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...

Westminster - Longs PeakThere is a commonly held belief in the water industry that declining per capita usage due to water conservation has “forced an increase to rates to account for fewer units of volume billed” (Craley and Noyes 2013, Journal AWWA).  But the rate increases necessitated by conservation are actually much smaller than the rate increases that would be necessary to account for population growth in the absence of conservation. 

In Westminster, Colorado – a suburb of Denver with a projected population at build-out of about 152,000 - a 21% reduction in average per capita water demand experienced over the past 30 years has resulted in significant benefit to its customers and reduced the rate of increase in water and wastewater rates.  While water and wastewater rates and tap fees have increased in Westminster over that 30 year time period, they have increased much less than they would have if per capita demand had stayed constant at 1980 levels.

Customers in Westminster have avoided increasing their water rates by 99% and their wastewater rates by 18% had this level of water conservation not been achieved.  New customers in Westminster have also avoided an 80% increase in water and sewer tap fees.  Yes rates have gone up, but because of the costs associated with new water supply and infrastructure, they have gone up much less than they would have.

AWE has published an article that presents an analysis of water use trends and avoided costs in Westminster available for free download here.  AWE is available to assist member utilities interested in doing a similar analysis for their own water systems.  Contact Bill Christiansen at AWE for more information.

Preparing Urban Water Use Efficiency Plans: A Best Practice Guide 

IWA-Maddaus-Preparing-CoverIWA Publishes Best Practice Guide and Offers Discounted Pricing to AWE Members & Friends

Many communities are facing water scarcity in developing and developed countries alike. There are numerous publications and on-going research studies documenting the changes in our climate and potential for worsening shortages in our future. Meeting future potable water demands as communities continue to grow will rely heavily on using our existing water resources more efficiently.

The International Water Association’s Best Practice Guide to Preparing Urban Water Use Efficiency Plans, authored by Lisa, William, and Michelle Maddaus of Maddaus Water Management, provides detailed approaches to developing and implementing a water conservation plan. This book covers the broad spectrum of conservation planning for urban communities including achieving more efficiency from:

  • Residential domestic uses
  • Commercial and governmental facilities use
  • Industrial uses
  • Pricing
  • Water Loss Control Programs

The steps in the Guide clearly outline and provide sample calculations to aid determining which water use efficiency activities are financially justifiable to undertake. The end result is a plan that policy decision makers can adopt and fund, and that water service provider staff can implement to help increase their community's water reliability. It includes numerous case studies and a Microsoft Excel based software tool to allow planners to evaluate the business case for implementing various water conservation activities.

Be sure to use discount code ZWQIWALM13 when ordering for 20% off or 30% for IWA members!  Discounted pricing is only available for orders made via telephone or snail-mail.  At this time, discounted pricing is not available for orders made via the IWA website, although the discount code will be added soon.

Learn more here

NYC and Hotels Team Together for Water Efficiency 

Hotels-SmrThe City of New York and the NYC Hotels Association have joined together in a public-private partnership to reduce water consumption at the city’s premier hotels.  Representatives from some of New York City’s most renowned hotels have been meeting at workshops to strategize on maintaining water as a vital and sustainable essential to the NYC visitor experience.

Making water efficiency a top priority in their establishments is a key component of the New York City “Hotel Water Conservation Challenge.” The program is a public-private partnership presented by the NYC Hotels Association, City of New York, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and NYC & Company—the official marketing, tourism and partnership organization for the City of New York.

The hotel industry was chosen for the challenge—which is modeled on Mayor Bloomberg’s 2007 Mayor’s Carbon Challenge—because hotels, and commercial buildings in general, have not been targeted in past conservation efforts, such as the toilet replacement program that centered on residential buildings. The DEP, led by Commissioner Carter Strickland, Jr, states that hotels represent a significant opportunity for water and financial savings due to the large number of bathroom and kitchen fixtures found in each establishment.

The primary aim of the challenge is for these premier hotels to reduce their annual water consumption by 5 percent, saving an annual total of approximately 13 million gallons of water. The challenge—which was implemented on April 22, runs for one year until April 2014 and spans two mayoral administrations—features the participation of 11 premier NYC hotels: The Waldorf-Astoria, The Ritz-Carlton Central Park, The InterContinental New York Times Square, The InterContinental New York Barclay, The Millennium Broadway, Tryp NYC, Sheraton TriBeca, New Yorker Hotel, Grand Hyatt New York, Holiday Inn Express, and the Carlton Hotel.

Learn more here

2014 California Water Supply Outlook Cause for Concern 

Lake OrovilleIn California, the driest year on record has left the reservoirs depleted, and state water officials have announced that they expect to provide just 5 percent of the water that farmers were expecting for next year.

Other sources of water, including resources from a federal project that also pumps from the delta, are also drying up, prompting cities to dip into reserves and forcing farmers to scramble.

“It’s scary, because you don’t know how you’re going to come up with the balance of your water,” pistachio farmer Tom Coleman said. Recently, he agreed to pay $160,000 for water from other sources, about three times the amount he usually spends.

This year is shaping up to be the driest on record in California, officials say, and urban areas are also feeling the pinch. The Metropolitan Water District, which serves about half of heavily populated Southern California, has been using reserves to meet residents’ needs, and plans to do the same next year, says spokesman Bob Muir. If 2015 is also dry, rationing may be required, he says.

A federal project that also controls water in the state has not yet said how much will be available in 2014, but its allocations are also expected to be low.

“We hope things improve with this winter’s storms,” says Mark Cowin, director of the California Department of Water Resources. “But there is no guarantee that 2014 won’t be our third consecutive dry year. The allocation is a stark reminder that California’s fickle weather demands that we make year-round conservation a way of life.

Learn more here

The Case for Fixing Leaks – Chicago NGO Calls for Improved Water Management 

CNT LogoThe Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT), a Chicago-based nonprofit focused on sustainable cities, has released a report titled The Case for Fixing the Leaks, part of a collaborative campaign focused on Great Lakes states, calling for leadership in improved water management.

The initiative calls on state and municipal leaders, water service utilities, industry-related agencies, and Great Lakes institutions to work together on:

  • New research regarding water loss and related issues
  • Education and technical support opportunities to encourage industry best practices
  • Supportive policies that encourage best practices, public reporting, and improved planning

Leakage has been a significant issue for many water providers in recent years and AWE is pleased to support this effort to improve water management.

Learn more and download the full report here

Texas Voters Approve Water Implementation Funding Including New Money for Conservation 

TexasTexas is getting serious about new water supply and conservation.  In early November, Texas voters overwhelmingly voted to approve Proposition 6, a constitutional amendment providing for the creation of the State Water Implementation Fund and the State Water Implementation Revenue Texas to assist in the financing of priority projects in the state water plan to ensure the availability of adequate water resources.

The final vote count was 73.37% IN FAVOR, and 26.62% AGAINST.  Total voter turnout was 8.47% statewide. 

“The people of Texas made history,” said Governor Rick Perry, “ensuring we’ll have the water we need to grow and thrive for the next five decades, without raising state taxes. Now it’s time to get to work on the projects that’ll help us meet our growing water needs, preserving and improving both our economic strength and quality of life.”

Proposition 6 includes $2 billion in seed funding for a water infrastructure bank that will provide low-interest loans to water projects. The repayment of the loans (plus interest) will go back into the fund, and then can be spent on more water projects.  The amendment stipulates that utilities with good conservation programs get premium interest rates for loans from the water bank. 

Learn more about this significant effort here

AWE Accepted as US Water Partnership Member 

uswp-logo-bannerThe US Water Partnership, which seeks to unite and mobilize best of U.S. expertise, resources and ingenuity to address global water challenges, has accepted the Alliance for Water Efficiency (AWE) as a new member.

AWE was pleased to accept the invitation and officially joined the US Water Partnership in October.

The fundamental goals of the US Water Partnership are to ensure sustainable and equitable water management that benefits people and our environment through:

  • Improving access and quality of service for water, sanitation and hygiene.
  • Advancing integrated water resource management.
  • Increasing efficiency and productivity of water use.
  • Improving governance through stronger public and private institutions, policies and processes.

Learn more about the US Water Partnership here

Santa Bottle SmAWE Never Waste Holiday Water Bottle Sale 

Give the gift of conservation and save money this year with AWE’s award winning water bottle that informs and hydrates.  You can stuff stockings with Never Waste water bottles and take 15% off all bottle purchases now through December 20 with code HOLIDAY13 at checkout at www.neverwaste.org.  Supplies are limited so order your Never Waste bottles today!

AWE Sheep Extend Useful Life Beyond WSI 

Julie Smitherman_3AWE’s entertaining #showusyoursheep competition was a big hit at Water Smart Innovations 2013 in Las Vegas.  This competition encouraged conference participants to get a free toy rubber sheep from the AWE booth and to tweet out photos of the sheep from the conference and around Las Vegas.  The sheep and ensuing photos started hundreds of conversations and elicited peals of laughter throughout the event, but the AWE sheep continued to serve a useful purpose after the WSI conference ended.  Consider this letter from Will Jernigan, Director of Water Efficiency for Cavanaugh & Associates, P.A. whose sheep came in handy while flying to the IWA Water Efficiency Conference in Paris:

Dear AWE, 

I am halfway on the 16 hour journey from Asheville to Paris, just a little into the Philadelphia-Paris flight.  Everyone is settling in for the red-eye.  I am seated next to a French woman who spoke no English and her 2 year old daughter who was somewhere between hyper and delirious.  The woman was working hard to settle her daughter, and it looked like she had done the trick when the girl was curled up under a blanket with eyes closed.  Next thing I knew the little girl began squirming again, and a minute later she was wailing, with feeling.   I glanced around and met eyes with a couple other passengers and I could tell we were thinking the same thing about the next 6 hours of the trip.  

Earlier as I had been walking out my front door, with bags loaded in the car, I found myself returning inside to do one last sweep only to see the Never Waste sheep on the desk.  I promptly grabbed the sheep and headed to the airport. 

Sitting on the plane, the shrill cries filled the air.  It was a moment of true despair. 

Then the sheep spoke to me.  

I reached in my bag, took the sheep and tapped the French woman on the shoulder with it.  We exchanged no words, only a look and a nod that said with no uncertainty, “it’s the only way”.  She took the sheep and placed it in her writhing daughter’s hand.  In that moment, all sound and motion stopped, as the girl gazed at the sheep with widening eyes.  She embraced it with both arms, curled softly in her mother’s lap, and didn’t wake until we arrived in Paris.  

As we were deplaning the French mother and I shared one last nod that let her know, “keep the sheep”.   My only regret is not thinking to get a photo of the girl and the sheep.  

On behalf of all the passengers of Flight 754 I wanted to thank you and also let you know I need a new sheep. 



National Standard for Rainwater Catchment Systems Approved 

rain-barrelThe ARCSA/ASPE/ANSI 63-2013: Rainwater Catchment Systems was approved as an American National Standard by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) in November 2013.

ARCSA/ASPE/ANSI 63-2013 is designed to assist engineers, designers, plumbers, builders, developers, local government officials, and end users in safely implementing a rainwater catchment system using precipitation from rooftops and other hard, impervious surfaces. The collected rainwater can be subsequently used for irrigation, laundry, hygiene, or even potable water applications if the appropriate treatment and materials have been certified for the specific end use. Existing NSF/ANSI standards covering roofing and collection system materials and treatment devices for potable water applications are referenced in the standard which was jointly developed by ASPE and the American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association (ARCSA) and co-sponsored by the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO) and NSF International.

Originally published in 2007, ARCSA/ASPE/ANSI 63-2013 went through an extensive revision and public review process using ASPE’s ANSI-accredited standards development procedures to incorporate input from the construction, irrigation, water treatment, and public health industries. A team of sustainable water system design experts was tasked with vetting comments and proposed revisions to ensure that the standard met current industry and government regulations regarding reclaimed water use.

A copy of the new standard can be purchased here

New EPA Report Estimates the Importance of Water to the United States Economy 

EPA Logo with BorderEPA has released Synthesis Report on the Importance of Water to the U.S. Economy. This report is intended to help raise the awareness of water’s importance to our national economic welfare, and to summarize information that public and private decision-makers can use to better manage the nation’s water resources. It highlights EPA’s review of the literature and practice on the importance of water to the U.S. economy, identifies key data gaps, and describes the implication of the study’s findings for future research. EPA hopes this report will be a catalyst for a broader discussion about water’s critical role in the U.S. economy.  Learn more and download the report here

President Issues Executive Order to Prepare for Impacts of Climate Change 

The-White-HouseIn November, President Obama signed an Executive Order on Preparing the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change, directing federal agencies to take a series of steps to make it easier for American communities to strengthen their resilience to extreme weather and prepare for other impacts of climate change. The Executive Order addresses modernizing federal programs to support climate-resilient investments; managing lands and waters for climate preparedness and resilience; providing information, data, and tools; and planning for climate change related risk. Also established is a Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, comprised of state, local and tribal leaders.  

Learn more and view the full Executive Order here

As part of the President’s Climate Action Plan, the Obama Administration has announced an interagency National Drought Resilience Partnership to help communities prepare for future droughts and reduce the impact of drought events on livelihoods and the economy.  Learn more about the National Drought Resilience Partnership here

EPA Seeks Comments on Climate Adaptation Implementation Plans 

What do you think of EPA’s plans for helping the US adapt to climate change? The EPA wants to hear from you.  In early November, 2013 EPA released 17 Program and Regional Adaptation Implementation Plans for a 60 day public comment period. The public is invited to review and provide comment on the draft Implementation Plans through the public docket at www.regulations.gov (Docket Number EPA-HQ-OA-2013-0568). The docket will open as soon as the Federal Register Notice is published.

These draft Implementation Plans were prepared by EPA's Program and Regional Offices following the February 2013 publication of the Draft Climate Change Adaptation. The 17 plans included here are part of an ongoing effort to address adaptation across the federal government, in response to Executive Order 13514 - "Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance."  Learn more and find out how to submit comments here

Canada, U.S. Wastewater Experts Concerned About “Flushable” Wipes  

flushable-wipesSo called “flushable” bathroom wipes, sometimes sold as a cleaner alternative to toilet paper that are “perfectly OK to flush down the toilet” are causing problems for some wastewater systems in Canada and the US related to costly clogs.

Personal wipes are a $6-billion industry in North America, with experts predicting sales will soar by as much as six per cent annually over the next five years. Canadian municipalities, however, say the wipes are costing ratepayers as much as $250 million a year.

In both the U.S. and Canada, manufacturers voluntarily test products for flushability and insist their wipes pass with flying colors, but federal laws don't require third-party assessment or verification.

Both the Canadian Water and Wastewater Association and its U.S. sister organizations are now pushing manufacturers to allow independent testing of their products, and to label them with more clarity. The CWWA is also exploring the creation of a Canadian standard for use of the term "flushable," said Robert Haller, the association's executive director.  Learn more here

Johnson Foundation Tackles Energy and Water Nexus 

Mixing water and electricity can be shocking, yet that's exactly what the Johnson Foundation asked participants in their August convening to do as part of the continued work on Charting New Waters program.

In August, the Johnson Foundation convened a group of experts (including members of AWE) to look at what has become known as the "water-energy nexus." This term, coined by Michael Hightower and his colleagues at Sandia National Labs, describes the relationship between water and energy: Water treatment and delivery uses a lot of energy; energy extraction and generation uses a lot of water.

The Johnson Foundation hopes to continue the dialog and discussion as part of a new effort - Inspiring Solutions - a new online communication platform.

The latest edition of Inspiring Solutions features responses from Steve Fleischli, Water Program Director & Senior Attorney at Natural Resources Defense Council; Mike Hightower, Distinguished Member of the Technical Staff, Sandia National Laboratories; Andy Kricun, P.E., BCEE, Executive Director/Chief Engineer, Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority; and Chris Peot, P.E., BCEE, Civil/Environmental Engineer, Director of Resource Recovery, DC Water.

San Diego County Water Authority Wins Excellence Award 

san diego boatThe San Diego County Water Authority, an AWE Member, is one of only six public water agencies nationwide to receive a Platinum Award for Utility Excellence from the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA).  The awards recognize outstanding achievement in implementing nationally recognized best practices for effective utility management.

“The Water Authority staff has scrutinized each element of the agency to squeeze out inefficiencies and promote good government,” said AMWA, which announced the awards at its annual meeting in St. Petersburg, Fla. Based in Washington, D.C., AMWA is an organization of the largest publicly owned drinking water suppliers in the country. Its members serve more than 130 million Americans from Alaska to Puerto Rico.

The Water Authority won AMWA’s Gold Award for Exceptional Utility Performance in 2010 based on its successful efforts to diversify its water supply and develop a regional drought management plan to meet mandatory water-saving targets. Gold Award winners are eligible to apply for the Platinum Award three years after achieving the gold level. The Water Authority earned platinum status in its first year of eligibility.

Other 2013 Platinum Award winners are the city of Columbus Department of Public Utilities (Ohio), Louisville Water Company (Kentucky), Onondaga County Water Authority (New York), city of Palm Bay Utilities Department (Florida), and the Western Virginia Water Authority (Virginia).

Raise water spending, get $1 trillion benefits - U.N. 

Sharply higher spending on water supplies, coupled with a crackdown on corruption, would yield more than a trillion dollars a year in economic, health and environmental benefits, according to a U.N.-backed study released in November.

"Corruption is the elephant in the room" for improved water supplies, said Zafar Adeel, director of the U.N. University's Institute for Water, Environment and Health, which was a co-producer of the report.

The study said investments of $840 billion to $1.8 trillion a year, or up to about 2.2 percent of world gross domestic product, would be needed over 20 years to provide universal access to safe drinking water and sanitation and to improve other services such as irrigation and hydro power.

That would mark a sharp rise from the current $500 billion invested each year but yield benefits of at least $3.0 trillion a year, or more than $1.0 trillion above the highest projected spending, it said.

Benefits would include "direct economic return, livelihood creation, health system savings, and the preservation of nature's ecosystem services", according to the study, which said it was the first long-term estimate for water costs.

Adeel told Reuters the benefit and cost estimates were intended to help debate about water, a sector that faces strains from a rising world population, pollution and climate change.

Learn more here.                                 

News Briefs and Web Links 

  • Updated MaP Testing Site Launched – The new Maximum Performance Testing (MaP) site helps people maximize efficiency without sacrificing flush performance.  Learn the 13 things to know before purchasing a new toilet here
  • Comment Period for Water Stewardship Standard Extended to Dec. 31 – The Alliance for Water Stewardship has extended the comment period on the proposed Beta water stewardship standard.  Review the proposed standard and comment here
  • Do Green Roofs Do more Harm than Good? According to a new study, green roofs could actually cause damage to the environment by degrading water quality.  Learn more here
  • Portland State U. to Study Green Roof on Walmart - The design of green roofs will be studied as part of a two-year research partnership between Portland State University and Walmart that will collect in-depth data on the largest green roof installation in Portland.  Learn more here
  • Water Film Competition Winners Announced. Winners of the new Water: Take 1 film competition sponsored by Ventura Water, were announced at a gala November event.  Learn about the winners and the competition here
  • New Report: Evaluation, Measurement, and Verification of Residential Behavior-Based Energy Efficiency Programs: Issues and Recommendations - This report provides guidance and recommendations on methodologies that can be used for estimating energy savings impacts resulting from residential behavior-based efficiency programs.  Learn more here
  • National Value of Water Campaign Launched – The Value of Water Coalition has launched a new campaign.  Check it out here
  • South FL Station Investigates Mold and Odor Complaints from Front Loading Clothes Washers – Mold and odor complaints have dogged front loading clothes washers for years.  A Florida TV station investigated the issue
  • Colorado State Offers Free Online Water Course – CSU’s nationally-renowned faculty are offering a free online course titled: Water, Civilization, and Nature: Addressing Water Challenges of the 21st Century.  Learn more and register here
  • LEED and the Law – A new article asserts there are two broad reasons why municipalities cannot exclusively promote or mandate a single green building certification such as LEED in an ordinance or functionally.  Learn more here
  • Salt Lake City Dry Out? – Climate scientists are concerned about water flows to Salt Lake City as temperatures increase.  Learn more here
  • Top 10 States Ranked in Energy Efficiency Scorecard – How does your state rank in the latest energy efficiency scorecard comparison?  Find out here
  • Australia's 2013 Spring Warmest on Record – Daytime maximums were 2.07C above average in 2013, with temperature rises recorded across virtually entire country.  Learn more here
  • Early Registration for Ozwater Available - Registrations are now open for Australia’s highly anticipated international water conference and exhibition. Register before 7 March to take advantage of an Early-Bird discount
  • The Coolest Music in the World - Listen to Siberian Ice Drummers Use Frozen Lake Baikal as an Incredible Musical Instrument.

 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.