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...

New Agreement on Appliance Standards Expected to Spur Water and Energy Savings

Front Load Wash MachineHome appliance manufacturers and energy efficiency advocates have agreed to improved efficiency standards and tax policies for refrigerators, freezers, clothes washers, clothes dryers, dishwashers, and room air conditioners. This agreement could save a significant amount of energy and water across the United States.

Major home appliance manufacturers, their trade organization, and a nationwide coalition of energy and water efficiency supporters (including the Alliance for Water Efficiency) have called for new national minimum efficiency standards, production tax credits for super-efficient appliances, and inclusion of “smart grid” readiness as a feature of future ENERGY STAR-qualified appliances. 

“This joint proposal will make the next generation of major home appliances the thriftiest ever when it comes to energy and water use,” said Steven Nadel, Executive Director of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).  “The resulting energy and water savings will cut bills for consumers by billions of dollars and reduce global warming emissions for decades to come.”

“This agreement is an innovative approach to delivering substantial energy and water savings to the consumer through traditional energy and water standards and manufacturing incentives for  super-efficient appliances, as well as new incentives for the deployment of smart appliances,” stated Joseph M. McGuire, President of the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM). 

Appliance manufactures and efficiency advocates will pursue adoption of these recommendations through administrative action by the Department of Energy (DOE) and through legislative action by Congress.  Senator Jeff Bingaman, Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, noted that "increased energy efficiency through cost-effective energy standards for appliances and consumer products remains the single most cost-effective strategy for strengthening our nation's economic and energy security.  I look forward to working with my colleagues to see if these standards can be incorporated into legislation." 

Learn more about the new appliance agreement here.

AWE Establishes Partnerships With Australian Water Utilities

MAD-Aussies-smallOn Friday, July 23, 2010 Alliance President Mary Ann Dickinson signed an agreement with four Melbourne Area water utilities who have joined the Alliance to obtain the Water Conservation Tracking Tool which they intend to use for their upcoming 20-year Strategic Planning process.  During meetings held in Australia in July a number of potential partnership opportunities were discussed with water utilities throughout the country of Australia, including joint research projects, information sharing, standards development, and policy changes.  Eight Australian organizations have already become members of the Alliance to date.

“I am thrilled at this partnership with Australian water utilities and other organizations,” said Mary Ann Dickinson.    “Because of their decade-long effort to adapt to climate change and to reduce their water demands, they have much that they can teach us here in North America.  But we have significant experience and savings results to share with them as well.  And their use of our Water Conservation Tracking Tool is a terrific joint planning opportunity.” 

 The Australian members plan to be part of AWE’s committees and information network.  The Alliance will also share its information through the official Water Conservation Network of the Water Services Association of Australia.

Climate Change Induced Water Shortages Could Impact 1/3 of US by 2050

NRDC_ClimateMapMore than 1,100 U.S. counties — a full one-third of all counties in the lower 48 states — now face higher risks of water shortages by mid-century as the result of global warming, and more than 400 of these counties will be at extremely high risk for water shortages, based on estimates from a new report by Tetra Tech for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

The report used publicly available water use data across the United States and climate projections from a set of models used in recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) work to evaluate withdrawals related to renewable water supply. The report found that 14 states face an extreme or high risk to water sustainability, or are likely to see limitations on water availability as demand exceeds supply by 2050. These areas include parts of Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas. In particular, in the Great Plains and Southwest United States, water sustainability is at extreme risk.

The more than 400 counties identified as being at greatest risk in the report reflects a 14-times increase from previous estimates. For a look at county- and state-specific maps detailing the report findings (including a Google Earth map), go to http://www.nrdc.org/globalWarming/watersustainability/.

Home Star Retrofit Act Stalls in Senate, Not Dead Yet

Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV, announced that the Senate will delay consideration of the Energy Bill, The Clean Energy Jobs and Oil Company Accountability Act of 2010, S-3663, until September when Congress returns from their August recess. This bill contains the Home Star Retrofit Act, which provides consumer rebate incentives for energy and water efficiency products
Senator Reid had planned to bring S-3663 to the floor for debate and votes in early August. In announcing the delay, the Senator restated his intention to move ahead with the legislation in the fall and said he continues to believe that energy legislation will be passed before the end of the year.
It appears clear that the bill lacked the 60 votes needed to overcome opposition to a most controversial provision in the bill that would remove the liability limits on oil companies involved in an oil spill.

AWE has more information about the Energy Bill and the water efficiency provisions it includes here.

AWE Signs Agreement with the Field Museum to Develop Residential Water Calculator

The Alliance for Water Efficiency has entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Field Museum in Chicago to further develop the residential water calculator currently on the Field Museum’s web site. The MOU allows AWE to develop and expand the existing Field Museum water calculator and gives the Field Museum the opportunity use any enhancements developed by AWE.

The water calculator will be a central feature of a new residential water conservation web portal under development by AWE with grant funding from the Home Depot Foundation.  This new web feature is expected to be launched in 2011.  Water Efficiency Watch will have full details in future issues.

DOE Showerhead Ruling Expected to Nix Multi-Head Fixtures

multiple-head-showerAccording to various sources, the United States Department of Energy expects to announce its ruling on the potential re-definition of the word "showerhead" by October, meaning those with more than one nozzle and/or emitting more than 2.5 gallons of water per minute at 80 pounds per square inch will be classified as shower valves. 

Since the current regulation took effect in 1994, the widely accepted standard has been that only the individual nozzles - not the entire shower system - must meet the 2.5 gallon/80 psi benchmark in order to be in compliance. This classification would make multi-head shower fixtures and systems non-compliant.

DOE General Counsel Scott Blake Harris told Congressional Quarterly Weekly that the change will make an exception for the elderly and disabled, and that the move is more a clarification than a rule change.

"DOE's characterization of the proposed interpretive rule change as a ‘mere clarification' ignores the very real implications including an estimated $400 million negative impact on the plumbing industry in today's volatile economy," wrote Barbara Higgens, the executive director of the Plumbing Manufacturers Institute, in a statement critical of the DOE action.

Harris disputed the industries claims in a recent press interview.  "They have to provide the information to back that up," Harris said. "Based on numbers we've seen, these showerheads are in 1 to 4 percent of homes. I don't know how you do the math to get $400 million. If you don't have a 10-gallon-per-minute showerhead, you still need a showerhead. It's going to be less expensive. Maybe people don't spend $5,000 on the shower and they spend $1,000 or $200 or 49 bucks like me?"

Given the controversy on this topic, the Alliance for Water Efficiency filed comments asking that the ruling be given a full hearing. Learn more about the expected DOE ruling on showerheads here.

AWE to Conduct Tracking Tool Workshop in Madison, WI on Sept. 15

The Alliance for Water Efficiency has scheduled a half-day workshop in Madison on September 15, 2010 to present the benefits of the Water Conservation Tracking Tool.  The tool is an Excel-based model that evaluates the water savings, costs, and benefits of water conservation programs for any water utility.  It provides standardized methods for tracking water savings, analyzes benefit and costs, and includes a library of pre-defined conservation activities.  The workshop will be held as part of the Wisconsin Water Association’s annual conference being held in Madison, Wisconsin, from September 15-17, 2010.

LA Considers New Watering Restriction Plan

Los_Angeles_Skyline-The Los Angeles City Council is considering changes to its lawn-watering rules in hopes of conserving water while sparing the city’s aging network of pipes from additional ruptures.

For more than a year, residents across the city have been barred from irrigating their yards and gardens on days other than Mondays and Thursdays. The new proposal, backed by the Department of Water and Power, would allow those who live at odd-numbered addresses to water on Mondays and Thursdays and residents at even-numbered addresses to water on Tuesday and Fridays.

The changes were recommended after a panel of experts concluded that the two-day-a-week irrigation rules helped trigger a series of pipe breaks by creating dramatic fluctuations in water pressure. Some water main breaks damaged homes and businesses. One created a sinkhole that swallowed part of a fire truck.

Under the new plan, those who reside at street addresses that end in a fraction would use the last full digit of the address to determine when to water, according to a report on the plan.  Learn more about the water restrictions in LA here.

Drought Outlook for Southwest US Worsens

A seasonal drought outlook for August to October calls for current severe drought conditions to persist across north-central portions of New Mexico and northeast Arizona while developing across much of the remainder of Arizona and extreme western parts of New Mexico. The outlook by NOAA's National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center indicates already dry conditions across parts of Arizona and New Mexico are likely to worsen in coming months.

Through mid-July, the summer monsoon has started fairly weak and little rainfall has been observed. The monsoon typically peaks during the month of August. Official Climate Prediction Center precipitation outlooks favor below-average precipitation in these areas August through October.

"If the monsoon remains erratic during the next few weeks, then the drought development area may be expanded on the updated outlook scheduled for 5th August," said Wayne Higgins, director of the NOAA Climate Prediction Center.  Learn more here.

Green Construction Code Revision Schedule Posted

The International Code Council (ICC) is revising their International Green Construction Code Public Version 1.0 (IGCC).  Chapter 4 of the IGCC contains site water provisions including irrigation and Chapter 7 includes water efficiency provisions.  Public comments have been posted for review and a series of public hearings on the code revisions will be held in the coming weeks.  A summary is provided below courtesy of Shawn Martin, Director of Industry Relations for the ICC.

Comments filed on the IGCC have now been posted for review here. The comments will be considered by the appointed technical committee at a hearing set for August 14 – 22, 2010, at The Westin O’Hare, 6100 River Road, Rosemont, IL 60018. 

Chapter 4, which contains site water provisions, including irrigation, will be heard on August 14 and 15.  Chapter 7, which contains water efficiency provisions, will be heard on August 16 and 17.  The schedule is subject to change so please check before making travel plans. For those intending to attend, registration is free and mandatory.  Learn more about registration here.

For those who cannot attend in person, the hearing will be webcast and the link for the webcast will be placed on the ICC home page.

Additional dates related to the IGCC

  • October 1, 2010 – Deadline for applying to be a member of the 2011 IGCC Code Committee
  • November 3, 2010 – IGCC Public version 2.0 will be posted.
  • January 3, 2011- Deadline to submit code change proposals on v2.0.
  • March 25, 2011 – Proposed changes to IGCC v2.0 will be posted.

Wichita Water Supply System at Capacity

Wichita officials say the city's water supply has reached its limit. 

According to published reports, the 240 million gallons of water per day that the city is permitted to draw from the Cheney Reservoir is sufficient, but the city's aging and underdeveloped infrastructure can process and deliver a little more than half of the available water.

Wichita is considering measures such as installing larger air valves in the pipe that caries water from the reservoir to Wichita.  Some experts have suggested new water sources will be needed in the future such as piping water from El Dorado Lake, a reservoir about 30 miles northeast of Wichita.

Water Efficiency Watch respectfully suggests that Wichita seriously consider water conservation as a new supply option since it may prove to cost less and be more sustainable in the long run.

Study Finds Smart Electric Meters Can Reduce Demand If Part of a Larger Plan

Consumers could cut their household electricity use as much as 12 percent and save $35 billion or more over the next 20 years if U.S. utilities go beyond simple “smart meter” initiatives to include a wide range of energy-use feedback tools that get consumers more involved in the process of using less energy, according to a major new report from the nonprofit American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).

ACEEE based its findings on a review of 57 different residential sector feedback programs between 1974 and 2010.  The new report concludes:  “Advanced metering initiatives alone are neither necessary nor sufficient for providing households with the feedback that they need to achieve energy saving; however, they do offer important opportunities. To realize potential feedback-induced savings, advanced meters must be used in conjunction with in-home (or on-line) displays and well-designed programs that successfully inform, engage, empower, and motivate people.”

ACEEE found that three of the most promising approaches in the short- to medium-term include enhanced billing, daily/weekly feedback, and “off line” and Web-based real-time feedback.  However, far-reaching programs that go beyond “smart meters” are few and far between.  According to ACEEE, no U.S. utilities are currently providing the full range of needed services.  Learn more about this study here.

Colorado WaterWise Workshops Feature New Best Practices Guidebook

CWW-logoThe new Guidebook of Best Practices for Municipal Water Conservation in Colorado will be the focus of three workshops sponsored by the non-profit Colorado WaterWise.  The new Guidebook, prepared by Aquacraft and Colorado WaterWise with grant funding from the Colorado Water Conservation Board, presents a series of 14 best practices for water providers.

To introduce the guidebook CWW will host a series of three public workshops around Colorado as follows:

  • Glenwood Springs, CO - August 26
  • Pueblo, CO – September 30
  • Westminster, CO – October 21

For more information or registration contract Brenda O’Brien of Colorado WaterWise.

SWAT Update: Seven Soil Moisture Sensors Complete Phase One Tests, Phase Two Beta Testing Continues

SWAT2.pngSeven soil moisture sensors have completed phase one Smart Water Application Technology (SWAT) testing, with additional sensor tests nearly completed. Beta testing of phase two of the soil moisture sensor protocol is ongoing and nearly complete. The phase two tests are exploring sensor response and control of irrigation in a virtual landscape using real-time weather.
A draft protocol combining phases one and two will be released for public comment later in August. Both phase one and two protocols are administered through the Center for Irrigation Technology, an independent testing laboratory, applied research facility and educational resource center based at California State University, Fresno.

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. 

New Israel Desalination Plant to Provide for 20% of Nation’s Water Demand

israel_desal_plantThe world's largest operational seawater reverse osmosis (SWRO) desalination plant was inaugurated in June. Located in Hadera, Israel (50km north of Tel Aviv), the plant is designed to supply about 20% of Israel's domestic potable water requirement.

This project marks another achievement in size and capacity for a desalination plant.  The new plant is equipped with more than 53,000 Dow Filmtec reverse osmosis elements installed to produce up to 456,000 cubic meters (~120 mgd) of potable water per day from seawater.

This desalination plant is the first to be funded primarily through foreign funds by IDE Technologies who, according to their CEO, Avshalom Felber, raised the entire $463 million from European banks.  It is estimated that this plant cost approximately $3.65 million per mgd of capacity.

Although bigger desalination plants are operating in Saudi Arabia, they use thermal-based technology which is less energy efficient. It is estimated that the Hadera reverse osmosis plant will use 450 gigawatts to operate each year, making the cost per cubic meter of water around $0.57 ($2.16 per kgal).

News Briefs and Web Links

  • WIRED documents “pissing match” over waterless urinals – One of the heavyweight disputes in water conservation over the past 10 years has been about waterless urinals.  Pitting plumbers against manufacturers, the dispute put code writers and conservation professionals right in the middle of the action.  A recent WIRED magazine article covers the topic in great detail introducing many of the key combatants and issues.  If you’re a waterless urinal expert, skeptic, or user -- this article is a must read.
  • Los Altos Hills , CA considers water budgets to forecast demands for new landscapes – In  Los Altos Hills residents may soon use a basic water budgeting approach to calculate the amount of their water bills before they landscape.   In an effort to reduce water consumption, the Los Altos planning commission recommended that an estimate of water use based on landscaped area should be part of a more stringent landscape permit application for new construction.  Learn more here.
  • San Francisco installs wi-fi water meters capable of improved leak detection – In San Francisco, utility officials hope that new radio-read water meters will improve leak detection efforts.  The new meters will track water consumption hourly and transmit the data to San Francisco Public Utilities Commission headquarters four times a day using low-frequency radio signals. The city's Public Utilities Commission hopes to send e-mail alerts to customers if there's an unusually high amount of water being used due to previously undetected leaks.  Customer-side leak detection is an important conservation component of some new automated meter infrastructure (AMI) systems.  Learn more about San Francisco’s metering program here.
  • IA Launches Revamped Web Site – The Irrigation Association has launched a redesigned web site for the organization that features a new look and navigation features.  Check out IA’s latest and greatest here.
  • Worth Every Penny: A Primer on Conservation-Oriented Water Pricing from the Canadian POLIS Water Sustainability Project provides practical economic and technical information about how to implement conservation-oriented water pricing—starting with setting water rates sufficiently high to encourage conservation. Lead examples from communities on Vancouver Island and cities such as Halifax and Guelph demonstrate successes: these are communities that have reduced water demand and improved the environmental performance of water utilities, without negative impacts on low-income families.  Learn more here.
  • Colorado launches health assessment of gas-drilling impacts – Oil and natural gas drilling is a hot topic and the public is concerned about water use, potential contamination, and health effects.  Colorado plans to conduct one of the first studies of the potential health effects of the gas drilling practice known as “fracking”,  Learn more here.
  • Water: Adapting to a New Normal by Sandra Postel, posted - Sandra Postel, author, leading water policy thinker and founder of the Global Water Policy Project, has a thoughtful new book chapter titled, "Water: Adapting to a New Normal" in a forthcoming book, The Post Carbon Reader: Managing the 21st Century's Sustainability Crisis. Sandra Postel’s chapter can be download here. 
  • Water Use in Buildings: Achieving Business Performance Benefits through Efficiency – This new 40-page publication from McGraw Hill reviews the role of water efficiency in buildings.  Among other topics, the report covers: involvement and importance of water efficiency, business benefits of water-efficient practices and methods, drivers and obstacles to water efficiency, types of water-efficient products and methods and sources of information behind product selection and use.  The report sells for $189.00 and can be ordered here.
  • AWWA ACE ’11 Issues Call for Papers – The American Water Works Association is now accepting abstracts for presentation at the Annual Conference and Exposition (ACE) 2011 to be held in Washington, D.C. from June 12-16, 2011.  This conference typically includes about 25 papers related to water conservation.  Abstracts are due to AWWA by September 13, 2010.  Learn more and submit an abstract on-line here.
  • Join IWA for the 2011 Conference of Efficient Use and Management of Water in Jordan – The International Water Association will hold an international water efficiency conference at the Dead Sea in Jordan from March 29 - April 2, 2011.  The call for papers has been issued and abstracts are due by August 31, 2010.  For more information or to submit an abstract, click here.
  • Australian OZ ‘11 Water Conference Issues Call for Papers - The Australian Water Association is seeking papers for one of Australia's most important annual water industry events.  The conference will be held at the Adelaide Convention Centre, Adelaide, South Australia from 9 to 11 May, 2011.  Abstracts are due Thursday September 2, 2010.  Learn more and submit an here.
  • Class Participation Nets Water Restriction Exemption - Participants in Castle Rock’s Water Wiser program leave the class with more than just a certificate — they also get a free pass from the town’s “water police.”  Castle Rock offers free Water Wiser workshops where participants learn irrigation tips, sprinkler system management and how to tap into the town’s water conservation resources. What they walk away with is a greater awareness of fundamental water-saving measures and a window sticker identifying them as a participant.  The sticker grants participants a waiver from the town’s three-day-per-week watering restrictions.  Learn more here.
  • Energy Star Requirements for Gas Storage Water Heaters Set to Change - On September 1, 2010 the ENERGY STAR requirements for gas storage water heaters will change.  All gas storage water heater equipment, including product models previously qualified, with a date of manufacture on or after September 1, 2010, must meet a .67 energy factor (EF) requirement in order to qualify for ENERGY STAR (including additional shipments of models previously qualified). As part of the transition to the new requirement, EPA stopped accepting new gas storage water heater models below a .67 EF for ENERGY STAR qualification as of August 1, 2010.
  • Astro Turf is OK for Health: Study - A new study by four Connecticut state agencies has found no elevated health risks from artificial turf sports fields made with crushed rubber, but it recommends ventilation of indoor turf fields.  The study tested for 200 chemicals at four outdoor fields and one indoor field. It found chemical levels at outdoor fields were comparable those commonly found in outdoor air, while levels at the indoor field were higher but not harmful.  Learn more here.

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.