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...

 2015 Water Efficiency Watch Year in Review 

drought-monitor-11-24-15It’s that time of the year again.  Here is the Water Efficiency Watch review of our top water stories from 2015. 

  1.  California Drought.  California’s intense drought deepened in 2015, but the state responded with a flurry of activity and successfully reduced urban consumption by 30% in many parts of the state.  Late in the year, the development of an El Nino warming pattern in the Pacific raised hopes of increased precipitation. 
  2. Colorado River Basin Drought. The other big drought story of 2015 was the continuing decline of water levels in key Colorado River Basin reservoirs including Lake Mead. According to the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center, 2015 flows into Lake Powell, one of two giant reservoirs on the Colorado, were just 71 percent of the long term average. 
  3.  RESNETRESNET to Rate Water Efficiency of Homes.  The Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET), in partnership with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and a coalition of water efficiency experts, homebuilders, environmental organizations and home energy professionals, plans to develop the nation’s first Water Efficiency Rating (WER) Index. The WER Index will show consumers at a glance how efficiently a home uses water by assigning it a numerical score based on performance.
  4. California Adopts Mandatory Water Loss Audit Requirement.  California joined an important, growing movement among US states. The California Legislature has passed a requirement, beginning October 1, 2017, that all retail urban water suppliers must file annually a completed and validated water loss audit. The water audits will be posted online for public viewing. The bill also requires that the State Water Resources Control Board pass performance standards for reducing water losses by 2019. The bill has been signed by Governor Jerry Brown and is now law.
  5. AWE Report Cover 7-2015-110x142 AWE Releases Major Report on Demand Hardening.  Concerns 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 AWE.  An Assessment of Increasing Water Use Efficiency on Demand Hardening prepared by Anil Bamezai, PhD, of Western Policy Research 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.”
  6. AWE's Financing Sustainable Water Develops Tools for Utility Revenue Stability.  AWE launched a new website housing numerous resources, including a Rates Handbook and a Sales Forecasting and Rates Model, both of which are available for free download and which have already been downloaded by hundreds of water utilities since the launch.  Since releasing the Handbook and Model, AWE has been conducting rates workshops in Texas and California, and conducting media interviews on the vexing issue of revenue stability.
  7. WSI 2015: Fiona Sanchez Wins AWE Water Star Award, More than 1,000 Registrants, Mary Ann Dickinson Gives Keynote.  At the annual Water Smart Innovations Conference in Las Vegas, the Alliance for Water Efficiency presented Fiona Sanchez, Director of Water Resources at the Irvine Ranch Water District, CA with its highest honor, the Water Star Award, an annual award intended to reward individual excellence in water efficiency.  Sanchez was honored for a remarkable set of achievements in the water efficiency field made over a career spanning more than 20 years.  This year’s WSI event had more than 1,000 registered participants and AWE’s own Mary Ann Dickinson delivered the Keynote address.
  8. PERC 2.0_FINAL_150922-Cover-(243x352) PERC Study Confirms Findings on Drainline Carry.  The Plumbing Efficiency Research Coalition (PERC) is pleased to announce that the report, The Drainline Transport of Solid Waste in Buildings – Phase 2.0, has been released and is now available on the PERC website. The study builds on the findings of the Phase 1 report of the same title and provides new and important insights into the performance of building drains as water flows are incrementally reduced as a result of water efficiency related regulations.  Phase 2.0 provides insights regarding conditions that can trigger a tipping point where incremental flow reductions are increasingly likely to result in chronic drain blockages in commercial buildings. The findings also detail the surprising significance of toilet paper in drainline transport, relative to other variable factors such as drainline slope, pipe diameter, and toilet flush volume levels.
  9. 10 Years of Drought Does Nothing to Improve Water Knowledge in Texas.  A statewide poll commissioned by the Texas Water Foundation shows only 28 percent of Texans say they “definitely know” the natural source of their drinking water -- the exact same percent as 10 years ago. This statistic is troubling – especially after a period of record drought -- because statewide research shows a direct correlation between knowing where your water comes from and your willingness to conserve. 
  10.  Net-Blue-140x346AWE Launches Net Blue Project.  As water scarcity grows in many areas of North America, a mechanism is needed to allow new economic development in these strapped communities. AWE will be developing a model planning and zoning ordinance to allow new development if it is “water neutral” and offsetting its new water use.  The ordinance will be completed in 2016 and will be piloted in seven communities across the US.

Send us your top water stories of this year and next for future issues of Water Efficiency Watch.

 AWE Seeking Supporters to Sign on to Letter in Favor of House Bill 3720 

Congress_clipAWE is seeking supporters to sign on to a letter of support for H.R. 3720, Water Advanced Technologies for Efficient Resource Use Act of 2015 by Congressman Matthew Cartwright (D-PA). This bill would authorize a WaterSense® program at the Environmental Protection Agency to certify the efficiency of certain plumbing, water treatment and irrigation products and to promote the use of such products.

Importantly, Cartwright’s bill would authorize $87.5 million to administer WaterSense® over the next four years and $50 million a year thereafter and it would also mandate a preference for WaterSense® products in federal procurement and would create a program of incentives for early adopters of WaterSense products, with $450 million in funding over the next five years.

Please email AWE as soon as possible if your organization would like to sign on. Additionally, be sure to send your organization's logo.

 AWE Supports Tax-Exempt Status for Water Conservation Rebates 

money-netThe Alliance for Water Efficiency is urging a change in federal tax law so that rebates and credits for water conservation and green infrastructure projects remain tax-free for recipients. In response to urging from key lawmakers, AWE has suggested that these payments from water utilities not be included in gross income by the Internal Revenue Service -similar to how energy rebates have been treated under the tax code for decades.

Because water rebates and credits are now considered "income" by the IRS, utilities are required to send a Form 1099 (Miscellaneous Income) to any customer who receives more than $600 in rebates for a calendar year. That form, which is also sent to the IRS, could result in a tax liability for the homeowner or business that took action to conserve water usage or curtail storm water runoff -- a potential disincentive for people to help improve water efficiency or reduce runoff, which actually is a public benefit to their community. Those rebates can reach tens of thousands of dollars when a homeowner has torn up extensive lawn and landscaping to save on water use.

This issue was included in the U.S. Treasury Department's "greenbook," an annual report on tax policy changes that the Administration would like Congress to enact. It is also the goal of legislation that is being considered by Rep. Jared Huffman, D-CA but which has not yet been introduced.

AWE is working with members of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee on ways that this important change in the tax law can be made. We'll keep you posted on our progress.

 Auditor Says that LA Turf Replacement Not as Cost-Effective as Other Measures 

calif-xeriThe Los Angeles' turf rebate program implemented in response to California’s extreme drought saved less water per dollar spent than other Department of Water and Power conservation programs, an audit released by the city controller said in November.

Auditors found that money spent for rebates on items such as high-efficiency fixtures and appliances yielded a water savings almost five times higher than turf replacement. They also found that the DWP does not prioritize water conservation projects based on which are the most cost-effective.

City Controller Ron Galperin called on the water provider to focus its conservation programs in order to achieve more sustained and cost-effective water savings.

“If money is no object, turf replacement rebates are a relatively expedient way to save water,” Galperin said. “But, of course, money is an object.”

In fiscal year 2014-15, the DWP spent $40.2 million on customer incentive and rebate programs, Galperin's office said. Nearly $17.8 million of that went to turf rebates. Each dollar invested in turf rebates is expected to save 350 gallons of water over the estimated 10-year “life expectancy” of residential turf replacement, the audit said.

In comparison, the department spent $14.9 million on rebates for high-efficiency appliances and fixtures. Those rebates yield a per-dollar savings of more than 1,700 gallons of water over their estimated lifetimes of up to 19 years, Galperin's office said.

The DWP has allocated $59 million for water conservation programs this year, Galperin’s office said. He called on the agency to base its rebates on water saved, and advocated for the widespread installation of so-called smart meters, which give customers real-time information about their water usage.  Read the full story here. 

The whole issue of what outdoor savings can actually be achieved will be the subject of future AWE research projects in 2016.  Stay tuned for more information on this topic.

EPA WaterSense Moves Forward with Pressure Regulating Sprinkler Bodies, Steps Back from High-Efficiency Nozzles 

WaterSense LogoAfter much deliberation and ample public input, the US EPA has decided to develop a draft specification that focuses on pressure-regulating sprinkler bodies but has also decided not to pursue a high-efficiency nozzle specification at this time.

The EPA explained its decision noting the lack of independent field studies that showed significant savings from high-efficiency nozzles, and the substantial disagreement on an appropriate measure to assess performance. EPA could revisit this decision in the future should it receive information from field studies that demonstrate tangible savings and if consensus is formed around a performance measure.

Pressure regulating sprinkler bodies help ensure that all your sprinklers operate at the same, optimal design pressure, which is particularly important in spray heads because of the narrow desired operating range for the nozzles.  Pressure regulating bodies have the potential to help reduce water waste across products and brands.

Learn more about these recent EPA Water Sense decisions here. 

 AWE Launches Water Efficiency G480 Leaderboard 

G480 Leaderboard slideHow does your water utility stack up when it comes to efficiency and conservation?  The Alliance for Water Efficiency has launched the G480 Standard Leaderboard to recognize exemplary water utilities that have adopted and complied with the voluntary AWWA G480 Water Conservation Program Operation and Management Standard.

Cobb County Water System in Georgia is the first utility to be recognized. The leaderboard is available to all AWE member utilities. View the Leaderboard, get more info, and sign up here. 

 WaterSMART Grant Opportunity Open Through January 

grants-govA funding opportunity through the Federal WaterSMART grant is open through January 20th, 2016. States, Indian tribes, irrigation districts, water districts, and other organizations with water or power delivery authority are invited to leverage their money and resources by cost sharing with the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) on projects that seek to conserve and use water more efficiently, increase the use of renewable energy and improve energy efficiency, benefit endangered and threatened species, facilitate water markets, or carry out other activities to address climate-related impacts on water.

Learn more here and search Funding Opportunity number R16-FOA-DO-004.

 WaterSmart Innovations 2016 Issues Call for Abstracts

wsi 2016 logoHere we go again!  Experts in the field of water efficiency are invited to submit abstracts for the ninth annual WaterSmart Innovations Conference and Exposition, slated for October 5-7, 2016 in Las Vegas. The deadline for receipt of abstracts is Friday, February 5, 2016. Professionals, scientists, government employees, organizations, public and private institutions, policy makers, students and all others working in an industry related to water efficiency are invited to submit an abstract for an oral presentation, panel discussion or workshop.

 Sustainable Water Management Conference Set for Providence in March 

Sustainable Water Management LogoAWE is partnering with AWWA to sponsor the Sustainable Water Management Conference March 7-10, 2016 in Providence, Rhode Island. 

The conference will present solutions for balancing the benefits of conservation with the costs, managing water resources, sustainable utilities and infrastructure, urban planning and design, energy efficiency, water conservation, stormwater and reuse. AWE will be running a session on the "Unintended Consequences of Water Efficiency and Growth." 

Learn more and register for the conference here. 

 International Emerging Technology Symposium call for Abstracts 

The International Emerging Technology Symposium, to be held at the Westin O'Hare in Rosemont, IL on May 10-11, 2016, is seeking abstract submissions. IETS Conveners are seeking presentations from experts on the following topical issues:

  • Alternate Water Sources
  • Water Efficiency in Buildings
  • Water Quality Issues
  • Water-Energy Nexus
  • Educational and Behavioral Issues
  • 3-D Modeling for Plumbing and Mechanical Applications

To share your expertise on these or other topics addressing improved levels of sustainability in plumbing and mechanical applications, submit an abstract by January 15, 2016. 

Financing Sustainable Water: “You’re the Chief of What, Now?” 

Alan Heymann DC WaterAlan Heymann, Chief Marketing Officer of  DC Water tackles the difficult question of “Now what?” in the latest blog installment on AWE’s Financing Sustainable Water website. 

As Chief Marketing Officer, Mr. Heymann directs the Authority's efforts to develop new markets for its products and services, provides value to ratepayers locally, and advances the water sector nationally. He brings nearly two decades of communications, marketing and policy experience to this role, his second tour of duty at DC Water. He is responsible for the development and implementation of marketing strategies, revenue generating programs and products, competitive market research and business intelligence initiatives with the ultimate goal of reducing costs and improving efficiencies Authority-wide.

Prior to his return to DC Water, he served as Vice President of Communications for The Humane Society of the United States. Find him on Twitter at @alanheymann.

 AWE Member Highlight 

Utah Water Conservation Forum Holds Financing Sustainable Water Workshop 

FSW LogoThe Utah Water Conservation Forum’s mission is to support local, state, and federal water agencies and professionals in sustaining a statewide water conservation movement. They accomplish this by increasing awareness and knowledge of the principles, methods, and research that promote water conservation and water-use efficiency.

The Utah Water Conservation Forum is directed by a small group of leaders from academic institutions, municipalities, government agencies and businesses. Their primary focus is on supporting training for professionals throughout the state.  Recently, the group has aimed to expand dissemination of important information about conservation to water utility CFOs. One tactic was to pair a specific offering for CFOs with their Annual Waterwise Spring Conference in May of 2015. 

The Forum partnered with the Alliance for Water Efficiency to offer a Financing Sustainable Water workshop the day before the main Conference activity. AWE staff shared information and resources to help water managers more effectively navigate the challenge of setting effective rates that stabilize revenue and incentivize water conservation. More than 60 CFOs, Finance Managers, Resource and Conservation Managers and others attended. Perhaps most importantly, the Rates workshop drew individuals that the Forum had not previously worked with and exposed them to important information about sustainable water management.

In the coming year, the Forum will continue to support professionals throughout the state via their Fall Tour and other programming.  Learn more about the Forum here

 SUS Releases New Smart H2O Mobile App 

sus_logoSouthern California startup and AWE Member, Smart Utility Systems, recently released their Smart H2O mobile app, which allows consumers to play an active role in water conservation and drought-related efforts using their iPhones.

The free Smart H2O app enables consumers to report water waste issues such as leaking pipes and drain run-off directly to utilities with the touch of a button. Users can also access information on local water-related rebates, incentives and regulations and easily share via social media.  Learn more about SUS and their products and services here.  

New 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.