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 Conservation Tracking Tool Update Released

AWE_tracking_tool_v2The Alliance for Water Efficiency has released a major update to its popular Water Conservation Tracking Tool.  Version 2.0 of this spreadsheet-based software can be used by water utilities to evaluate the water savings, costs, and benefits of conservation programs using either English or Metric units.  The Tracking Tool is available for free to all dues-paying members of AWE.

The most significant update to this popular software is the addition of a greenhouse gas module. The AWE Tracking Tool now estimates the energy and greenhouse gas reductions resulting from water conservation programs. Version 2.0 of the AWE Tracking Tool also includes a new built-in lookup table for estimating bathrooms per household and an overhaul of the costs and savings database for all potential conservation measures.
Users that have scenarios built in an older version of the Tracking Tool can use the new import utility to add older scenarios into Version 2.0. To see what else is new in Version 2.0 request your copy from AWE today.  Existing registered users of the Tracking Tool, with current AWE memberships, will automatically be sent a copy of Version 2.0.

Learn more about the AWE Conservation Tracking Tool here.

Drought Ravages US South

Drought_Map_Aug_9A lack of spring and summer precipitation has resulted in “extreme” and “exceptional” drought conditions across most of Texas and Louisiana and large swaths of New Mexico, Georgia, Alabama, Arizona, and Colorado.

In Texas, the nine months from October 2010 through June 2011 have been the driest for that nine-month period since 1895, when the state began keeping rainfall records.  The ferocious Texas drought is clobbering crops, thinning out cattle herds, decimating wildlife, and drying up streams and reservoirs, but it's also wreaking havoc deep underground, where the state's aquifers are dropping at a precipitous rate, experts say.

The dip in groundwater levels is forcing many rural homeowners who depend on residential wells to spend money to have their pumps lowered or to have deeper wells drilled.

In New Mexico, Albuquerque and Roswell are on pace for their driest years on record, mirroring conditions across the state that have bolstered large wildfires, hurt crops and forced ranchers to sell livestock they can't afford to feed.

Rain has been scarce throughout most of New Mexico, and weather records from Albuquerque and Roswell offer this stark example: The cities have not been this dry during the first five months of a year since 1892, when the state began keeping track.

Here’s hoping rain will come soon.

Read more here.

WaterSense Label To Migrate North 

WSlogo_program_2-color_FRENCH_1WaterSense announced that it is extending its partnership north to Canada. Many WaterSense labeled products are readily available in Canada, and now there is an effort to promote those products using the WaterSense label.

The United States and Canada share concerns about ensuring the sustainability and health of our communities’ sustainability, according to a WaterSense press release.  The release also noted that although Canada would appear to be a country abundant in water resources, many communities have concerns about ensuring a reliable supply.

EPA is not extending the WaterSense new homes program into Canada, nor the certification program for irrigation professionals at this time. However, irrigation professionals certified by WaterSense labeled programs in the United States will be eligible for partnership.

Under the Canadian arrangement, interested parties will apply to U.S. EPA to become a partner and Environment Canada will serve as a special partner and help us support WaterSense partners in Canada.

California Governor Vetoes Artificial Turf Legislation

artificial_turfCalifornia Governor Jerry Brown has vetoed legislation that would have required homeowners associations to let people replace their lawns with artificial turf.

Senate Bill 759, by Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, was supported by water conservationists and passed by the Legislature with some bipartisan support. It would have prohibited associations, which often govern the aesthetics of a neighborhood, from banning artificial turf.

"A decision to choose synthetic turf over natural vegetation is best left to individual homeowners associations, not mandated by state law," the Democratic governor said in his veto message.
"It does appear to me that Jerry Brown is looking at each bill on its merits and then making his decision," Lieu said.

Read more here..

Two New Residential End Use Studies Released

SF-house-in-San-DiegoTwo important new studies of residential water use patterns were released by Aquacraft, Inc. Water Engineering and Management this month.The California Single Family Water Use Efficiency Study presents a detailed analysis of indoor and outdoor water use in approximately 750 single family homes from 10 major water providers in California.  This study includes important results on the efficiency levels achieved to date and the potential for future conservation.

The Analysis of Water Use in New Single Family Homes  examined water use in a group of single family homes built after Jan 1, 2001, that were chosen at random from 8 water agencies in the U.S.   The report provides detailed analyses of end uses by household and examines the factors that affect indoor and outdoor water use.  In addition a sample of new homes built specifically for high water use efficiency (based on the WaterSense specification) was also studied and indoor water use is compared to the water use for the standard new homes and older homes studied in previous studies such as the 1999 Residential End Uses of Water and the 2011 California Single Family Water Use Efficiency Study.

Both reports are available for free download from the AWE Resource Library.

New Leakage Research Project Announced 

Water Systems Optimization (WSO) and the Alliance for Water Efficiency (AWE) were recently selected to complete the WaterRF project #4372, Effective Organization and Component Analysis of Water Utility Leakage Data.  WSO and AWE will develop a software tool that will allow North American utilities to easily undertake leakage component analyses and Economic Level of Leakage analyses in order to design efficient and sustainable leakage control programs.
Eleven water utilities, representing small and large, public and private utilities from throughout the United States and one utility from Canada will be participating in the project by contributing data and beta-testing the software tool.  WSO and the AWE are excited to have this opportunity to significantly improve the North American water community’s water loss mitigation efforts.

Learn more here.

Study Finds Soil Moisture Can Affect Precipitation East in Humid Climates

soil_and_plantConventional wisdom says that soil moisture may trigger rain, and a recent study backs this up. The study also found that while frequency of precipitation is dependent on soil moisture, the overall volume of precipitation is not affected.

The study also found that phenomenon of soil moisture triggering precipitation is largely confined to humid areas east of the Mississippi River. In arid areas such as the Southwest where the atmospheric humidity is low, the effect is not seen.  In these areas, no amount of soil moisture is high enough to trigger rain since any evaporation will dissipate according to the study.

For the eastern U.S. and the monsoonal southern states, soil moisture may perpetuate weather cycles, be they drought or flooding. Researchers hope this new understanding will lead to better prediction tools.

Read more here.  

Whither Florida?

FloridaFlorida’s water districts were recently put under the control of the state legislature with specific mandates to control the districts’ budgets and tax revenues.  The resulting budget crunch is crushing the districts.

Water districts are laying off staff in response to a push from Governor Rick Scott and the Florida Legislature to cut $200 million in property tax revenue. The St. Johns River Water Management District will cut $30 million from its budget for the coming year which means 130 jobs at the district will be eliminated.

What is the savings from all these tax cuts? The Daytona Beach News-Journal reports that the annual property tax reduction for a $100,000 home would be about $5 per year.

In a special St. Petersburg Times editorial , former AWE board member Tom Swihart asserts that the new system shifts power to Tallahassee and reduces local control.

Prepare for Climate Change – NRDC Report Addresses Impacts to Water

NRDC-thirsty-for-answersA new report from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) recommends that cities across the United States should anticipate significant water-related vulnerabilities based on current carbon emission trends because of climate change, ranging from water shortages to more intense storms and floods to sea level rise.  The report, “ Thirsty for Answers - Preparing for the Water-related Impacts of Climate Change in American Cities ” was written to help cities become more resilient to the rising threats of climate change.  

In preparing this report, NRDC reviewed more than 75 scientific studies and other reports to summarize the water-related vulnerabilities in 12 cities across the United States. Although there may still be some uncertainty about what particular impacts threaten cities and how quickly or severely they might occur, action at the local level is the most effective method of reducing, mitigating, and preventing the negative effects of water-related climate change. In the report, NRDC urges cities to prepare for coming challenges relating to water resources. Fortunately, there are steps cities are already taking to become more resilient.

Learn more and download the full NRDC report here.

Conservation to Improve Streamflow – New Study Assesses Feasibility

streamA new study prepared for the non-profit Western Resource Advocates (WRA) presents the findings of a feasibility analysis exploring the potential use of municipal water conservation program savings to benefit local streamflows in western Colorado communities.  The study, Rushing Rivers Program – Feasibility Analysis of Application Within the Colorado River Basin of Western Colorado, identifies potential candidates for in-stream flow programs.  With this study, WRA hopes to show that water conservation is a viable means of improving streamflow conditions, not just a way of providing water for land development.

The Rushing Rivers Program (RRP) concept is to create a more direct link between the individual water conservation efforts of western Colorado citizens and local environmental, specifically, streamflow benefits. The cumulative water-conserving efforts of individuals participating in an RRP would ideally lead to more water being left in the local river or creek downstream of the water utility’s potable system diversion point. Conserving customers would keep any water bill savings. Ideally, the water utility helping to implement the RRP would report back to program participants the amount of water they, and the overall RRP, helped leave in the stream in the previous billing period relative to some established historical water use baseline. 

Schmueser Gordon Meyer, Inc. (SGM) prepared the “Rushing Rivers Program Feasibility Analysis” for WRA.

Download the full Rushing Rivers study here.  

Water Pressure Investigated as Energy Source

light_bulb_energyWater supply systems can consume a great deal of energy in pumping, monitoring and treatment. Now researchers in the UK are looking at ways to recapture some of the energy used in delivery. Trinity College Dublin and Bangor University researchers will be working on a project to design and develop small hydropower turbines that can be placed in the water delivery system. The goal is to reduce CO2 emissions and recuperate costs.

“The water industry is very energy intensive. This project could help reduce its associated environmental impact and economic costs,” said Cr. Prysof Williams of Bangor University.

Typical water supply is fed by gravity from elevated storage. At lower areas in the system, pressure can be too high. Typically, this problem is managed by installing a break pressure tank (BPT). In a BPT, the potential and kinetic energy are dissipated. Researchers believe that instead of dissipating the energy at these points, turbines can recapture the energy while still reducing pressure.

The European Union awarded the researchers nearly $1,000,000 for the effort. The research, while focusing on BPT, will look at several aspects of design and implementation. Researchers at Bangor will look at how effective the program is in terms of environmental impacts. Trinity Business School researchers will develop a business model for implementing the technology. The technical feasibility will be investigated by Trinity’s School of Engineering. Read more here. 

Conservation Lessens Impact of Growth: Report

A new Pacific Institute report found that water conservation has lessened the impact of growth on municipal water withdrawals from the Colorado River. According to the report, Municipal Deliveries of Colorado Basin Water , the regions relying on water from the Colorado River have experienced substantial growth, but efficiency offsets some of these growing demands. The report looks at over 100 agencies that withdraw from the Colorado River. Specifically, the report looks at water delivery data for specific agencies for a given period.

The report found that since 1990, the number of people in the United States and Mexico who use Colorado River basin water has increased by more than 10 million -– but their overall per capita water use declined by an average of at least one percent per year from 1990 to 2008.  Without this decline, deliveries would have been about 200 million acre-feet higher the report notes.

The significant reduction in per capita demand offset population growth, but not completely; deliveries increased by a total volume of 600,000 acre-feet.

Learn more and download the full report here.

A Virtual Shortage of Virtual Water

Virtual water may not be enough to overcome water trade imbalances, so says a recent paper published by the Institute of Physics Publishing. David Seekell of the University of Virginia is the lead author. Accounting for water – the so-called virtual water – used in crops and manufactured goods during trade deals has been suggested as a solution to water inequality.

“Virtual water transfers are highly unequal but represent a small volume of water relative to total water needs. Water-use inequality is dominated by geographic parameters such as arable land availability and climate and not by social development status. Overall, it is unlikely that virtual water will overcome these geographical constraints,” the paper says.

The researchers at the University of Virginia examined United Nation statistics on social and human development with water use statistics. Read about the shortage of virtual water. The paper can be found here.

Letter from Across the Pond – News from Europe

By Philip Turton
Big_ben_sunsetSince the British Demand Management Bulletin succumbed in February to the effect of 20% plus public expenditure cuts, the rains have dramatically shifted away from the south and east of the UK.  It was the warmest April in England in the 355 year series by the significant margin of a degree Fahrenheit. It was also the driest April and the driest spring in over 100 years. Heavy rains during May in Scotland and the north west of both England and Wales alleviated the situation in those areas.

The drought has hit some farmers very hard but public water supplies are not yet restricted, although water companies have asked customers to use water sensibly. The Environment Agency has expressed concern that low flows in rivers are affecting local environments.  On 9 June the Environment Agency announced that all but the north west of England and the north of Wales was ‘at risk’ of drought with the east of England classified as ‘in drought’. However, Severn Trent Water appears to be the only water company warning customers that that they may face restrictions if it remains dry. The drought is not confined to the UK as France, Germany and countries further south east are also affected.

One lesson that never seems to be learned is that droughts can develop much more quickly than expected.  Recently the Committee on Climate Change has warned that although 8% of resource zones in England are currently at risk of a supply shortfall in a severe drought, this could increase to around 45% by 2035 without additional investment.Policy on water efficiency, not to mention many other water issues, is rather unclear, especially as the role of the economic regulator, Ofwat, is under review. Ofwat should already be setting out guidance on the next five year review of water prices (which help set water company expenditure) but cannot do this properly until it future role is clarified.

There are, though, some interesting and important developments. Ofwat has produced a discussion paper on the perceived CAPEX bias in water company expenditure. A change to put OPEX on a level footing should give water efficiency a boost relative to abstracting more water, building reservoirs and desalination plants.

british_phone_boothMeanwhile some ‘real’ work is going on. Waterwise’s publication  Evidence Base for Large-Scale Water Efficiency - Phase II Final Report   provides vital information for the promotion and acceptance of water efficiency measures. This is because a water company water efficiency project can only be funded through water charges if it is to be shown to be economic relative to other options. 

Also worth checking out is  Water efficiency in new developments- a best practice guide .  Waterwise East has produced this best practice guide, which aims to support developers, housing associations, self-builders and others to deliver water-efficient new developments.

The Coalition Government appear to have a positive attitude towards accounting for the environment in decision making. This, again, is an important issue for promoting water efficiency and Waterwise has produced  Response to Energy Efficiency Partnership for Homes and DECC Call for Evidence on Green Deal – Costs and Benefits of Energy Efficiency Measures. 

The Environment Agency has produced a number of excellent publications on reuse and rainwater recycling, the latest being on Greywater Recycling for Domestic Users .

Singapore Launches New Reuse Efforts During International Water Week

During the Singapore International Water Week (SIWW), PUB – the water supplier for Singapore, launched the second edition of the ABC Waters design guidelines, which provides designers with technical details on how rainwater harvesting and storm water management systems can be incorporated into development projects so that rainwater can be used for non-potable uses, such as irrigation and general washing.

Water conservation is an important element of Singapore's water sustainability and will continue to be an important topic at all SIWW events. Through PUB's ongoing water conservation program, Singapore's per capita domestic water consumption has dropped from 165 litres a day in 2003 to the current 154 litres. PUB aims to lower this to 147 litres by 2020 and 140 litres by 2030.

Learn more about Singapore’s water conservation efforts here.

News Briefs and Web Links

  • Indianapolis Pipes Burst Due to Summer Demand - The Indianapolis Department of Waterworks is struggling to keep up with water main breaks blamed on extra demand as temperatures creep higher and the utility has extended its voluntary request for both residential and nonresidential customers to stop watering lawns in July because of continued lack of rain, high heat and high water consumption.  Learn more here.
  • Court Rules in Favor of Atlanta on Lake Lanier - The 11th Circuit Appeals Court released a unanimous ruling on June 28 that held that one of the purposes for Lake Lanier was to supply water to the metro-Atlanta region.  This ruling overturns a 2009 decision by Senior U.S. District Judge that ruled it was illegal for the Corps of Engineers to draw water from Lake Lanier for this purpose.  Learn more here.
  • IAPMO Tackles Pipe Sizing - The increased use of high-efficiency plumbing fixtures, fixture fittings and appliances  and the subsequent decreased demand for water in commercial buildings and residences  has resulted in the need to revise the methodology for properly sizing plumbing systems.  IAPMO has launched an effort to review and revise Hunter’s probability curves.
  • Gates Foundation Wants to Reinvent the Toilet – A joint project between the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the German government aims to provide sanitation facilities for 800,000 people over the next five years. The project is looking for an alternative to western-style flush toilets because they use too much water. Learn more here. View a video on this topic here.
  • Carbon Trader Takes on Water Markets – A pioneer of carbon trading is looking at water as the next big commodity. “Water is going to be the commodity of the 21st century,” said Richard Sandor. The WSJ reports. 
  • Dry Run by Jerry Yudelson Now Available in the AWE Bookstore - Jerry Yudelson's book Dry Run: Preventing the Next Urban Water Crisis is available at a discounted price in the AWE bookstore – cheaper than Amazon.  Order your copy today. 
  • EPA Publishes Data on Public Drinking Water Systems - There are approximately 155,000 public water systems in the United States.  EPA classifies these water systems according to the number of people they serve, the source of their water, and whether they serve the same customers year-round or on an occasional basis. Learn more and get data from the EPA here.
  • FedCenter Adds Water Efficiency – The FedCenter – the Federal Facilities information web site – has added water efficiency to its program areas. This website has tools and techniques for federal environmental and facility managers.
  • Sample Drought Plan Released – The Colorado Water Conservation Board released a sample drought management plan to help local water providers develop their own plans.  Plan elements range from development of objectives through implementation and monitoring. Check out the sample plan here. 
  • Report to Congress:  Strengthening the Understanding of Climate Change Impacts on Freshwater Resources of the United States – Download the draft report to Congress here.
  • Water Calculator Puts a Price on Water Waste – Developed at the University of Wisconsin, the calculator helps Wisconsin homeowners determine the rewards of switching to water saving fixtures. Check out the UW calculator here. 
  • AWWA Posts Conference Proceedings from ACE 11 – Proceedings from the recent AWWA Annual Conference and Expo (ACE) are now available online.
  • Volunteers Canvas for Conservation – Volunteers in Sacramento have been going door to door educating water users for the past year. The volunteers, with goodie basket in hand, are less intimidating than city officials, said the utility department spokesperson. Learn more here. 
  • Water Customers Want Conservation – A survey by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin found that water utility managers believe that conservation measures had a positive effect on customer satisfaction. Voluntary measures are the most popular, utility managers say.  Learn more here.
  • Sierra Club of LA Rates Southern California Water Conservation - The Sierra Club Los Angeles Chapter recently unveiled a scorecard grading Los Angeles and Orange counties' incorporated cities on, among other things, their water use, water waste, implementation of building standards and other conservation efforts. The intent of the study was to gauge how cities are sharing in the responsibility of saving water now, and to show officials how they can update and expand existing conservation efforts.
  • This Might Be The Most Water Efficient House in LA - A new house in Los Angeles boasts several innovative water saving features including a 1,500-gallon rainwater cistern, a gray water reuse system, and solar hot water.  The house even has its own blog.  
  • Oil Companies Want Texas Water for “Fracking” –  Oil companies that need water for hydrologic fracturing wells are competing for water in Texas. As Texas’s worst recorded drought heightens, this competition between farms, people, and oil companies could be one to watch. Bloomberg BusinessWeek reports here.
  • Landscaping With Less Water – A New York Times article looks at efforts to manage lawns when water supplies are stretched. Researchers in Texas, England, and New Zealand are all looking at plantings appropriate for their local environments.   Read the article here. 
  • Rocky Mountain Snowpack Shows Unprecedented Decline – Reconstruction of historic snowpack based on tree-ring data indicates major snowpack reductions have occurred in the Colorado River, Columbia River, and Missouri River drainages. Unparalleled springtime warming is changing both the amount of snowpack and which regions in the Rockies are most affected. Read the report from Science here.     
  • New Report - Drops of Energy: Conserving Urban Water in California to reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions This report adds to the conversation about how water conservation relates to saving energy and the further impacts on climate change. Download the report here. 
  • New Book - Florida’s Water: A Fragile Resource in a Vulnerable State Tom Swihart, author, is the former head of the Office of Water Policy in the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and a former board member of AWE.  His new book brings together many aspects of water management in Florida.
  • Veggie Gardener Goes to Court – A Michigan woman and a city planner face off over a front-yard veggie garden. The issue may go to a jury trial, with possible jail time for the gardener. Read more here. 
  • Is This Water Too Far Away for Diversion? – CalTech astronomers reported finding a large mass of water vapor about 30 billion trillion miles away. The mass of the reservoir is 140 trillion times the mass of Earth’s oceans.  Learn more here.
  • The 17 Worst Bathroom Design Failures Ever – Photographic evidence of human bathroom design stupidity.  Check out just how bad it can be.  

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.