Water Efficiency Watch is the online newsletter of the
Alliance for Water Efficiency, edited by Peter Mayer.
In this issue of Water Efficiency Watch...
Drought Weakens Across the US,
but Lingers in Key Regions
The winter of
2016-17 has brought welcome relief from severe drought impacting California and
the Southeast US including Georgia, but parts of both states remain in declared
drought. The latest US Drought Monitor
shows significantly improved conditions in these regions, although extreme
drought conditions persist in six places across the country.
snowpack is now at 184% of average for this time of year, and 127% of the April
1 average — typically the year’s high point. In February, the State Water
Resources Control Board held firm in the face of opposition and extended the
state’s emergency drought regulations, pledging to revisit them in May, when
the state’s traditional rainy season has ended.
The board decided
last spring that local water districts were allowed to set their own savings
targets based on water supply and demand forecasts tailored to their areas. That
means that places that received a lot of rain — and communities that purchase
or are entitled to water from sources there —
see fewer restrictions, while dry areas without water from those replenished
supplies are still under conservation requirements.
Much of Northern
California is out of drought thanks to one of the wettest seasons on record.
Southern California has also seen record rainfall, but relies heavily on the
Colorado River system which remains in structural deficit. Additionally, parts of California’s Central
Coast and Central Valley remain in drought and groundwater shortages remain in
many areas, including the southern Central Valley.
analysis from Yale and UCLA universities suggestions the record-breaking
drought in California is not chiefly the result of low precipitation, but
instead three factors – rising temperatures, groundwater depletion, and a
shrinking Colorado River.
Environmental Protection Division declared a Level 2 drought response on
November 17, 2016 across 52 counties, including the 15 counties in the Metropolitan
North Georgia Water Planning District. From March to November of 2016, just
over 23 inches of rain fell in the metro area, which is nearly 14 inches below
average rainfall. Although conditions
have improved, the drought declaration persists due to the moisture deficit.
Drought watch and
drought advisory conditions have been declared across Connecticut since Oct. 26,
2016 as dry conditions have persisted. All residents and
businesses have been asked to reduce their water use by 10 – 15%.
AWE Seeks Tax Exempt Status for Water
Conservation and Green Infrastructure Rebates
energy utilities are tax-exempt, but not rebates from water utilities, whether
they be for drinking water efficiency, wastewater, or storm water programs.
Because water utilities cannot process tax-free rebates, they often provide
1099s at the end of the year to customers that have received $600 or more in
water rebates. This tax liability serves as a disincentive to water efficiency
retrofit programs and other worthy efforts to encourage sustainable water use.
For the past
several years, AWE has spearheaded a coalition of non-profit organizations,
water providers and others to advocate for a solution. In 2016, 34 members of
Congress sent a letter to the IRS requesting this change, and many communities
have issued a resolution voicing support for a solution.
In February 2017,
a group of seven U.S. Senators including Diane Feinstein D(CA), Jeff Flake
R(AZ), Michael Bennet D(CO), Cory Gardener R(CO), Dean Heller R(NV), Maria
Cantwell D(WA) and Patty Murray D(WA) have sent a
letter to Acting Secretary of the Treasury Adam Szubin requesting
clarification on the taxation of rebates for water conservation.
The letter asks
Acting Secretary Szubin to clarify if “water conservation rebates and storm
water management rebates, including the installation of green infrastructure,
can be excluded from residents’ taxable income.” This has become an important question as
large rebates for turf replacement and other measures have recently been
provided. AWE works on this issue from a
legislative angle, seeking Congressional action. Download the
resolution supporting this effort that AWE asks all of members to sign.
AWE Welcomes New Board Members and a New
AWE's Board of Directors will have two new Directors in 2017. The following new Directors will serve a
three-year term, expiring in 2019:
Gombos, Manager of Water Efficiency at the Regional Municipality of Waterloo,
Westbrook, Vice President, Customer and Regulatory Affairs at Connecticut Water
The Board also
welcomed Pete DeMarco of the International Association of Plumbing and
Mechanical Officials as incoming 2017 Board Chair.
Steve Gombos is the Manager of Water Efficiency at the
Regional Municipality of Waterloo, Ontario and has been in this role for 16
years. His responsibilities include the development of their Water Efficiency
Master Plan, and delivering water conservation programs. He is a past chair of
the Ontario Water Works Association Water Efficiency Committee and remains
active in committees associated with the Canadian Water and Wastewater
Association and the Canadian National Water Efficiency Network. He participates
in water conservation research, and plumbing-related standards development with
organizations such as the Canadian Standards Association and NSF International.
He is a past member of the Great Lakes Charter Annex Advisory Panel, and also
assisted the Council of Great Lakes Governors’ Conservation Committee develop
Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River Basin regional water conservation
objectives. Prior to focusing on water, Steve spent 10 years developing and
implementing municipal Waste Management programs.
Maureen Westbrook is the Vice President of Customer and
Regulatory Affairs at Connecticut Water Company. In her 28 years with the
company, Maureen has held various positions in the areas of source protection,
water resource planning, regulatory compliance, business development, community
outreach, customer communications, and customer service. Her focus is on
developing strategies, legislation and programs that balance the interests of
the company, its customers, and other stakeholders, protecting water supplies
and promoting environmental stewardship. Her contributions have resulted in the
passage of legislation providing tax credits for open space donations and
ratemaking tools that support infrastructure replacement and water
conservation. Prior to joining Connecticut Water Company, Maureen worked in the
Connecticut Department of Public Health and as a town planner in a local
AWE Offers Tools for Developing
Affordability is fast becoming a critical component of utility
operations, so creating impactful rates, that are both sustainable and
affordable in the long-term, will help stabilize revenue and keep the utility
on pace with system and customer needs.
AWE has developed
useful resources to guide utilities through the process of evaluating the
impact of their rates on their most financially disadvantaged customers.
- Affordability Assessment Tool for Federal Water Mandates includes
tools for analyzing socioeconomic indicators and income distributions within a
service area to assess the feasibility of a rate structure. It contains
helpful information on many other affordability-rates issues, and uses charts
and real-world examples to guide a reader through the appropriate
considerations for addressing this tough issue.
- The University of North Carolina’s
Environmental Finance Center has a free, comprehensive tool that
can guide utility rate makers through this assessment. The Water and Wastewater Residential Rates Affordability Assessment
Tool uses multiple metrics based on billing and demographic
information to help users understand what ‘affordable’ actually is within their
own service area. It also allows users to compare two rate structures
side-by-side and to assess the impact of each, or the impact of changing from a
current to proposed structure.
- The latest version of AWE’s free Sales Forecasting and Rate Model offers an
Affordability Index—a feature that indicates whether a change from current to
proposed rate structure will significantly impact customers. The Rate
Model also includes several visual representations that express to what extent
a water bill will be impacted by changes to the rates. This kind of
information is very helpful when communicating proposed changes to customers
and community organizations.
Learn more at AWE’s Financing
Sustainable Water website.
New Reports on Shower Water Use from MaP
Bill Gauley and John Koeller, the brilliant engineers behind Maximum
Performance Testing (MaP) for toilets and fixtures, have released two new
research reports of shower water use.
These reports leverage data and information from the updated Residential
End Uses of Water study and are available for free download.
Energy Star Releases Updated
Clothes Washer Specification
The Energy Star
specification for residential and commercial clothes washers is currently under
revision by the Department of Energy. Materials
related to this revision process are available here. Partners and other
interested parties with questions or concerns regarding these materials or the
revision process can contact Melissa
Moving Forward Report Released
The National Institute of
Building Sciences' Consultative Council released its 2016 report, Moving
Forward: Findings and Recommendations from the Consultative Council, at
its annual conference in Washington, D.C. The report is delivered to the
President of the United States and Congress and contains detailed
recommendations reflecting the consensus of the construction community on the
topics of Workforce Development and Water Resources. AWE’s new Board Chair,
Pete DeMarco, Executive Vice President of Advocacy and Research at IAPMO,
served as Chair of the Consultative Council in 2016.
Among the 19 specific recommendations contained in the
Water Resources section is a call for re-establishing the plumbing research
laboratory at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). There
has long been support for reconstituting the NIST plumbing research laboratory
that was disbanded in the 1980s due to budgetary constraints, and U.S. Rep.
Matt Cartwright (D-Penn.) reintroduced legislation that would do so — H.R.
301 — on Jan. 5.
AWE has provided input on water efficiency to NIBS'
Moving Forward Report since 2010. IAPMO
and the American Society of Plumbing Engineers (ASPE) also provided content for
the water-related recommendations contained in the 2016 report.
Canada Offers New Programs to Address Infrastructure Planning and
Canada has launched two new
programs to address climate change in communities and to strengthen
infrastructure planning and decision-making.
The Municipalities for Climate Innovation Program and the
Municipal Asset Management Program will provide municipalities with access to
funding, training and learning opportunities to increase their capacity to
reduce greenhouse gas emissions, build resilience to the impacts of climate
change, and support better planning and management of municipal infrastructure.
- The Government announced investments over the
next five years in infrastructure that protects communities and supports
Canada's ongoing transition to a clean growth economy.
- To support municipalities' front-line efforts,
the Government is providing $75 million for the delivery of the Municipalities
for Climate Innovation Program.
- The Government has also endowed the Federation
of Canadian Municipalities with $50 million to establish the Municipal Asset
- The Government will provide more than $180
billion in infrastructure funding over 12 years for public transit, green
infrastructure, social infrastructure, transportation that supports trade, and
Canada's rural and northern communities.
about the programs are available here.
Talk Water Conservation in DC
Nearly a dozen Western mayors gathered in January to
discuss anything and everything “water” except the Colorado River drought
contingency plan, “the 800-pound gorilla in the room” according to Phoenix
Mayor Greg Stanton.
Stanton, speaking after a panel on the issue at the U.S.
Conference of Mayors meeting in Washington DC, said the federal contingency
plan is under “delicate negotiation” and that it is better left untouched by
the mayors – for now. The plan will determine how water from the Colorado
River, and Lake Mead, is allotted.
“The point of
bringing this group together was making us challenge each other, be our better
selves, go further than we thought we were going to go on water conservation
policy,” Stanton said.
was a topic of discussion at the gathering which included Mayors largely from
Arizona and California.
Water Loss Control Events
The AWWA Water Loss Control Committee
is offering the following events in locations near and far:
EPA to Fund $4 Million for Drinking Water Quality Research Related to
In early January, the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced approximately $4 million in
funding to two universities to research water quality issues related to low
flow conditions of drinking water in premise plumbing systems.
“The research announced today will guide decision makers
as they design, renovate, or manage plumbing systems to provide safe and clean
drinking water,” said Thomas Burke, agency science advisor and deputy assistant
administrator of EPA’s Office of Research and Development. Grants were awarded
to teams at Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA and Purdue University, West
Premise plumbing is the portion of the drinking water
distribution system located within a building, including pipes, valves and
faucets that carry water from its entry into a building all the way to the
consumer’s tap. The research announced will provide a greater understanding of
health risks associated with low flows.
Decreases in water consumption result in lower flows of
water through water system pipes that were designed to manage higher flows,
which may negatively impact water quality. Waterborne disease outbreaks (such
as Legionella) can occur due to issues within premise plumbing systems,
emphasizing the importance of this research.
The awardees will create methods, tools, and models to
help design plumbing systems that will ensure appropriate flows and water
pressures, while delivering clean drinking water at actual consumption levels.
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