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 Report Cover 7-2015-301x389Concerns about demand hardening “should not deter investments in water use efficiency because past investments have generally improved both supply reliability and customer knowledge and attitudes about conservation,” concludes a major new research report from the Alliance for Water Efficiency.

An Assessment of Increasing Water Use Efficiency on Demand Hardening prepared by Anil Bamezai, PhD, of Western Policy Research and released on July 29, 2015 thoroughly explores the issue of demand hardening in an environment of increasing water efficiency and concludes that “with proper analysis and planning, it is possible to anticipate and mitigate demand‐hardening effects associated with increasing water‐use efficiency.”

The report recommends “conceptually linking water shortage contingency planning to water‐use efficiency investments, and actively adapting contingency plans over time” to reflect changes in demand.  Get more information and download the full report here. 

This project was supported with funding from water utilities and the Walton Family Foundation and was prepared under the direction of the Alliance for Water Efficiency and a project committee composed of water utilities that provided data for analysis.

Check Out Water: What You Pay For - AWE’s Compelling New Video on Water’s Value


Don’t miss AWE’s great new YouTube video explaining the real value of water, “Water: What You Pay For”. 

The video can be used for free by AWE Members to promote understanding of the value and importance of water. 

Water: What You Pay For is part of AWE’s Financing Sustainable Water initiative to identify and disseminate solutions to help water systems balance revenue management, resource efficiency and fiscal sustainability. AWE solicited input from water managers across the country through its Education and Outreach Committee to develop these resources.

AWE's Dickinson to give Keynote at Water Smart Innovations 2015

Mary_Ann_Dickinson_1Mary Ann Dickinson, the founder and President/CEO of the Alliance for Water Efficiency, will give the keynote speech at Water Smart Innovations on Weds., Oct. 7, 2015 in Las Vegas, NV.  Dickinson is one of the most experienced and knowledgeable water efficiency professionals in the world who has worked with water providers and governance bodies for more than 30 years.  Dickinson's WSI speech is expected to highlight the successes and challenges facing the water management field.  AWE has been a strong partner with WSI every year since its inception.

AWE works with water utilities, water conservation professionals in business and industry, planners, regulators, and consumers to promote the water efficiency message.  Before joining AWE in July 2007, Dickinson was Executive Director of the California Urban Water Conservation Council, a non-profit organization composed of 387 urban water supply agencies, environmental groups, and other entities interested in statewide water conservation in California and implementing the nation's first set of Best Management Practices. She previously worked on planning, legislative, conservation, and community outreach programs for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, and served as Deputy Director for Public and Governmental Affairs at the South Central Connecticut Regional Water Authority. She also worked at the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection as a coastal management regulator, planning specialist, executive assistant/speech writer, and legislative lobbyist.

A graduate of the University of Connecticut with a degree in environmental planning, she has authored numerous publications on water conservation, land use planning, and natural resources management, and has co-produced two films that have aired on public television and community cable stations.

Richter to Speak at AWE Annual Meeting in Las Vegas 

Brian photo bestAWE announced that the featured speaker at its annual member meeting and reception in Las Vegas on October 6, 2015 will be Brian Richter, environmental author and Chief Scientist for the Global Water Program of The Nature Conservancy and President of Sustainable Waters—a global water education organization.

Richter will highlight his experiences as a world leader in water science and conservation for more than 25 years, and his latest book Chasing Water: A Guide for Moving from Scarcity to Sustainability in which he tells a cohesive and complete story of water scarcity: where it is happening, what is causing it, and how it can be addressed.

AWE’s Annual Member Meeting & Reception is held as part of the annual WaterSmart Innovations Conference and Exposition in Las Vegas, Nevada. All AWE members and prospective members are welcome to attend on Tuesday, October 6, 2015 from 5:00 - 7:30 p.m. in Sonoma C Room at the South Point Hotel and Conference Center.

AWE Day at WaterSmart Innovations 10/6/2015 Announced 

logo - WSI 2015The Alliance for Water Efficiency will hold its annual in-person committee and member meetings on Tuesday, October 6, the day before the start of the 2015 WaterSmart Innovations Conference & Expo at the South Point Hotel and Conference Center, Las Vegas.  Affectionately known as AWE Day, this annual gathering is a great opportunity to get involved with the Alliance and hear first-hand what’s going on in the world of water efficiency.

AWE WaterSense & Water-Efficient Products Committee Meeting 
Tuesday, October 6, 2015
8:30 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. | Mission Bay Room

AWE Education & Outreach Committee Meeting 
Tuesday, October 6, 2015
10:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. | Mission Bay Room

AWE Water Efficiency Research Committee Meeting 
Tuesday, October 6, 2015
1:30 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. | Mission Bay Room

AWE Annual Member Meeting & Reception 
Tuesday, October 6, 2015
5:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. | Sonoma C Room

AWE Music Night
Tuesday, October 6, 2015
7:30 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. | Sonoma C Room

mayer and demarco jam at AWE music night

AWE Music Night Returns 

AWE’s popular Music Night will return immediately following the Annual Member Meeting & Reception on October 6. The 2015 Groundhog Days Music Night will feature great live music performed by your talented friends and colleagues. Singers and instrumentalists are welcome. Please contact Peter Mayer to sign up to perform. Come and mingle and enjoy the music. We hope to see you there.

 The Drought Report – California and Beyond 

California Moves to Reduce Showerhead Flow Rates to 1.8 gpm Max 

Shower image 2In response to a drought of historic proportion, the California Energy Commission has approved new standards for showerheads that will reduce flow rates to 1.8 gallon per minute maximum to be phased in by 2018. 

Current regulations restrict showerheads to 2.5 gpm and the CalGreen code, the California green plumbing code, and the voluntary WaterSense specification, are all 2.0 gallons per minute.  The new showerhead regulations are now the most restrictive in the US.

The impact of reducing shower flow rates is uncertain.  The California Energy Commission estimates this change could save 2.4 billion gallons in the first year alone, but showering has been the most challenging residential end uses in which to achieve measurable water savings in the past.  Findings from the Water Research Foundation’s Residential End Uses of Water Update indicate most water savings gains over the past 15 years have come from clothes washers and toilets, not showers, despite lowered flow rates during this period. 

 “Flash” Drought Scorches Southern US 

drought_monitor_8-11-15While most attention has been focused on the multi-year California drought, a "flash" drought has spun up in the past few weeks across much of the South, from Texas to the Carolinas.

"A flash drought is one that develops rapidly with impacts observed almost as quickly," such as wildfires and stress on farming, explained climatologist Brian Fuchs of the National Drought Mitigation Center in Lincoln, Neb.  This expanding drought across eastern Texas comes only two months after the state had its rainiest month ever recorded with devastating floods in May that killed dozens of people.

The May rainfall in Texas was twice the average and wiped out the drought plaguing the state since 2011, the National Centers for Environmental Information said.

Now, every state from Texas to South Carolina has some level of drought conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, a federal website. The entire eastern third of Texas is either abnormally dry or in a drought.  Learn more here. 

 Demand for Southern Cal Turf Rebates Exhausts Multi-Million Budget 

MWDSC LogoFacing unprecedented public demand for incentives to transform the region’s landscapes, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California announced that it has closed its turf rebate program to new applications because available funding has been exhausted.

Metropolitan’s $450 million conservation program, the largest of its kind in the nation, will focus remaining available funds on rebates for water-saving devices and a multi-media outreach campaign to promote greater water conservation in homes, gardens and communities throughout the region. The district will also maintain a waiting list of interested turf rebate applicants in the event that some of the approved projects do not move forward with their planned landscape changes.

“We knew that the popularity of the turf program would exhaust the available funds at some point, but even we didn’t predict just how popular turf rebates would become,” said Metropolitan General Manager Jeffrey Kightlinger. “Metropolitan is proud to have accelerated the movement by hundreds of thousands of Southern Californians to embrace a new outdoor aesthetic and lock in water savings permanently.”

Last December, Metropolitan’s board increased the conservation budget from $40 million to $100 million to keep pace with the extraordinary public demand. Facing a 20-fold increase in water-saving rebate requests, stoked primarily by turf removal reservations and Gov. Jerry

Brown’s April 1 executive order to reduce statewide residential water use by 25 percent, Metropolitan’s board in May increased the budget by an additional $350 million for a total investment of $450 million.  Learn more here. 

Officials: Less Chance of Colorado River Water Cuts in 2017 

 Lake MeadWet weather in May and June brought good news in August from federal water managers keeping close tabs on the Colorado River water supply for about 40 million residents in seven Southwest U.S. states.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation projected normal water deliveries to residents, farms, tribes and businesses at least through 2016 and possibly through 2017, water agency officials in Arizona, Nevada and California said.

"We may have dodged a bullet for the next few years," said William Hasencamp, Colorado River resources chief for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

Chuck Cullom, Colorado River programs manager for the Central Arizona Project in Phoenix, said the report gives municipal and state water authorities in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming a little more time to address what everyone acknowledges is a the long-term gap between supply and demand.  Learn more here. 

AWE Teams with Australians to Aid Californian Response to Extreme Drought 

Stuart-White-ISFThe worsening drought in California has prompted AWE to turn to Australian researchers to identify the most effective strategies Australian utilities and agencies used to survive their Millennium Drought.

Under a project managed by AWE, Institute for Sustainable Futures (ISF) researchers based at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) will evaluate the strategies used to cope with Australia’s devastating, decade-long drought to help inform policies being developed in California. The research will be conducted in collaboration with US-based water efficiency experts at the Alliance for Water Efficiency and the Pacific Institute. US partners funding the research include the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission and the Water Research Foundation. The Water Services Association of Australia is also participating, bringing a wealth of knowledge on behalf of the Australian urban water industry. 

ISF Director and project leader Professor Stuart White said “the Institute conducted research for numerous Australian utilities and government agencies during the drought, advising on rapid deployment of water-saving measures, recycling strategies and emergency supply options. Our work during the Millennium Drought showed that the linkages between long-term supply demand planning and drought response can’t be underestimated.”

“We are pleased to be working with ISF on this project, to provide needed advice to help with California’s megadrought”, said Mary Ann Dickinson, President and CEO of the Alliance for Water Efficiency.

 Ag Secretary Vilsack Announces $150 Million, New Partnership to Support Water Quality and Quantity 

Tom-Vilsack-AgOver the next two years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Forest Service (FS) and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will invest $130 million in the partnership, which also includes the Interior Department, the State of California, non-profits, and private landowners. In total, the partnership will yield a minimum investment of $210 million by all partners. The Sierra-Cascade California Headwaters provides 25 million Californians with drinking water and much of the water for irrigated agriculture in the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack joined Interior Deputy Secretary Mike Connor and California Secretary for Natural Resources John Laird to announce a new partnership focused on conserving and restoring the Sierra-Cascade California Headwaters, as part of President Obama's Resilient Lands and Waters initiative.

In addition to the partnership, USDA is announcing that $13.7 million is available to California producers and ranchers through NRCS's Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), and approximately $6 million remains available to drought-stricken communities through Rural Development's Emergency Community Water Assistance Grants (ECWAG), making nearly $20 million available to drought-affected communities.

"As several years of historic drought continue to plague parts of the Western United States, there is a significant opportunity and responsibility across federal, state and private lands to protect and improve the landscapes that generate our most critical water supplies," said Vilsack. "Healthy forests and meadows play a key role in ensuring water quality, yield and reliability throughout the year. Looking beyond this particular drought, resources announced today will help us add resiliency to natural resource systems to cope with recurring drought and changing climate patterns."

 The Risks and Rewards of El Niño 

NASA-2015-EL-NINO-IMAGEWill El Niño save the day and bring desperately need precipitation to California and the Pacific Northwest?  Everyone hopes so, but the result is far from certain.

Federal meteorologists say the current El Niño (a warming pattern of ocean water in the Pacific shown in this NASA photo comparison) is already the second strongest on record for this time of year and could be one of the most potent weather changers of the past 65 years.

The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration recorded unusual warmth in the Pacific Ocean in the last three months. El Niño is a heating of the equatorial Pacific that changes weather worldwide, mostly affecting the United States in winter.

“This definitely has the potential of being the Godzilla El Niño,” Bill Patzert, a climatologist with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, told the Los Angeles Times. “Everything now is going to the right way for El Niño. If this lives up to its potential, this thing can bring a lot of floods, mudslides and mayhem.”

But climatologists warn that El Niño may be a weak predictor of winter moisture and every El Niño is a bit different.  There are really only two strong El Niño’s in the recent record books: 1982-83 and 1997-98. A sample size of two is not enough to form a reliable forecast.

The three month outlook for Alaska moving south is for continued dry weather, in spite of El Nino, according to experts. Forces at sea, in the atmosphere and on land, both short-term and long-term, are combining to create what might be a perfect storm of heat for Alaska. That means another much-warmer-than-normal winter is expected for Alaska and northwestern North America.  Banking on El Niño could be risky.

Farmer’s Almanac Calls for Cold Winter 

Those looking for a silver lining can take heart that The Old Farmer's Almanac predicts it will be super cold with a slew of snow for much of the country, even in places that don't usually see too much of it. 

"Just about everybody who gets snow will have a White Christmas in one capacity or another," editor Janice Stillman said from Dublin, New Hampshire, where the almanac is compiled. The almanac says there will be above normal-rainfall in the first half of the winter in California, but then that will dry up and the drought is expected to continue. .

"We don't expect a whole lot of relief," Stillman said.

  North American Water Loss Conference 

north american water loss 2015The technical program for the first North American Water Loss Conference, to be held December 8-9, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia has been announced and posted online. This exciting assemblage of policy and technical experts will provide the latest up to date information on non-revenue water management.

 Rebecca Clark, Deputy Director of U.S.EPA’s Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water, will be an opening keynote speaker. Walter Kling, Deputy Managing Director of Vienna Water, will also keynote. The program has an outstanding roster of speakers and  panels, covering topics such as developing water loss policies, auditing your system, reducing apparent losses, controlling leakage, managing pressures, and documenting progress, both for utilities and for regulators.

 Conference attendee Early Registration is open now.  Please register before September 28 to save $50.  There will also be exhibits at the conference on the latest products, services and technology. Exhibit spaces are filling up rapidly--one quarter of the exhibit space is already filled!  So sign up now to exhibit your products and services.

 Financing Sustainable Water: Infrastructure and Rates 

FSW Logo-SmA common question many water customers ask is “Why are my rates going up again when I am conserving?” It’s a question that Albuquerque’s Water Authority wanted to answer for its ratepayers because it goes to the heart of what has been called the “Conservation Conundrum.”

Like many utilities, the Water Authority faces significant financial challenges from rising infrastructure costs with a shrinking revenue base because of lower water demand due to conservation. Albuquerque’s water use has declined over the last two decades, during which per capita consumption has dropped to a level equal to that of 1984. With conservation, Albuquerque has been able to handle a population increase of 46% while decreasing its per capita consumption by 46% since the mid-1990s.

To help customers understand this challenge, Albuquerque decided to use its “Customer Conversations” outreach program, which consists of interactive public forums designed to obtain customer input. The meetings set out to educate and inform while also soliciting ideas and opinions from customers. In this case, we wanted to start a dialogue regarding the utility’s increasing infrastructure needs, as well as rate structure scenarios that would help deal with the Conservation Conundrum.    Read more about how Albuquerque addressed the “Conservation Conundrum” here. 

Financing Sustainable Water: Workshop Set for 9/30/15 in Sacramento, CA 

Registration is open for the Financing Sustainable Water Workshop being hosted by the Regional Water Authority and AWE in Sacramento, CA on Wednesday, September 30th.  This full-day workshop will focus on the newest resources and strategies that can help you navigate the challenge of developing rate structures that successfully balance revenue management, resource efficiency and fiscal sustainability.

 This event will offer guidance on a number of topics to help you meet these ambitious objectives without sacrificing needed revenue, including:

  • Ways to assess revenue risk created by a significant reduction in demand
  • Strategies to model and evaluate rates that achieve revenue stability AND incentivize efficiency
  • Proper design and evaluation of drought rates
  • Policies and planning tools to enhance agencies' financial outlook
  • Agency experiences with tiered and budget-based rate structures
  • Proficiency in the latest ratemaking tools available and confidence to apply them

Learn more and register here. 

New Report - Water Connection Charges: A Tool for Encouraging Water Efficient Growth 

Western-Resource-Advocates-WRA-logoA new report from  Western Resource Advocates entitled “Water Connection Charges: A Tool for Encouraging Water-Efficient Growth,” done in partnership with the University of North Carolina's Environmental Finance Center, and Ceres, addresses the use of water connection charges to incentivize water efficiency.

 Water connection charges – also known as tap fees, impact fees, system development charges etc. – are a one-time fee assessed on new homes and buildings to connect to the water system. Most often these fees are based only on the size of the water meter, but connection charges can be a tool for shaping the water footprint of new developments if factors other than meter-size are incorporated (such as lot size, irrigated areas, plant type and more). This first-of-its-kind report found that only 7% of the fee structures in the Southeastern communities researched, and 38% of the fee structures in the Western communities researched, were using factors other than meter size alone to determine the connection charges for new, single-family homes.  

This indicates a significant, “untapped” opportunity. Only a handful of communities are actively encouraging water efficiency through their connection charge structures.  The new WRA report includes 4 case studies of communities that are using their connection charges innovatively, and a summary of best practices and lessons learned.  Download the full report and case studies here. 

 Imagine H2O Announces Water Policy Challenge 

imagine h20Imagine H2O, an accelerator for water innovation, has announced its 2015 California Water Policy Challenge. The Policy Challenge aims to identify approaches that help California's cities, farms and industries deploy water technologies. The winning entry will receive up to $25,000 in support.

Imagine H2O, whose accelerator portfolio represents over $1 in every $10 of early­ stage financing in the water sector, will work with some of the state's leading water experts to identify policy ideas that effectively balance impact and political feasibility to drive the market for water innovation.  

"This is an original, constructive approach to support the adoption of technology which will allow our economy to produce more with less water," said AG Kawamura, Challenge Judge and former California Secretary of Agriculture.

Learn more and register here. 

DOE Issues a Final Rule Regarding Test Procedure Amendments for Clothes Washers 

DOE LogoThe Department of Energy (DOE) has published a final rule regarding test procedure amendments for clothes washers. 80 FR 46730. These amendments codify test procedure guidance that DOE has issued in response to frequently asked questions, clarify additional provisions within the test procedures, provide improved organization of each section, and correct formatting errors in DOE’s clothes washer test procedures.

Find more information on the rulemaking, including milestones, statutory authority, rulemaking documents, and any other related rulemakings here. 

Dangerous Financial Myths for Small Water Systems 

The Environmental Finance Center has put together a useful list of 5 “Dangerous Financial Myths for Small Water Systems”.

The myths discussed involve funding and operating small water utilities that often rely on grants for infrastructure improvements.

DOE Analysis Suggests Federal Performance Contracts Are Poor Implementers of Water Efficiency 

The Federal Energy Management Program’s (FEMP) review of DOE performance contracts and their current ability to deliver innovative and effective water conservation programs suggests a focus on energy measures leaves water efficiency with just at 3% share of the investment pie.

Among the measures funded, few innovations could be found.  Of this 3%, nearly half of the water measures were exclusively plumbing fixtures retrofits (toilets, urinals, faucets, and showerheads). FEMP believes a combination of factors is resulting in so few water measures being implemented in performance contracts: from agencies not knowing how to integrate water projects in their request for proposals, to performance contractors not being required to have water expertise, to lack of water baseline/balance and monitoring and verification guidelines and standards.

In spite of the disappointing numbers presented by DOE, Jorge Figueroa, Senior Water Policy Analyst with Western Resource Advocates, is optimistic about the potential for performance contracting in public buildings.

“We just published a study, Tapping the Power of the Market, which estimates that in the Colorado River Basin states performance contracts can save 40,000 acre-feet per year in public buildings, and generate more than $590 million in new revenue to water utilities with water loss control projects that pay for themselves, “ Figueroa said. “It seems worthwhile to look into the opportunities, pros and cons, and the best ways that we could use this market based approach to fund and achieve our active municipal water conservation goals.”

Figueroa noted the Federal Government has successfully used performance contracts to drive more than $45 Billion in energy efficiency investments in buildings.

Guide to Institutional Innovations for Integrated 'One' Water Management is now available on the WERF website 

WerfLogoUrban water planners and policymakers around the world are wrestling with the challenge of moving to an integrated water management approach.  Common to all of these approaches is the concept of integration across the water cycle and with other aspects of urban management. The Water and Environment Research Foundation (WERF) has chosen to use the term ‘One Water' in a new guidance document. 

Challenges to a “One Water” approach are numerous and include the inertia associated with the dominant paradigm of centralized systems and isolated institutions. This dominant paradigm results in a lack of industry and community understanding of the benefits of integrated systems, such as lower costs, higher resilience to extreme events and more localized availability of water for domestic, recreational and environmental use or as an urban amenity.

WERF’s new guide presents potential actions that organizations might take to move forward on the Path to One Water. It is primarily based on a literature review of the major challenges encountered to date and examples of how organizations have taken action. This is a rapidly evolving area of research.  There is no right or wrong way to move forward, and each organization will chart its own path based on suggestions in this guide or by building upon its existing initiatives.

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.