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...

Happy Holidays from Water Efficiency Watch and the Alliance for Water Efficiency

Dear Reader,

happy_holidaysAs 2010 comes to a close we wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for reading Water Efficiency Watch.  It is our distinct pleasure to produce the Water Efficiency Watch newsletter for you every month and we hope you find it interesting and useful.  The web team at the Alliance for Water Efficiency wishes you a very happy holiday season and may your 2011 be filled with many successful water sustainability efforts.

Warm regards,

Peter Mayer, Editor

Australasians Join Americans to Study Drain Line Carry

PERC LogoHow far does a High Efficiency Toilet flush go?  The world needs to know if our plumbing systems are to function properly.  To get an answer, the Plumbing Efficiency Research Coalition (PERC) and the Australasian Scientific Review of Reduction of Flows on Plumbing and Drainage Systems (ASFlow) Committee signed a historic Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) at U.S. EPA headquarters in Washington D.C. on December 3, 2010.  Both organizations are working on research programs that seek to investigate the impact of reduced water flows in sanitary drainage systems resulting from reductions in water use from plumbing fixtures and fittings, appliances and commercial and institutional equipment.

The need to conduct this research is profound. Many plumbing experts are concerned that we are at or approaching a “tipping point” where a significant number of sanitary waste systems will be adversely affected by drainline transport problems, especially in larger commercial systems that have long horizontal drain lines to the sewer. In fact, the US EPA’s WaterSense™ incentive labeling program is holding off on developing a specification for High Efficiency Commercial Toilets pending research in the area of drain line transport.

Jeff-Clark-Pete-DeMarco-032cThe MoU details several areas of collaboration to ensure that research efforts are not duplicated and that information and research results are shared between the two organizations. In addition, the MoU calls for both organizations to interact internationally with standards developing organizations and other researchers for the betterment of global water efficiency efforts.

Representing ASFlow, the MoU was signed by Jeffrey Clark of the South Australian Water Corporation and Chair of the ASFlow Committee. On behalf of PERC, the MoU was signed by Peter DeMarco of the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO), Chair of the PERC Technical Committee.

“This is the first MoU that we are aware of that calls for international collaboration on water efficiency research efforts” says DeMarco. “We can learn a great deal from our interactions with ASFlow and being able to develop our efforts building upon their knowledge and experience will be extremely important for PERC.”  Learn more about this historic MoU here.

New Conservation Measures Including Advanced Metering Approved in Georgia

GeorgiaThe Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District has issued new conservation measures it says will reduce projected consumption by 30 million gallons a day within 30 years.  If achieved these savings would amount to a 5 percent decline from current consumption levels.

The eight approved measures go beyond the state's new water stewardship law and add to the dozen of measures the group has adopted since it was formed in 2001. One of  the measures adopted by the water authority will be installation of meters with point-of-use leak detection. The meters, attached at the connection, will allow residents to monitor their own water use, almost to the drop. It will also give utilities and customers early notice of leaks.

The Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District includes 15 counties and more than 90 cities within metro Atlanta. 

Kathy Nguyen, Cobb County's water efficiency manager and Authority representative, said Cobb will probably initiate a pilot program before expanding it to its 175,000 customers.  Nguyen said the devices enable customers "to set their own goals for what their use should be," and also alert homeowners to anomalies that could tip them off to leaks days or weeks earlier, she said.

Other new conservation measures include metering of private fire lines to identify leaks and unlawful use; enhancing wastewater detection to ensure irrigation systems are operating properly; multi-family high-efficiency toilet rebates; and outreach efforts to homowners about methods to improve their plumbing systems. 

Altogether, the new measures, coupled with the 12 already adopted are expected to reduce anticipated water consumption in the region by 130 million gallons a day by 2035. Learn more here

WaterSense Plans to Label Efficient Water Softeners

watersenseLogoWaterSense intends to develop a specification to label water-efficient, high-performing cation exchange water softeners. With this notification of intent (NOI), WaterSense outlines the efficiency and performance criteria it intends to include and the technical issues that still need to be more fully defined and resolved. To view the NOI, please visit www.epa.gov/watersense/products/watersofteners.html.

WaterSense will host a public meeting via webinar on Wednesday, January 19th to address any questions regarding the NOI and gather input for specification development. Interested parties can find out more and register for this meeting by visiting the WaterSense website.

For those who cannot attend the meeting, WaterSense will also accept comments via e-mail.  For any questions regarding the WaterSense program in general, please contact the WaterSense Helpline at (866) WTR-SENS (987-7367) or e-mail here.

WaterSmart Innovations Issues Call for Abstracts

Experts in the field of water efficiency are invited to submit abstracts for the fourth WaterSmart Innovations Conference and Exposition, slated for October 5-7, 2011, in Las Vegas.

The deadline for submitting abstracts is Monday, January 17, 2011. 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.

Abstracts may be submitted via an on-line form at www.WaterSmartInnovations.com. A complete list of topics and submittal guidelines is available at the Web site. Candidates chosen as presenters will be notified by e-mail and postal mail no later than Friday, March 11, 2011.

86% of U.S. Rivers Are “Impaired” says New study By Sandra L. Postel, National Geographic Freshwater Fellow

Colorado-riverMost rivers no longer flow the way they're supposed to flow, and that's changing the mix of fish and other organisms that call them home, according to a new study.

The most extensive study ever done of changes in river flows across the United States is a wake-up call about the state of American waterways. Scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) examined flow patterns at 2,888 river locations and compared what they found with the flows they'd expect to find under natural conditions. They focused on changes in the magnitude of flows--the highs and lows that are so crucial to giving river creatures the habitats and life-cycle cues they need to survive.

What ecologist Daren Carlisle and his colleagues found is nothing short of a wake-up call to make the restoration of river flows a high priority. Flows were altered in nearly nine in ten river segments, and compared with eight other variables--including water temperature, nitrogen and phosphorus pollution, and the loss of riverside land to farming or urban uses--stream-flow alteration was the primary predictor of a river's biological integrity.

The study appeared October 25 in the online version of Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, a journal of the Ecological Society of America. Learn more here.

Water is “Most Important Service” – New Study

A new survey recently released by ITT indicates the importance that Americans place on Water. The majority of respondents named water as the most important service they receive, above electricity, heat, the Internet, and cell phones.

However, about 70 percent also admitted they take water for granted, believing it is readily accessible in the United States. As to future water problems in this country related to either shortages or infrastructure, slightly more than 50 percent were "somewhat concerned" about these issues.

Among the other findings were these:

  • The overwhelming majority believe that government entities should be responsible for fixing water infrastructure problems
  • More than 80 percent believe the government should invest more money into upgrading pipes and related water infrastructure
  • Sixty-three percent of the voters and 57 percent of the business respondents say they are willing to pay the necessary expenses to upgrade U.S. water systems.

Learn more about the ITT water survey here.

Rain Bird Offers Grants for Water Conservation and Environmental Sustainability that Promote Green Spaces

rainbirdAre you looking for money to fund a water conservation or sustainability project?  The Intelligent Use of Water Awards, sponsored by Rain Bird, is an interactive grant program that awards funds to water conservation and environmental sustainability projects that promote green spaces.

Anyone around the world with access to the Internet can submit a project via the Intelligent Use of Water Awards website at www.iuowawards.com and promote it within his or her own community. All projects are anonymously voted upon by visitors (one vote a day per project, per individual user), and the projects with the most votes will receive funding from Rain Bird according to their funding category.  Rain Bird will award four $1,500 projects, three $5,000 projects, and three $10,000 projects.

Established in 2008, the annual Intelligent Use of Water Awards program recognizes individuals and organizations whose innovation, leadership, ingenuity and dedication to the management and protection of Earth’s most precious natural resource through improved landscape water efficiency raises the standard for outdoor water conservation. ]

After three years of honoring individuals and organizations for their completed projects, The Intelligent Use of Water Awards program was revamped in 2010 to help fund future water conservation projects.  Learn more here.

LEED Opens Comment Period on Green Building Rating System Update

The first public comment period for the next update to the LEED green building rating systems is now open. This public comment period includes all LEED rating systems, including the BD+C, ID+C and O+M rating system groups, LEED for Neighborhood Development, and LEED for Homes.

LEED strives to have a consensus-driven rating development process where users and stakeholders give input on the direction of the proposed rating systems. The first public comment period will remain open through Dec. 31, 2010. Learn more and submit comments here.

Lawsuit Against USGBC Alleges Fraud and Deceptive Trade Practices in LEED Program

justice_scalesHenry Gifford, a mechanical systems designer and strong proponent of energy efficiency, has filed suit against the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) alleging fraud, false advertising, deceptive trade practices, and unfair competition in the LEED program.

The suit was filed on behalf of people who have certified their building under LEED, all those who design energy-efficient buildings whose lives are injured by USGBC's "monopolization of the market", and all taxpayers whose city and state tax dollars are spent on the cost of LEED certification in publicly commissioned buildings. The lawsuit requests $100 million in damages.

Gifford has been a public critic of LEED for several years. Key arguments for the lawsuit were first aired in an article he published in 2008, which questions the energy reductions achieved by LEED certified buildings.  According to Gifford’s analysis, LEED buildings may actually use 29% more energy.

Gifford’s research criticizes the New Buildings Institute (NBI) report, Energy Performance of LEED for New Construction Buildings , a study commissioned by the USGBC to measure how much energy LEED buildings actually used. Gifford contends that the sampling of LEED buildings was not random, but rather consisted of a self-selected sample of owners or operators of LEED certified buildings who were willing to share their energy use data.  This, according to Gifford, "is a little like making generalizations about drivers' blood alcohol levels from the results of people who volunteer for a roadside breathalyzer test."

Gifford also notes that the NBI report used energy data from LEED buildings that were all built or renovated after 2000 -- meaning they automatically benefit from recent advances in the energy efficiency of lighting fixtures, cooling equipment, etc. The LEED buildings were compared against energy data from buildings that were, in some cases, built before 1920.

Gifford is not the first outspoken critic of the LEED program, but he is the first to file a high profile anti-trust lawsuit.  Learn more about the lawsuit against LEED here.

Federal Trade Commission Proposes Revisions to Green Guides

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on October 6, 2010, proposed revisions to the guidance that it gives marketers to help them avoid making misleading environmental claims. The proposed changes are designed to update the Guides and make them easier for companies to understand and use.

The changes to the "Green Guides" include new guidance on marketers' use of product certifications and seals of approval, "renewable energy" claims, "renewable materials" claims, and "carbon offset" claims.

"In recent years, businesses have increasingly used 'green' marketing to capture consumers' attention and move Americans toward a more environmentally friendly future. But what companies think green claims mean and what consumers really understand are sometimes two different things," said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz. "The proposed updates to the Green Guides will help businesses better align their product claims with consumer expectations."

The Green Guides were first issued in 1992 to help marketers ensure that the claims they are making are true and substantiated. The Guides were revised in 1996 and 1998. The guidance they provide includes: 1) general principles that apply to all environmental marketing claims; 2) how consumers are likely to interpret particular claims and how marketers can substantiate these claims; and 3) how marketers can qualify their claims to avoid deceiving consumers.  Learn more here.

Restoring the Chesapeake Bay Requires Changes for Lawns

chesapeake_bayFertilizer runoff from Virginia and Maryland farms has long been the focus of efforts to restore the Chesapeake Bay, but environmental officials are now turning their attention to suburban lawns as a potential source of nitrogen and phosphorus in one of America’s most endangered waterways.

Lawns are frequently coated with pesticides, fertilizer, and pet excrement that washes off in the rain and causes environmental problems downstream in the Chesapeake.

The Obama Administration plan for the Chesapeake calls for changes to land use practices.  Under the plan, farmers must cut back on fertilizer, wastewater plans should be upgraded, stormwater runoff better managed, and some lawns could be replaced by rain gardens or native plants requiring less fertilizer and irrigation.

"The well-manicured, beautiful, dark-green, over-fertilized lawn can be part of the problem," said Randy Bartlett, a public works official in Fairfax County, Virginia. He said that in addition to paying more fees, residents might see new rules or incentive programs designed to make them view their lawn differently. "It's kind of like with the seat belts. It took us a while to get used to it."

The Chesapeake's most significant problems are caused by two pollutants, nitrogen and phosphorus, that wash downstream in manure, treated sewage and fertilizer. In the Chesapeake, nitrogen and phosphorus feed unnatural algae blooms that rob the water of dissolved oxygen, creating underwater "dead zones."  These problems have not been resolved, despite a 27-year cleanup effort that has cost billions of dollars, but the EPA says it is determined to put the cleanup on course.   Learn more about plans for the Chesapeake Bay here.

News Briefs and Web Links

  • Study Finds Cost Not a Barrier to Xeriscape in New Mexico - Water-intensive lawn landscapes are increasingly giving way to more water efficient and climate appropriate landscapes and more than 70% of respondents in a recent survey indicated that cost was not a barrier to xeriscape adoption.  Learn more about this study from New Mexico State University here.
  • MaP Testing Update on AWE Site – Get the latest Maximum Performance toilet testing results on the AWE MaP pages.  Updates on tank toilets and HETs are now available here.
  • Osann Wins CUWCC Conservation Award – The California Urban Water Conservation Council (CUWCC) has awarded Ed Osann of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) the Mike Moynahan Excellence Award for 2010 for his work advancing water conservation.  Congratulations Ed!
  • Canadian POLIS Project Releases WaterSmart Toolkit - Developed from six years of POLIS Water Sustainability Project practice and research, the WaterSmart Toolkit offers practical resources for community water conservation. The Toolkit supports communities transition from supply-side management to long-term integrated water conservation planning.
  • Earth’s Lakes are Warming - In the first comprehensive global survey of temperature trends in major lakes, NASA researchers determined Earth's largest lakes have warmed during the past 25 years in response to climate change.  Learn more here.
  • AWE web site featured on NPR Science Friday – The Alliance for Water Efficiency web site is the “go to” place for expert information on water conservation.  NPR’s Science Friday show web site recently featured a link to the manufacturing section of the AWE resource library.
  • Johnson Foundation Issues Call to Action on Freshwater Challenges - The Johnson Foundation released its report: Charting New Waters: A Call to Action to Address U.S. Freshwater Challenges on September 15, 2010 and is now calling for action. The Johnson Foundation has declared December 9th to be Commitments Day, and hopes you will join them with a commitment to freshwater. On December 9th, the Johnson Foundation will unveil a new website where you can submit your commitment for publication alongside the commitments of fellow freshwater champions.  Learn more here.
  • Managing One Water Report Available - The Clean Water America Alliance has announced the release of its third national dialogue summary report entitled Managing One Water . The report summarizes the national dialogue held in Los Angeles, CA in September 2010. With featured speakers Bill Bertera, Executive Director of the Water Environment Federation, and Paul Reiter, Executive Director of the International Water Association, the dialogue focused on what is and is not working today in terms of water management, what the barriers are, and what steps could be taken to better integrate drinking water, wastewater, groundwater, reused water, and stormwater.  Download the report here.
  • European Water Partnership Launches Aquawareness.eu Portal - The European Water Partnership (EWP) has launched a site that will gather successful water awareness campaigns in one location to improve on future offerings.  The EWP invites water campaigners to present and share smart awareness-raising activities and projects on the public accessible Aquawareness portal. Aquawareness.eu offers existent campaigns on water a focal point to communicate and disseminate creative ideas and actions and serves as a source for inspiration, information and networking.
  • UN Human Rights Council Acknowledges Formal Human Right to Water - On September 24, the UN Human Rights Council adopted a binding resolution that: "Affirms that the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation is derived from the right to an adequate standard of living and inextricably related to the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, as well as the right to life and human dignity."
  • Lake Mead and Lake Powell Levels Remain Well Below Capacity – According to the US Bureau of Reclamation, on December 6 the Lake Powell storage was 14,857 thousand acre-feet (KAF) (61 percent of capacity). Lake Mead storage was 9,958 KAF (38 percent of capacity).  Total system storage was 32,335 KAF (54 percent of capacity).
  • “Smart” Electricity Meters’ Accuracy Questioned – Are Water Meters Next?A recent New York Times article reported on accuracy issues with electricity meters.  Hopefully this is a problem that can be avoided in the water industry.
  • Denver Water Raises Rates for 20th Straight Year – Denver Water voted last month to raise rates--continuing a 20-year trend.  During that 20 year span Denver Water has implemented water conservation at varying levels of intensity.  Starting in March 2011, metro-area residents' bills will increase by an average of $41 a year in Denver and $32 a year in suburban areas, utility spokeswoman Stacey Chesney said.  It will be the 20th straight year that Denver Water customers have faced rate hikes.  Read more here.
  • Northhampton Ends Water Ban - The city of Northampton, Massachusetts, has ended their summer-long ban on non-essential water use. Since June, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) had put a ban on the use of lawn sprinklers, domestic car washing and other activities that use water.  According to reports, recent studies showed that the stream flow into the local water supply has returned to normal, so the DEP ordered the restrictions be lifted.
  • Pacific Institute and UN Global Compact Issue Guide for Businesses Engagement with Water Policy - With water issues among the world's most critical sustainability challenges, businesses are facing increasing water-related risk to their operations. The just-released Guide to Responsible Business Engagement with Water Policy from the UN Global Compact CEO Water Mandate provides strategies for companies to turn risk into opportunity by advocating for water management approaches that meet the needs of business, communities, and nature.  Download the report here.
  • Waterless Urinal for Women Now Available – In the on-going effort to improve human sanitation, offer new convenience, and reduce water use comes the new “GoGirl Female Urination Device” a waterless, travel urinal for women.  Will utilities offer rebates for this?  Judge for yourself 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.