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... 

  California Mandates Water Restrictions to Combat Deepening Drought 

California Governor Jerry Brown ordered mandatory water restrictions for the first time in California history on April 1, saying that the state’s drought had reached near-crisis proportions after a winter that brought record-low snowfalls.

In an executive order, Brown directed the State Water Resources Control Board to work with local agencies to come up with ways to reduce water use by 25 percent and to enforce what he described as an onerous reduction. State officials said the order would impose cutbacks on water use across the board — including homeowners, farmers, cemeteries and golf courses.

Sierra Snow Pack

 The 25 percent cut is in relation to total water use in the state in 2013, before the drought began. It would vary from community to community reflecting the fact that some areas of the state have done a better job in reducing water consumption.  Learn more here. 

The most visible evidence of California’s fourth straight year of below average moisture levels begins in the mountains. Sierra Nevada snowpack measurements are the lowest on record, 6 percent of normal.

“It’s hard to overstate the severity of this drought,” said Max Gomberg of the State Water Resources Control Board. “Reservoirs are depleted. Communities are out of water. Farmers are out of work. It is a dismal situation. We’re at a point where we can’t count on it raining.”

What About Ag? 

  Is California agriculture getting off easier than the urban sector? 

  "The government's response to this growing crisis has been behind the curve," said Jonas Minton, water policy advisor for the California Planning and Conservation League and a former state water official.  He argued that state officials should focus more efforts on agriculture such as groundwater pumping limits and crop substitution.

 Other water experts and growers counter that California agriculture has “suffered enough” as a result of the drawn-out drought, now in its fourth year. For the second year in a row, Central Valley farmers without senior water rights are expecting zero deliveries from the valley's big federal irrigation project.  They view “zero water” as a far more onerous reduction than the 25% reduction being asked by the Governor of the urban sector.  This lack of water supply delivery has completely shut down many smaller farm operations across the Central Valley, putting hundreds of people out of work.

The “Other” Big Drought Story – Colorado River Basin 

Lake MeadBarring a miracle snowfall in April, meltwater cascading out of the snow-capped high country of the Colorado River Basin this spring will probably fall below average. According to the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center, flows into Lake Powell, one of two giant reservoirs on the Colorado, are likely to be just 71 percent of the long term average.

The predicted lackluster flow of water into Lake Powell will, in turn, have a ripple effect downstream to Lake Mead, the second giant reservoir on the Colorado River.  Lake Mead, a water-supply keystone for the American Southwest, is expected to receive 9 percent more water this year, according to the Bureau of Reclamation, which manages dams and reservoirs on the Colorado River. Mead is still projected to set new record lows this summer but the extra water could help delay a first-ever restriction on water deliveries to Arizona and Nevada.

Barring intervention, by the end of the water year on September 30th, Lake Mead’s surface elevation is projected to fall below 1,075 feet above sea level, which would smash last year’s record low set in July.  Lake Powell is now at just 45 percent of capacity and Mead is at 41 percent.  Learn more here.   Amazing photos from the Atlantic Magazine's "The American West Dries Up" feature here.

RESNET to Rate Water Efficiency of Homes 

RESNETA leading energy efficiency group has announced its intention to rate the water efficiency of American homes.  The Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET), in partnership with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and a coalition of water efficiency experts, homebuilders, environmental organizations and home energy professionals, plans to develop the nation’s first Water Efficiency Rating (WER) Index. The WER Index will show consumers at a glance how efficiently a home uses water by assigning it a numerical score based on performance. RESNET proposes to have the WER Index ready for use across the United States by the end of this year.

“In many parts of the nation, water is fast becoming an ever increasingly expensive commodity,” observed Steve Baden, Executive Director of RESNET. “At least one county in every state in this country experiences a drought each year. There is clearly a need for a system to rate a home’s efficiency in water use. The WER Index Score will allow homebuyers to know how efficiently water is being used in the homes they are considering to buy.  It will also provide an opportunity for homebuilders to monetize the efficiency of their homes in the same fashion that the HERS® Index plays for energy efficiency.”

The WER Index will work in the same way as the Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Index – also developed by RESNET – which scores a home based on its energy performance. A lower HERS Index Score indicates a more energy efficient home, with 100 being set as the baseline for an energy efficient home (one that conforms to the latest International Energy Conservation Code [IECC] requirements). The baseline score for the WER Index will also be 100, but with a lower score indicating a more water efficient home.    Learn more here. 

AWE & WaterSense Offer Spring Sprinkler Spruce Up Webinar – April 14 

Spring is finally here, and it's the perfect time to remind homeowners how to spruce up their irrigation systems before ramping up outdoor water use. Join WaterSense and the Alliance for Water Efficiency for the free-of-charge "Time for a Sprinkler Spruce-Up" webinar on April 14, 2-3 p.m. EDT, the first installment in a new co-sponsored webinar series dedicated to outdoor water efficiency topics. Register here for the free Sprinkler Spruce Up Webinar. 

AWE's Financing Sustainable Water Develops Tools for Utility Revenue Stability

FSW LogoAWE has been working hard on the issue of conservation rates and revenue stability, assisting water utilities across North America with this thorny topic.  A special website has been launched housing numerous resources, including a Rates Handbook and a Sales Forecasting and Rates Model, both of which are available for free download and which have already been downloaded by hundreds of water utilities since the launch.  Since releasing the Handbook and Model, AWE has been conducting rates workshops in Texas and California, and conducting media interviews on the vexing issue of revenue stability.  Here are some highlights from AWE’s work, all of which can be found on the Financing Sustainable Water website:


  • AWE has launched a Sales Forecasting and Rate Model Overview Video  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x7RW5Gy7WF0  
  • The AWE Training Road Show is heading next to Utah for a workshop on May 5. Interested in hosting a training in your region?  Contact us!
  • 2 Case Studies have already been posted on the website (Los Angeles, and Cobb County, Georgia) and new case studies will be posted soon.
  • A special blog on the subject of avoided cost has been posted by AWE’s Bill Christiansen.  Read it at Financing Sustainable Water.org. 
  • The Rates Handbook can be downloaded free of charge but hard copies of the Handbook are available for $25 on the website.

International Experts to Gather in Cincinnati for Efficient2015

iwalogoThe International Water Association's “Efficient2015” conference will be held in the US for the first time on April 20-24 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Held every two years around the world, this first time showing in North American is a not-to-be-missed opportunity to meet international experts on water efficiency from countries like Australia.  Efficient2015 will feature 147 presentations and 25 posters from 37 countries, plus special workshops and panel discussions, Topics range from water loss management, end use efficiency, latest research, climate change adaption, drought management, and rates -- all subjects covering the challenges that water providers are facing in the 21st century.

This is a unique opportunity to meet and learn from water experts from around the globe.  It’s not too late to register for this important international water efficiency event.  

AWE Member Spotlight

Welcome to a new feature of Water Efficiency Watch where AWE members are highlighted for innovating, leading and driving real change. If you are interested in contributing to this regular feature, please contact the WEW Newsletter editor, Peter Mayer. 

AQUA-RIMAT Wins European Utility Week Innovation Award

Aqua-Rimat-logoAQUA-RIMAT, an AWE member since 2014, offers advanced solutions for smart water management and control, for the private and business sectors. AQUA-RIMAT began to focus on water efficiency in 2011, after one of the owners experienced a burst pipe in his garden, causing water damage and an increased water bill. He sought an available solution in the market, but didn’t find one.

Now, AQUA-RIMAT provides several tools to help water customers (private, business and Institutions) save water and protect themselves from water damage:

  • Quick and precise leak detection
  • Immediate reaction by shutting off the main water supply
  • Immediate update via mobile phone and a personal web-page
  • On-going monitoring of the end-user water consumption
  • On-going alerts of any excessive or abnormal water usage- per water event- and on a weekly monthly basis

AQUA-RIMAT was recently awarded the innovation award for its Flowless product in the Smart Home and End User Engagement category at the 2014 European Utility Week Conference. 

Based in Israel, where desalination supplies water at high prices and potential ecological risk, AQUA-RIMAT recognizes the important of wise water management. Every incident of water damage means water waste, aggravation, unnecessary expenses, and ecological damage. AQUA-RIMAT seeks to offer products to deal with all of these consequences.

Looking at how water will be managed in the future, AQUA-RIMAT envisions that consumers will have an all-in-one device, which monitors usage and sends immediate alerts of any potential abnormality in water quality and quantity in pipes, fixtures, or irrigation systems.

Learn more about AQUA-RIMAT here.  

City of Bend Partners with AWE to Support Water Conservation Public Education & Outreach

Water Efficiency Watch occasionally highlights AWE members who are innovating, leading and driving real change by employing AWE resources and benefits to advance their efficiency objectives. To contribute your story, contact WEW Newsletter editor, Peter Mayer.  

Content provided by Mike Buettner, LEEP AP / CLIA, Water Conservation Program Manager, City of Bend, OR. 

 Bend LogoThe City of Bend, Oregon recently approved a new rate structure that places a greater amount of emphasis on customer control and presented a greater opportunity for water efficiency.  The new rate structure eliminated a 400 CF per customer allowance and changed the sewer rate calculation to be based on customer water use during the winter quarter average. Bend then partnered with AWE and Green Plumbers to help customers understand the impacts of the rate structure changes and to provide tools to increase water use efficiency. 

greenplumberslogo_whitebackgroundIn January 2015, Bend launched a suite of conservation resources for single-family residential water and sewer customers, partnering with the Alliance for Water Efficiency and Green Plumbers USA. This included a City Edition video segment explaining the rate structure changes and incentive for efficiency, free indoor water conservation kits, and a link to the Alliance for Water Efficiency’s Home Water Works Calculator.  Bend discovered that AWE’s Home Water Works Calculator is a great resource to offer single family residential customers.  Bend also provided a postcard with a link customers can follow to find a local plumber certified by Green Plumbers and the offer of a free conservation kit purchased from Niagara Conservation.

Bend is actively tracking the impacts of this effort. The City Edition video segment received approximately 260 views during January and February. As of February Bend received 123 requests for indoor water conservation kits from customers.  Approximately 85 individuals visited the AWE Home Water Works Calculator during the same time period. Bend plans to track pre and post conservation kit changes in water efficiency for each of these customers over the upcoming year to determine effectiveness, and will also look to determine program effectiveness when compared to overall program cost. 

For more information on Bend Oregon’s indoor residential water conservation efforts, visit: http://www.bendoregon.gov/index.aspx?page=1085 

New Report- Turf Removal and Replacement: Lessons Learned 

CUWCCA new report from the California Urban Water Conservation Council, Turf Removal and Replacement: Lessons Learned describes program implementation and estimated water savings.

The report offers both qualitative and quantitative context for turf removal programs and describes the challenges of program implementation and provides guidance to optimize program outcomes.  The report is available for free download here. 

Chicago Workshop: Saving Water Through Behavior Changing Technologies 

ArgonneArgonne National Laboratory in Illinois will host an inaugural DOE sponsored workshop to explore emerging pathways towards Saving Water Through Behavior Changing Technologies. The event will be held on the Argonne campus just outside of Chicago, IL on April 29-30. This workshop will bring together experts in water efficiency, behavioral sciences, private industry, engineering and other fields, along with others who significantly contribute to the design, development and dissemination of behavior-impacting technologies that reduce water consumption for buildings. Learn more and register here. 

New Conference on Water Loss Launches December 2015 in Atlanta 

north american water loss 2015The first North American Water Loss Conference will be held December 8-9 at the Georgia International Convention Center, Atlanta.  This event hopes to become the premier assemblage of policy and technical experts on non-revenue water management in North America. 

Discussions will take place over the two days on developing water loss policies, auditing your system, reducing apparent losses, controlling leakage, managing pressures, and documenting your progress, both for you and for your regulators.  There will be exhibits on the latest services and technology.  Learn more here. 

Colorado Utilities Use Connection Fees as Conservation Tool 

   By Amelia Nuding, Western Resource Advocates 

Colorado-snow-2013Utility ‘tap fees’ may be one the best conservation tools that no one knows about.

Water “taps” are the connections in homes and buildings to a city’s water supply.  When a tap is installed after a new home or building is constructed, the water utility charges a fee to cover the costs of installation, as well as a portion of the infrastructure and water rights that were developed to be able to supply the water.  In Colorado, these fees often range from $10,000 – $20,000 for a new, single family home.

While tap fees have been around for years, only a handful of communities are using them to encourage water-efficient new developments.  Structuring tap fees to drive water efficiency is a smart and timely strategy. Population growth is at the center of Colorado’s future water supply-and-demand imbalance, so it only makes sense to grow as water-efficiently as possible.  Command and control regulations are not too popular in some local communities, so a few communities have figured out some smart incentives to promote water efficiency. Colorado’s Fountain and Aurora communities are excellent examples.

Read Amelia Nuding’s full article on Colorado tap fees and conservation here. 

News Briefs and Web Links

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 – peter.mayer@waterdm.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.