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...

DOW Waives Preemption Rule for Conservation Standards, States Can Mandate More Efficient Products

DOE LogoThe United States Department of Energy (DOE) has waived the general rule of Federal preemption for water conservation standards.  This preemption is related specifically to the water use and efficiency of showerheads, faucets, toilets, and urinals, and is effective as of December 22, 2010.  With the Federal preemption waived, states are able to set plumbing standards that are stricter than the Federal standard.  Three states have already done so--California, Texas, and Georgia. 

“This could prove to be a very positive development,” said Shawn Martin, director of industry relations for the International Code Council Plumbing, Mechanical & Fuel Gas. “It removes a potential barrier to efforts by jurisdictions to improve their water efficiency efforts, and clears the way for the adoption of model green codes like the ICC’s International Green Construction Code.”

Some have suggested that the DOE is using the waiver as a way of avoiding making a ruling which would regulate multi-head shower fixtures since it essentially punts this issue back to the states and allows each state to establish standards for what constitutes a showerhead.  It was also suggested that the timing of the waiver, just three day before Christmas, was an effort to downplay the preemption waiver.

showerThe definition of what exactly constitutes a showerhead has proved vexing for DOE.  In June 2010, DOE announced that it was reinterpreting its showerhead rules in such a way that it would ban multi-head showers.  In the fall, the DOE solicited public comments on the reinterpretation. DOE had planned to issue a final ruling in 2010, but it has not done so as of publication.  With the preemption waiver, DOE may be able to postpone indefinitely finalizing the new showerhead rules.

AWE will continue to monitor and provide analysis on the long-term implications of this action.  To read the Federal Register announcement click here.

EPA Releases Revised Draft Specification for Weather-Based Irrigation Controllers

watersenseLogoThe U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released the WaterSense Revised Draft Specification for Weather-Based Irrigation Controllers.  The revised specification addresses key comments that were received after release of the previous draft.  The EPA has put significant effort into developing the weather-based controller specification since they first issued a notice of intent to label in 2007.  Once the specification is finalized, weather-based irrigation controllers that pass the required tests will bear the WaterSense label. 

EPA will hold an online public meeting on February 23, 2011 to share information and collect feedback on the revised draft specification. Attendees may choose between a morning session from 9 a.m. to noon (EST) or an afternoon session from 1 to 4 p.m. (EST). Visit https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/888296410 to register for the morning session of the webinar, or https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/339830435 to register for the afternoon session.

US and Mexico Reach Pact on Colorado River Water Storage 

Lake MeadA bi-national pact to allow Mexico to store a portion of its annual allocation from the Colorado River, up to 260,000 acre-feet over three years, in the largest US reservoir, Lake Mead, sets the stage for progress on environmental issues in ongoing talks between the two countries, according to Environmental Defense Fund (EDF).

As Lake Mead water levels continue to drop, a bi-national agreement to store water there that Mexico can't use until it repairs the damage from last April's earthquake to its irrigation systems, is the logical solution for both countries, according to Jennifer Pitt, director of EDF's Colorado River Project.

"Secretary Salazar's announcement proves that diplomacy deployed to create additional flexibility on the Colorado River has great potential,” Pitt said. “It can improve water supply reliability for water users in our country and Mexico, and protect our invaluable environmental resources."

Under the terms of the agreement, the United States and Mexico will dedicate water to the largest wetland in the Colorado River delta -- the Cienega de Santa Clara -- during pilot operation of the Yuma Desalting Plant in Arizona. The treated water is intended for inclusion in water deliveries to Mexico, and preserving the like amount of water in Lake Mead.

"For the first time in decades, the United States and Mexico are working productively towards mutually beneficial changes on the Colorado River," Pitt concluded.

EPA Issues New Report on Utility Water Loss

EPA Logo with BorderThe US EPA has issued a report titled “Control and Mitigation of Drinking Water Losses in Distribution Systems.”  The report describes utility water loss control programs, metering, and accounting. This report is available for free download here.

The report covers all areas of water loss control and discusses the current AWWA/IWA water loss methodology in detail.  Learn more here. 

Canadian Study IDs Opportunities and Constraints to Market Transformation for Water Efficient Products

Canada flagThe National Water Efficiency Committee (NWEC) of the Canadian Water and Wastewater Association (CWWA) has released a report that identifies constraints and opportunities for market transformation leading to increased adoption of water efficiency products and practices.  

The report authors, Freeman Associates, interviewed eighty-five key influencers regarding water use practices, services and products.  Interviews were drawn from a range of sectors:  Building/development, manufacturing, retail, trades (plumbing, landscaping contractors, irrigation contractors), government (particularly municipalities/water utilities), professionals (engineers, landscape architects) and academia. 

Findings from the research showed that a limited number of jurisdictions in North America are taking a progressive approach to water conservation and efficiency, as well as other water management issues such as watershed protection, storm water management and pollution prevention.   However, times are changing, and as issues pertaining to water availability, increases in storm magnitudes, and degradation of ground and surface water become more prevalent, jurisdictions and their constituents are responding.  Consequently, there is an emerging water management segment and interviews with key influences across relevant sectors identified innovative approaches and growing opportunities.  In conjunction, gaps or constraints to progressive water management and a resulting vibrant marketplace were also identified.  

There are abundant opportunities to stimulate progressive water management in Canada.  Ontario’s new Water Opportunities Act is setting the framework for establishing the province as a global leader in the water management industry.  Download the report here. 

Old Toilets Turned to Tile 

toilet_tile1aFireclay Tile is recycling old porcelain fixtures including toilets and turning them into new tile products for sale.  Traditionally, old toilets were ground up for road materials, but tile may prove to be a higher value use of old porcelain. 

Working closely with the San Francisco and San Jose city recyclers, Fireclay will be initially offsetting the landfill of over 150 tons of porcelain waste.  Fireclay and these two city recyclers identified porcelain-based products for this endeavor, setting those aside and storing them, and setting up a transportation and grinding operation to successfully deliver to Fireclay’s Northern California factory usable material ready to immediately be incorporated into Fireclay’s ceramic tile.

toilet_tile2aAccording to Ken Stewart, the operations manager for Recology in San Francisco, they have helped reclaim more than 30 tons of porcelain.  Michael Gross from Zanker Road Resource Management LTD in San Jose said that his company has helped reclaim over 120 tons of recycled porcelain materials.

In just twelve months well over 150 tons have been set aside, and the organizations intend to continue this effort indefinitely. Fireclay Tile also hopes to partner with other municipal waste providers for a similar effort, as 100 tons will only last the company roughly eight months. 

Learn more here.

California DWR Issues Climate Change and Water Planning Report

CaliforniaIn December, the California Department of Water Resources released a Final Report on "Climate Change Characterization and Analysis in California Water Resources Planning Studies."   The California DWR does not currently have a standard framework or a set of recommended approaches for considering climate change in its planning studies. This paper surveys and summarizes the approaches and methodologies that have been used over the last four years. It is the first comprehensive comparative look at the different approaches, their strengths and weaknesses, and how they have been used in past studies.

This work is anticipated to lay the groundwork for a future DWR study aimed at developing a standard framework and a consistent set of approaches to be used for characterizing and analyzing climate change in future DWR planning studies and which may provide guidance for DWR partners and grantees.

Historical planning practices that assume that past observations of climate and hydrology are reasonable predictors of future conditions have been called into question because of climate change. As a result, recent water resources planning in California, as in other places around the world, involves the development of new approaches to consider possible changes in future climate and hydrology.   Download the report here. 

IWA to Hold Water Loss Conference in Manila 

PP_flagThe next IWA Water Loss Conference will take place in Manila, Philippines, January 22-25, 2012.

Water Loss 2012 will offer information and discussion on the latest developments, strategies, techniques and applications of international best practices in non-revenue water management. The conference is the sixth event in a series of IWA water loss reduction specialty conferences, following the successful "Water Loss 2010" that was held in Sao Paulo, Brazil in June 2010 with 630 participants from more than 30 different countries from around the world.

The deadline for the submission of abstracts is March 1, 2011. Please send your abstracts here.

New York City Launches Real-Time Demand Monitoring

New York City has launched a new system online for real-time water use and bill tracking.  Households and businesses will be able to look at their water use in detail, identify ways to reduce waste and detect leaks.  This tool has been made possible through the city-wide rollout of a new automated meter reading (AMR) system, which means that estimated bills will never be seen again and that water customers will be able to access more accurate and timely data on their use.  The AMR wireless water meters are able to transmit water consumption data at least four times a day.  More information can be found here.

U. of Wisconsin, Milwaukee Offers Water Technology Certificate Course

The University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee School of Continuing Education is stepping up to educate the next generation of water sustainability professionals by offering a certificate course in water technology. 

Courses in the certificate program include: Watershed Planning – Putting the Pieces Together, Native Landscape Design for Stormwater, Water Law for Sustainable Management, Constructed Wetlands, and Design and Maintenance of Stormwater Infiltration Practices.  Courses on water efficiency are currently being designed.

Learn more about this program here.

Despite Rain San Diego Water Restrictions May Persist

December’s heavy rains in San Diego have raised hopes that irrigation restrictions could be eased or lifted this summer.  Don’t count on it yet. 

Since June 2009, the city has been under a level 2 drought alert, with mandatory restrictions. Authorities say don't expect those restrictions to be lifted anytime soon.

"Nobody should be lulled into complacency," San Diego County Water Authority Assistant General Manager Dennis Cushman said.

Cushman explained that just a small fraction of San Diego’s water supply comes from rain and local reservoirs.  "We might have a good year for rainfall here, but local rainfall in San Diego County only accounts for between 5-7 percent of all the water we use in San Diego County," he said.

The Colorado River provides about 50% of San Diego’s supply.  In Colorado, snowpack levels in the Colorado River Basin are currently 136% of average, but the next few months are typically the most important for establishing potential water supply.  Stay tuned.  Track Colorado snowpack levels here.

South Florida May Tie Irrigation Water Restrictions to Okeechobee Water Level

FloridaThe South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) board may impose emergency watering restrictions if levels in Lake Okeechobee continue to decline. SFWMD had already imposed year-round landscape watering restrictions to encourage conservation and boost water supplies, but after three consecutive months of below-normal rainfall, water levels continued to measure about two feet below average.

Under current rules, irrigation is allowed only three days a week for most of Southeast Florida. Broward and Miami-Dade counties have a tougher, twice-a-week watering rule, while Palm Beach County allows watering three days. 

If the lake drops another four inches, SFWM officials say they will be forced to impose even stricter restrictions.

DOE to Provide $7 Million to Support Updated Building Codes in 24 States

The Department of Energy (DOE) announced in December that it has selected 24 states to receive a total of $7 million to support the adoption of updated, energy-efficient building codes. The funding will expand the existing partnerships between states and the federal government and help states to more rapidly adopt new residential and commercial building codes, as well increase compliance with those codes.

This technical assistance through the Department’s Building Energy Codes program is being funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) will provide the selected states with up to $350,000 in technical assistance that include activities such as code trainings for the building community and adoption outreach to policy makers. Each state has committed to work with DOE to advance adoption, training, and compliance for the updated building codes.  Overall, the codes outline a multitude of energy efficiency measures related to the building envelope, HVAC systems, service water heating, power, and lighting.  It is unclear to what extent water efficiency will be addressed (if at all) through this effort.

The following states have been selected to receive technical assistance to help them adopt updated building energy codes:

  • Alabama—$329,665
  • Arizona—$324,500
  • Colorado—$257,376
  • Georgia—$337,532
  • Idaho—$245,263
  • Illinois—$332,707
  • Kentucky —$347,463
  • Maine—$348,264
  • Massachusetts—$350,000
  • Michigan—$350,000
  • Mississippi—$85,735
  • Missouri—$158,565
  • Montana—$141,705
  • Nebraska—$276,417
  • Nevada—$347,504
  • New Jersey—$346,018
  • New Mexico—$308,237
  • North Carolina—$346,126
  • South Carolina—$256,520
  • Texas—$300,415
  • Utah—$265,202
  • Virginia—$244,799
  • Washington—$349,937
  • Wisconsin—$349,989

San Bernadino County, CA Contemplates Landscape Planning, Water Efficiency Requirements 

Developers who wish to build residential and commercial projects in the unincorporated areas of San Bernardino County, California, will face stricter water conservation rules if the county board of supervisors passes a new ordinance.

Under the new rules, projects with landscape areas of more than 2,500 square feet in size would need to hire a landscape architect to prepare and submit detailed plans. Additionally, developers would have to install more efficient water irrigation systems, such as "smart" controllers or drip irrigation.

Officials say that the new measures are needed due to frequent droughts in California, where 60% of all residential water is used for landscaping.

New Jersey Approves Strict Fertilizer Control Measures

The New Jersey State Legislature has passed what have been described as the most restrictive standards on fertilizer in the country. The bill prohibits use of fertilizers within 10 feet of any body of water, whenever the ground is frozen or just before a heavy rainfall. Landscape professionals will be barred from applying fertilizer between December 1 and March 1.

In addition, fertilizer manufacturers will be required to include 20% slow-release nitrogen in their products. However, retailers will still be able to sell fertilizer with the old nitrogen standards for up to two years.

In Queensland, Australia Record Flooding Follows Record Drought 

Average rainfall across 280 regions that feed the Murray-Darling basin was the highest in 110 years, according to a new report released by South Australian water broker Waterfind. The 2010 Murray-Darling Basin Water Report also said there was more than 18 million megalitres in dams across the basin, exceeding the previous high of 13.9 million megalitres recorded in 2000. In 2007, reservoirs across the Murray-Darling basin were at 20% of capacity.

News Briefs and Web Links

  • Creating Turf Grass With Lower Water Requirement - Plant breeder Debra Hignight of NexGen Turf Research is testing turfgrass for drought-resistance as part of the Turfgrass Water Conservation Alliance program.  This is almost certainly the future of turf grass.  Learn more here.
  • AWWA Water Conservation Symposium, March 14-16, 2011 in Orlando, FL – Join the AWWA Water Conservation Division at a symposium in Orlando, Florida this March.  Learn more and register here.
  • New Study on Water Scarcity in Cyprus – Author - Theodoros Zachariadis; Title -  Residential Water Scarcity in Cyprus: Impact of Climate Change and Policy Options
  • Seattle Times Editorial Tackles the Pending Water Crisis – Good reading for anyone interested in public water supply.  View the editorial here.
  • High Country News Editorial Implores Arizona to Conserve Even in Times of Plenty – Jackie Wheeler notes that water use is something people have full control over. View the editorial here.
  • Contra Costa Times Editorial Sees State Constitutional Role in Water Conservation – The definition of “reasonable and beneficial” use in California is at the heart of this opinion piece.  View the editorial here.
  • The Visible Shower – Visualize Your Water Savings – Check out this shower tank system that lets you see the water before you use it.

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.