsdale, Sierra Vista, Tucson, and Yuma.

These communities represent a diverse cross-section of municipal water providers, and are varied with respect to size, budget, geographic location, ownership structure, and regulatory program. By presenting a broad sample of current conservation practices WRA hopes that utilities, researchers, policy makers, and local communities can make informed decisions about the possibilities that exist for improvement in their own programs.

Learn more and download the Arizona Water Meter report here.

Drought Weary Aussies Take Exception to New Water Reductions

murray-290Residents of Australia’s Murray-Darling River Basin have reacted angrily to proposed water cuts outlined in a newly released management plan for the basin. The draft plan was unveiled on Oct. 8 by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA), the agency that monitors the basin. It proposes reduction of water entitlements in the region by 22 - 29 percent to protect the river system’s environmental functions.

The guide is considered a significant step in the process of adopting new water use regulations in Australia’s largest river system.

“I want to emphasize that the release of this guide provides an opportunity for Australians to contribute to one of the most significant water reforms in our history,” said Mike Taylor, MDBA chair, during a press event at the National Convention Centre in Canberra.

Some residents of the Murray-Darling Basin took a dim view of the proposed water entitlement cuts.  A woman in Shepparton, Victoria, wore a noose around her neck at a scheduled meeting with visiting MDBA representatives and protesters outside an information session in Griffith, New South Wales, used copies of the guide to start a bonfire. An estimated 4,000 of the town’s 15,800 people showed up at the meeting, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.

“All I can see is my future and my children’s future being flushed down the toilet at the moment,” a speaker at the Griffith meeting said, according to broadcast reports.

Learn more about the situation in Australia here. 

Download a copy of the MDBA Report here.

AWE Hosts Great Lakes Water Rates Workshops

Interested in conservation oriented water rates?  Join the Alliance for Water Efficiency for an interactive workshop on designing conservation rates and avoiding revenue loss. These workshops will address the key issues of rate reform, which are at the forefront during this economic recession as utility revenues everywhere plummet.

Two workshops will be held:

Monday, November 08, 2010

9:00 a.m. - The Johnson Foundation at Wingspread, Racine, WI

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

9:00 a.m. - Embassy Suites, Encore Room, Buffalo, NY

Cost is $35, and includes lunch and workshop materials, including a draft handbook on conservation rates. For more information and to register click here.

AWE Supports Update to the Residential End Uses of Water Study

The Alliance for Water Efficiency is providing support to a new research project to update and expand upon the Residential End Uses of Water study (REUWS) originally published in 1999.  AWE will work with the key project sponsor, the Water Research Foundation (WRF), to plan, fund, and implement the new research study which is expected to be completed by 2014.

WRF issued a request for proposals for this project earlier this year and last month selected a team lead by Aquacraft, Inc. to conduct the study.  The Aquacraft team includes research partners Hazen and Sawyer PC, the National Research Center, Veritec Consulting, and Dr. Benedykt Dziegielewski of Southern Illinois University.

More than 25 water utilities from across the US and Canada have committed to participate in the study which will examine current residential water use patterns as well as recent trends in demand.  AWE board member Dave Bracciano of Tampa Bay Water serves on the WRF project advisory committee and AWE has raised money from utilities to support this important research effort.

Chicago’s Metro Planning Council and Openlands Launch New Consumer Water Campaign and Website

The Metropolitan Planning Council and Openlands, nonprofits that have been working together since 2003 to protect and preserve water resources in northeastern Illinois and northwestern Indiana, are launching a multiyear, multimedia communications campaign to raise awareness about the value of water in our region. 

The name of the campaign, What Our Water’s Worth (WOWW), is a concept to be explored through a monthly e-newsletter and the web site Chicagolandh2o.org, which presents:

  • stories and video interviews featuring people from our region who value water in remarkable ways;
  • data and an interactive map explaining where our water comes from; and
  • tips and resources for responsible water use.

The entire campaign explores a central idea: From Lake Michigan to the Fox River, how we use our water resources – including what we conserve, how much we waste, and what we choose to invest in water quality – is up to each of us. This is our water – and it’s worth more than we know.

The WOWW campaign also poses a question: “What is water worth to you?” Through the blog and Facebook page, and via e-mail at info@chicagolandh2o.org, people can answer that question by sharing their own stories, ideas and information that illustrate the value of water in their daily lives. Visit the new consumer site here.

Toto Wins Conserve Georgia Award

Toto_waterAwardGeorgia Governor Sonny Perdue recently honored TOTO USA with the 2010 Conserve Georgia Water Conservation Award. The award recognizes the company for leading the way in sustainable water use by developing water-saving plumbing fixtures, ensuring the highest levels of efficiency in its Morrow manufacturing plant, and educating employees, the community, and fellow businesses on the importance of water conservation and how to achieve it.

The Governor began the Conserve Georgia program in 2008 with the goal of encouraging a statewide “culture of conservation” that helps preserve and sustain the state’s natural resources for generations to come.

“Georgia is blessed with abundant natural resources. It’s important to the vitality of our state that we protect these resources for the future,” said Governor Perdue. “Businesses like TOTO are leading the way in creating a culture of conservation, and it is my pleasure to recognize them for their accomplishments.”  AWE congratulates TOTO on this wonderful recognition.  Learn more here.

Efficient Farmers Named “Texas Irrigators of the Year”

Lucio_Pawlick_Hoffman_Baker_AwardsTwo Rio Grande Valley farmers were named "Texas Irrigators of the Year" by the Texas Water Conservation Advisory Council during the Texas Irrigation Expo in Mercedes. Jimmy Pawlik and Jim Hoffman were honored because of their contributions to the state's Agricultural Water Conservation Demonstration Initiative (ADI Program).

"We've been extremely fortuante to have Jim Hoffman and Jimmy Pawlik partner with us on the ADI program," said Wayne Halbert the general the general manager of Harlingen Irrigation District – Cameron County #1.  “They agreed to install difference types of irrigation tools on their farms, and they allowed us to collect information showing the impact different types of irrigation can make on a wide variety of crops.” 

Hoffman grows citrus on his farm north of McAllen and like many farmers, he once used the traditional method of flood irrigation, but he began using drip irrigation in 1993.  He converted all of his acreage to drip irrigation four years ago, after he became an ADI cooperator. He said he uses approximately 30 percent less water because of drip irrigation, it helps him better manage nitrogen applications, and it also requires less labor once installed. 

Pawlik grows a wide variety of vegetables, citrus, grain, and herbs on his family’s farm south of McAllen. He’s been concentrating his water conservation experiments on onions and citrus, including the use of narrow border flood irrigation under citrus trees. He said being part of the ADI program has given him critical information that helps him evaluate his farm’s productivity.

NYC Artificial Turf Fields Top Over 170 Degrees in July

One of the sharpest critiques of the idea of replacing urban turf areas with artificial turf is the issue of heating and the urban heat island effect.  This July in Manhattan surface temperatures were taken at a dozen city parks with both natural and artificial surfaces and many of the artificial surfaces reached more than 170 degrees F, according to readings taken by NYC Park Advocates.

Artificial turf fields came in at over 170 degrees, the highest temperature recorded in three years of monitoring. Temperatures on black rubber playground safety surfacing were recorded at over 160 degrees. By 9:15 am temperatures on artificial turf fields had reached over 140 degrees. All the temperature readings were taken before 12:00 noon.

Park users were advised to exercise extreme precautions in our city's playgrounds and artificial turf playing fields during the hot weather. Young children are particularly susceptible as it can take only two seconds to burn on solid surfaces greater than 140 degrees, according to doctors.

Aurora Colorado Cuts Ribbon on $660 Million Water Pipeline

After the drought of 2002, Aurora Water (located near Denver) decided that additional water supplies were needed to meet growing demand.  Eight years later the innovative Prairie Waters project was officially inaugurated by local officials. 

“What we realized back in 2002, when the drought was settling, was that the way we approached projects in the 19th and 20th centuries wasn’t going to solve city’s needs,” said Peter Binney, former water director who originally conceptualized the Prairie Waters Project.

City officials had reusable return rights in the South Platte River that they weren’t taking advantage of. Reusable return rights allow the city to reclaim water that has been used already. The city had owned those reusable return rights for decades, but did not have a mechanism in place to return the water directly from the South Platte River to the city.

The Prairie Waters project includes a 34 mile, 60-inch pipeline that brings approximately 10,000 acre-feet of water per year from the South Platte, north of Aurora, to a new water treatment facility in the City.  The project includes three pumping each with one 1,250 horsepower pump and one 600 horsepower pump to push the water to Aurora over a nearly 1,000-foot increase in elevation.  The water is filtered using 14 ultraviolet reactors and activated charcoal to destroy unwanted contaminants.

The project was completed $100 million under-budget largely because of cost reductions associated with the recession.  The project was funded by raising residential water prices and tap fees, and by issuing $450 million in bonds to be repaid over 30 years.

San Antonio Considers Private Pipeline Plan

TexasSouthwest Texas Water Resources L.P. (STWR), a Texas-based limited partnership, has submitted plans to the San Antonio Water System (SAWS) for a proposed $250 million regional water pipeline. The privately-financed project would provide a long-term additional water supply of 40,000 acre-feet per year to the San Antonio metropolitan region.

 The plans were submitted in response to SAWS' Request for Information Regarding the Provision and Delivery of Alternative Water Supplies. SAWS seeks "to supplement and diversify its existing and future water inventory" as part of its 50-year water management plan.

 "Water users throughout the region often face water restrictions during times of drought, and the federal government is threatening to intervene to protect endangered species in the San Marcos and Comal Springs", said Rodney T. Smith, president and general partner of STWR. "With the population of San Antonio and surrounding areas expected to reach 2.4 million people by the year 2050 - the economic and environmental health of the region is dependent on a diversified portfolio of water supplies."

SAWS’ diversified supply portfolio includes a highly regarded water conservation program.

News Briefs and Web Links

  • Lake Mead at New Historic Low Level -  Just in time for it’s 75th birthday and the opening of a spectacular new bridge linking Nevada and Arizona, Lake Mead’s level dropped to a historic low of 1,083 feet above sea level. The Bureau of Reclamation site features a bar graph showing the reservoir levels since the lake was first formed when the Colorado River waters were impounded by Hoover Dam.  Learn more here.
  • China ’s Three Gorges Dam Nears Capacity - The waters behind the Three Gorges Dam, the world's largest hydro-electric project, are expected to reach their maximum level by the end of the month, according to the China Three Gorges Corporation. The dam began backing up water in 2003.  Two previous attempts to reach the maximum depth of 175 meters, in 2008 and 2009, failed. The first happened when the level reached just over 172 meters and caused geological problems along the upper reaches of the Yangtze River. The second happened when the water reached a depth of just over 171 meters and people downstream found themselves in urgent need of water supplies.  Read more here. 
  • WaterSmart Innovations 2010 from A to Z – If you missed the conference this year or if you want a quick review of what when down, Paul Lander has put together a delightful A to Z list of all that happened in Las Vegas at WaterSmart Innovations.  Check it out here. 
  • MLS Adds “Green Home” Field to Real Estate Database – In another sign of progress more than 50 Multiple Listing Services (MLS) around the United States have added data fields to their new and existing homes databases with the goal of better informing home purchasers about available “green” properties and what those green attributes are.  The new green categories have better search and report capabilities for both realtors and homebuyers. In one particular case, six green categories were added to the MLS in Tucson, AZ.  The fields include: location/lot design, resource efficiency, energy efficiency, water efficiency, indoor environmental quality and environmental or energy certifications. Each field has multiple subfields that allow homeowners to highlight more precisely than ever the specific green features in their for-sale homes. Read more here. 
  • Cash for Grass in California - The Mojave Water Agency (MWA), Apple Valley, California, has reinstated its Cash for Grass rebate program for homeowners who replace their lawns with California native plants and desert-friendly landscaping.  The program offers MWA customers a rebate of .50 cents per square foot of grass removed, with a maximum rebate of $3,000 for residential properties and a limit of $10,000 for commercial properties.
  • Environmental Photography Exhibit to Combat Climate Change Opens - Photographs dealing with some of the most important issues of our time are on display this month in London (UK). One month before the Cancun climate change summit, sponsors are hoping that the Environmental Photographer of the Year exhibition will persuade politicians to take the urgent and decisive action needed to combat climate change.  See some these incredible and disturbing photographs here.
  • 2009 Ka-BOOM Report Documents the Impact of Appliance Standards - The 2009 report, Ka-BOOM! The Power of Appliance Standards , is the latest in a series of federal- and state-level analyses assessing the potential impacts of new and updated appliance standards. In this report the authors review twenty-three products for which federal standards are due between 2009 and January 1, 2013 (i.e. during the current presidential term) as well as an additional three products whose potential savings warrant consideration for earlier-than-scheduled rulemakings.  Read more and obtain the report here.
  • Denver Grocery Store Sells Only Locally Produced Items - The In Season Local Market, located in the Highlands neighborhood in Denver, Colorado, is dedicated to providing local food that is naturally and ethically grown, raised, harvested and processed.  "If it's not from here, it's not in here," defines the company’s strict 250 mile radius policy within which everything in its store originated. Source animals are hormone-free. Shelves fill up with whatever’s in season, so the selection of local farm goods such as Haystack Mountain goat cheese, Hazel Dell mushrooms, and Sunrise Ranch steaks is rotating. Shoppers can browse shelf offerings on-line, order for home delivery or curbside pickup, or simply stop by the small store in Highlands. In Season recently opened at a second location in Louisville, CO.
  • SWAT Seeks Landscape Efficiency Studies - The Smart Water Application Technology (SWAT) program dedicated to promoting landscape water use efficiency, is seeking papers and published studies for the SWAT website that show how irrigation products have improved irrigation system efficiency or resulted in water conservation. These papers will form a repository of reference information that can be accessed by the public.  Studies can be forwarded to Brent Meacham.
  • Guilt is Key Behavior Change Ingredient: Wall Street Journal – Learn how a program to reduce the number of plastic bags given out in retail stores succeeded in Washington by shaming consumers into action.

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.