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 Releases White Paper on Financial Instruments to Manage Weather-Related Risk 

AWE Financial Covers_final (Front Only)-SmA new white paper from AWE examines market-based strategies available to water managers to help water utilities mitigate the revenue risks associated with unpredictable wet and dry years.  Titled, “Sustainable Utilities: Financial Instruments to Manage Weather-Related Risk”, the white paper introduces the tools that exist today such as derivatives and insurance to manage weather risk, and the paper explains how they function.

Water providers are facing rapidly evolving and increasingly volatile weather patterns that affect customer use and water supplies, including extremely wet or extremely dry seasons.  These extreme weather patterns frequently impact a utility’s sales, net revenue and debt service coverage ratios. Multiple years of undesirable weather and resulting revenue shortfalls can compound financial stress by reducing utility bond ratings and increasing interest expenses for a sustained period of time.

“We hope that this white paper will spark discussion and further investigation into how market-based solutions can be applied to help utilities better secure their long-term financial health,” said Mary Ann Dickinson, President and CEO of the Alliance for Water Efficiency. “Utilities need to examine innovative solutions to today’s evolving landscape of declining water use, erratic weather patterns, and growing strains on supplies.”

Weather-related financial instruments have already been utilized successfully by cities and industries to hedge against weather risks.  (A good example of such use is municipal snow removal budget insurance.) Spurred by an idea raised at the 2012 Summit on Declining Water Sales, AWE developed this white paper to improve understanding about viable tools available to water utility managers for increasing fiscal sustainability in the face of volatile weather conditions.

AWE’s new white paper examines the types of instruments available to municipalities, the components of a pricing structure, and how similar products have been used by municipalities in the past. It also constructs several sample contracts and pricing for diverse risks utilities may face, and demonstrates how they decrease weather-related risks related to revenues and costs.

Download a free copy of the Sustainable Utilities: Financial Instruments to Manage Weather-Related Risk white paper here. 

 Toilet Politics - U.S. House Blocks Federal Funding for Efficient Toilets 

House-Seal-SmToilet politics have returned to Washington, D.C.  Water efficiency advocates were stunned on July 10 when the U.S. House of Representatives passed an amendment to the 2015 Energy and Water Appropriations Act (H.R. 4923) prohibiting any federal spending for efficient toilets. 

House Amendment #1046 was sponsored by Rep. Paul Gosar, a member of the GOP who represents a water-short, drought plagued state of Arizona.  The amendment passed on a voice vote.  The bill was then passed the full House and is now on its way to the U.S. Senate.

“My commonsense amendment saves taxpayer money and gets the federal government out of the business of subsidizing expensive toilet exchanges that yield highly questionable returns,” Gosar explained in a press release.  “If toilet exchange programs were as efficient as the EPA and Bureau of Reclamation claim, then such products would save so much money and water over time that they would sell themselves in the private market and wouldn’t need taxpayer subsidies.”

The impacts of this amendment will be far reaching.  It will prevent the use of any federal funding from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, or even the U.S. Department of Energy to finance toilet retrofit programs that are proven to conserve both water and energy.

“It’s really alarming to us that this kind of amendment continues to be supported in Congress,” said Mary Ann Dickinson, President and CEO of the Alliance for Water Efficiency. “The programs blocked by this amendment have been proven over and over again to be cost-effective for conserving both water and energy.  Rep. Gosar and his colleagues who voted for this amendment are ignoring the serious water crisis facing America today, not to mention the water crisis in his own state of Arizona.  This is a small amount of federal money, and the benefits to the country far outweigh the expenditure.”

The Alliance for Water Efficiency is moving to ensure that the U.S. Senate has the information it needs to correctly assess the value of these important investments to an increasingly water short country.  AWE is preparing an opposition letter and is inviting organizations and individuals to sign on to this letter.  To add your organization to the growing list of opponents, please contact Jeffrey Hughes of AWE. 

Drought Updates 

 California Issues State-Wide Drought Regulations, AWE Cited 


To cope with its deepening drought, the State of California adopted on July 15, 2014 an emergency resolution and regulation which mandates minimum actions by water providers to curb water waste and conserve water.  Water leaders in California became concerned when analysis showed that voluntary demand management measures had not succeeded in cutting demand.

 Contained within the State regulation is a reference to the rates work being compiled by AWE to assist water utilities in the recovery of revenue, which often decline as a result of drought restrictions.  Click here for further information on the State of California's drought actions to date. 

 Not all utilities are marching to the State’s tune. The two largest water suppliers in the Bakersfield, California area do not plan to fine water wasters under the state's new emergency orders, but they are responding with efforts to reduce water use during the current drought and hope to educate consumers and achieve demand reductions.

 Declining revenues are a serious concern for drought-stricken utilities and AWE is actively engaged in seeking solutions through our Financing Sustainable Water initiative.  Learn more about AWE's Financing Sustainable Water initiative and rate-setting resources that on our Water Rates and Rate Structures page.

 Groundwater Levels in Colorado Basin at Historic Low 

For more than a decade, photos of the biggest reservoirs on the Colorado River have shown the dramatic drop in water levels caused by prolonged drought. But a new study suggests the greatest water losses have gone sight unseen.

 Using satellite data to track overall freshwater losses in the Colorado River Basin from late 2004 to November 2013, researchers estimate that more than 75% of the decline was groundwater. 

 In California, late July news reports said farmers drilling deeper and deeper for water as the drought persists.

 Drought Forces Curtailment at New Mexico Irrigation District 

An irrigation district that provides water to farmers throughout the Middle Rio Grande Valley is curtailing water deliveries due to sporadic rainfalls and inadequate waters storage in El Vado Reservoir.

Lake levels at several New Mexico Reservoirs including Heron, El Vado and Elephant Butte are all expected to drop by the end of the year. 

 Brazil Expects Rationing in Parts of São Paulo State

Brazil's federal agency tasked with protecting the common good recommended that water be rationed in the parts of São Paulo state most affected by the region's worst drought in decades.  

Water Scarcity in Lebanon tied to Drought, Misuse 

Scarce winter rain and inefficient storage are cited as key factors in the growing water problem in Lebanon. 

 Drought in Mongolia Impacts 300,000 

Severe drought and scorching heat has damaged over a million hectares of farmland in China's Henan and Inner Mongolia provinces, with no immediate relief in sight, state news agency Xinhua reported. 

Pune, India Suffers Severe Water Cutbacks 

Indian officials in this city of 2.5 million people fear that water cuts in the city will continue for months until the next rains come.  There is grave concern that the four reservoirs that provide water to Pune, India’s seventh largest metropolis will not fill this year.  Water is currently available once a day for a limited period of time.

Critical Drainline Carry Study Proceeds with Funding in Place 

1 PERC-logo-colorThe Plumbing Efficiency Research Coalition (PERC) announced that funding for the critical second phase of its drainline carry research has been secured.  Work on the project is expected to begin in the coming months.

 “Phase two of this study will address two very important aspects of drainline transport,” said Pete DeMarco of IAPMO, the Research Director for the Study.  “First this study will examine how a drain pipe size reduction influences drainline transport in a long building drain and the significance of that influence relative to slope, flush volume and the other system variables studied in Phase 1.  Second, this project will evaluate performance at the 1.0 gpf flush volume.”

 “Phase 1 indicated reliable drainline transport performance in the test apparatus at the 1.28 gpf flush volume, DeMarco explained, “But a more chaotic performance was observed at the 0.8 gpf flush volume level, so it’s important that we evaluate the mid-point between those two flush volumes.”    

 The Phase 1 report was published in November 2012.  The budget for Phase 2 is $168,500 and PERC has raised this money from a broad coalition of utility and industry partners.   The proposed research duration is 35 weeks and the team plans to employ 2 full time technicians for the effort.  The research is expected to be completed in mid-2015.  Download a copy of the Phase 2 research plan here.  [INSERT LINK].  Learn more about the PERC and the results of the Phase 1 research here. 

 WaterSense Releases Updated Professional Certification Labeling System 

WaterSense Logo (gif)The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's WaterSense program announced the release of the final WaterSense Professional Certification Program Labeling System and three revised specifications for professional certification programs.

Together, the program labeling system and revised program specifications are designed to:

  • Give professional certifying organizations a consolidated and consistent set of requirements.
  • Extend program benefits and opportunities to all irrigation professionals certified by WaterSense labeled programs.
  • Provide WaterSense with a more sustainable framework to accommodate program growth.

These changes allow WaterSense to better provide national recognition and credibility for WaterSense labeled certification programs and the professionals who are certified by them.

With the new system, WaterSense will no longer enter into partnership agreements with individual professionals. This is because the changes extend the benefits of the WaterSense program, including potential job opportunities associated with the WaterSense labeled new home specification, to all irrigation professionals certified by WaterSense labeled programs.

The effective date for the program labeling system and certification program specifications is July 24, 2014. Professional certifying organizations offering certification programs that earned the WaterSense label prior to the effective date have one year to comply with the program labeling system. WaterSense will also be making minor changes to its specification for WaterSense new homes and other program documents to reflect the expanded focus to all professionals certified by WaterSense labeled programs.

Learn more about these changes here. 

 Organizations Support Energy Efficiency Legislation 

A coalition of 19 plumbing and mechanical industry organizations (including AWE) have joined with IAPMO (the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials) in supporting H.R. 4801, a bill that calls on the Department of Energy to report the impact and savings potential of improved thermal insulation systems in federal buildings.

 Introduced by U.S. Reps. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) and Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.), H.R. 4801 provides a clear mechanism for the federal government, the single largest consumer of energy in the country, to conserve resources and cut spending in working toward a viable energy strategy for the future.

 "Vast amounts of energy, water, and money are needlessly wasted every day by current heating and cooling techniques," said Dain Hansen, IAPMO's vice president of Government Relations.

 "The increased use of thermal insulation in federal buildings would provide a simple and actionable strategy to reduce energy use and cut unnecessary costs, consequently achieving tangible energy efficient results,” Hansen added. “Additionally, improved insulation measures would have an immense impact on the U.S. economy as a whole, including significant savings for taxpayers, tens of thousands of new jobs, and a considerable reduction in harmful carbon emissions.

 "As organizations vested in energy and water conservation and the advancement of technology, we applaud Congress' efforts on this front," Hansen explained.

 The coalition of 19 leading associations and organizations in the plumbing and mechanical industry sent a letter to Reps. Kinzinger and McNerney expressing their support of the bill and offering assistance in gaining its passage. The letter can be viewed here.  

  Registration Opens for One Water Leadership Summit 

2014 Header Image - One Water SummitRegistration for this year’s One Water Leadership (OWL) Summit is open. The 5th annual OWL Summit will be held September 15 – 17, in Kansas City, MO.  This is a major annual conference event on water sustainability that features leading edge programs.  AWE is a supporting partner.

This year’s OWL Summit will present  panels on Water, Jobs & Economic Opportunity; the Blueprint on Urban Innovation in Water Reuse; encourage futuristic thinking by examining Precision Conservation; and show progress through the Urban Waters Federal Partnership.  There will be an array of Strategic Sidebar Sessions and “Water Table” Discussions – All in a conference format still small enough that participants sit face-to-face to generate new solution ideas. Spotlight panels will explore three regional teams with models for overcoming nutrient and scarcity issues under the banner of “one water” – Cape Cod, Massachusetts; Edwards Aquifer, Texas; and Upper Neuse River Basin, North Carolina. 

Join water leaders, sustainability directors, transportation, parks and recreation officials, as well as business leaders, non-profit organizations, and regulators as we drive the paradigm shift for water sustainability.  Register and review the OWL agenda here. 

 AWE Announces Meeting Schedule for Water Smart Innovations 2014 

South-Point-Resort-Las-VegasIf you’re planning to attend Water Smart Innovations in Las Vegas this year, don’t forget to come a day early to attend the Alliance for Water Efficiency’s annual in-person committee and general membership meetings on October 7.  Nick-named “AWE day” at WSI, this annual day of meetings has become an important and popular gathering since the founding of AWE. The keynote speaker at AWE’s Annual Member Meeting will be Bruce Rhodes, Manager of Melbourne Water, Australia.  Following his talk will be a fun evening of networking and music. 

WaterSense & Water-Efficient Products Committee Meeting 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

8:30-10:00 a.m.

Mission Bay Room

Education & Outreach Committee Meeting 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

10:30-12:00 p.m.

Mission Bay Room

Water Efficiency Research Committee Meeting 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

1:30-3:00 p.m.

Mission Bay Room

Annual Member Meeting & Reception 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

5:00-7:00 p.m. +

Sonoma C Room

 IAPMO Green Plumbers and QWEL Unite for Training 

qwel-logo-transparent IAPMO-Logo-ClearIAPMO Green Plumbers Training and Qualified Water Efficient Landscaper (QWEL) are uniting to make it easier for water agencies to become local certifying organizations for plumbing and landscaping water use efficiency training.

 Learn more and find out how take advantage of their industry leading water use efficiency programs by visiting their booth at WaterSmart Innovations Conference & Expo in Las Vegas this October.  Can't wait for WSI?  Register your interest now at www.gpqwel.org.

  House Spending Bill Slashes EPA Budget 

Congress_clipUnder a House spending bill released on July 8 the US Environmental Protection Agency would get 9 percent less in 2015 than this year (and this year had major budget cuts already).  EPA’s staffing level would be capped at 1989 levels, despite major increases in legislated programs since then.  The proposal would also prohibit EPA from implementing new greenhouse gas regulations and adopting proposed changes to the definition of “navigable waters” and "fill materials" under the Clean Water Act.

 The measure would provide $1 billion for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund and $757 million for the Drinking Water SRF as well as $10 million for grants to support water and wastewater project in Alaska villages. Another $1 billion is allocated for grants to support state and tribal programs to implement and enforce federal environmental regulations, including Safe Drinking Water Act regulations.

 Learn more here at the House Appropriations Committee web site. 

 Eight Arrested as Detroit Residents Protest Water Shutoffs 

Outraged Detroit residents took to the streets on July 18 to protest city water service shutoffs.  Police arrested 8 protestors including religious leaders who were protesting shutoffs of delinquent customers.

In May, news reports said about 46,000 notices were delivered to non-paying Detroit customers and water was cut off to about 4,500 service connections. In total, 90,000 city residents and businesses are behind on their water bills according to the officials from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department.

The City of Detroit is broke and the water situation is one of the symptoms of this severe financial crisis.  It is reported Detroit is $18 billion to $20 billion in debt and unfunded pension and health care liabilities. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder appointed bankruptcy attorney Kevyn Orr as the city’s emergency manager, and Orr filed for Chapter 9 on July 18.

 San Bernadino County Water Conference Set for Aug. 22 

San Bernadino Water Conference 2014On August 22, join other government officials, water experts, business leaders and community stakeholders and attend the Eighth Annual San Bernardino County Water Conference to discuss solutions to overcome California's current water challenges.  AWE will be presenting its Financing Sustainable Water Project at this conference.  http://www.sbcwater.com/

 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.