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...

Industrial Conservation Opportunities Abound: New AWE Study Cover Smr

Significant cost-effective opportunities for water savings exist in five key industry sectors, according to a new research report from the Alliance for Water Efficiency. The study titled, Assessing the Economic and Environmental Benefits of Industrial Water Use Efficiency within the Great Lakes Region, examined five industries with a variety of water sources and wastewater receiving waters.  The research found that 66 million gallons per year could be saved at just five sites, most of which would also reduce wastewater flows in a roughly equal amount.  The payback time for these improvements ranged from .2 years to 5.8 years, averaging 1.2 years.  The average simple return on investment across the full project was 84%.

AWE conducted this research with funding from the Great Lakes Protection Fund and assessed five representative industries within the Great Lakes watershed that are supplied with treated drinking water and that discharge to a local wastewater utility. 

The assessments that were conducted focused on four factors:

  1. Potential water conservation opportunities;
  2. Benefits and costs from the water user’s perspective;
  3. The environmental benefits of undertaking those conservation opportunities; and
  4. A strategy for providing funding assistance to industries.

The regional environmental benefits of the potential water savings identified through this study include healthier aquatic ecosystems, improved stream flows and aquifer levels, and air quality improvements through reduced energy requirements for pumping.

The study found that the five industries examined have potential water savings of approximately 560 billion gallons over an average 20-year life of the projects .  The Great Lakes region is home to approximately 1,000 comparable facilities.  In rough numbers, therefore, the water savings revealed could amount to roughly .2% of the potential water savings and related environmental impacts throughout the basin if applied to similar industries in the basin.  While these numbers represent only a rough approximation, they are meaningful in their size and impact and are particularly significant in stressed watersheds.

AWE will conduct a webinar on this study on Wednesday, February 13, 2013.   Learn more about the study and access the full report here.

AWE Releases Summary of Declining Water Sales and Revenue Summit

Declining Report Cover SmIn August 2012, AWE and The Johnson Foundation at Wingspread co-hosted a summit with water utility mangers, rate experts, price regulators, economists, and advocacy groups to explore the issues surrounding declining water sales, utility revenue losses, and the impact on conservation programs.  A report including the summit results, as well as a detailed background framing paper, can be downloaded here.

Colorado River Flows to Decline, Demand to Increase: Bureau of Rec. Study

Over the next 50 years, the flows in the Colorado River are expected to decline by an average of 9% while climate changes pushes demand up an average of 4%, according to the new Colorado River Basin Water Supply & Demand Study released by the Bureau of Reclamation.  The forecasting models used to estimate these changes show a variety of potential supply and demand outcomes in the Colorado River Basin, but there is broad agreement among report authors about the best, least cost solution: Water conservation – both municipal and agricultural.

Lake MeadWater use efficiency, conservation, and reuse are the safest bests for the future,” said Brad Udall, Director of the Western Water Assessment at the NOAA Earth Science Research Laboratory in Boulder Colorado.  “Developing new supply is the riskiest bet,” he added.  Udall spoke at a recent webinar sponsored by the Water Efficiency Action Network for the Colorado River Basin States and hosted and coordinated by the Alliance for Water Efficiency .

“Water conservation is cheap, fast, and flexible,” explained Drew Beckwith, Water Policy Manager for Western Resource Advocates, another presenter at the webinar.  “The conservation potential for the basin is underestimated in this Bureau study,” Beckwith added, noting that municipal per capita water demands have declined by about 1% per year on average over the past 20 years.

Eric Kuhn, General Manager of the Colorado River District based in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, agreed that conservation was the best option, but stressed that conservation programs must focus on reducing consumptive use.  “Grass management in both the urban and agricultural sectors is the best answer,” Kuhn said explaining that reducing the water used for irrigation offers consumptive use savings.

Bill Hasencamp, Manager of Colorado River Resources for the Metropolitan Water District, was less optimistic about the potential for additional water efficiency in Southern California.  “There is no more low-hanging fruit available,” Hasencamp said.  Beckwith disagreed, noting that not only is there still low-hanging fruit in conservation, “there is fruit on the ground.”

The Colorado River Basin Supply & Demand Study has generated intense interest from stakeholders across the western United States.  If you missed the recent webinar, you can watch and listen to it online here.

Better Water and Energy Planning and Coordination Required: GAO

GAO-logoThe US General Accounting Office (GAO) says that a coordinated federal approach is needed to better manage energy and water tradeoffs.  In a report issued in 2012, the GAO found that, “Improved energy and water planning will require better coordination among federal agencies and other stakeholders.”

According to the report, “GAO’s work has demonstrated that energy and water planning are generally “stove-piped,” with decisions about one resource made without considering impacts to the other resource.”  The solution recommended by the GAO includes improved planning and greater cooperation between federal agencies and stakeholders such as state and local agencies, academia, industry, and environmental groups.

The report notes that “Congress and some agencies have taken steps to improve coordination, but these actions are incomplete or in their early stages. For example, in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, Congress directed the Department of Energy (DOE) to establish a federal program to address the energy-water nexus, but DOE has not done so.”

Learn more and download the GAO report here.

 Updated WaterSense New Home Specification Takes Effect

WaterSense LogoOut with the old and in with the new.  On Jan. 1, 2013, the revised WaterSense new home specification, (version 1.1), officially took effect.  From 2013 forward, any home seeking the WaterSense label must meet the new criteria, which includes several key modifications.

Under the WaterSense new home specification, version 1.1, new homes seeking the WaterSense label must include all residential products that can earn the WaterSense label, including shower heads and weather-based irrigation controllers (if an automatic irrigation system is installed). The updated specification also requires use of the WaterSense water budget tool to help develop an outdoor water budget to ensure a water efficient landscape that incorporates local climate conditions. 

Significantly, the updated WaterSense new home specification opens the door for multi-family buildings to earn the WaterSense label for the first time.

WaterSense will be holding a WaterSense: 101 webinar on Feb. 6, 2013, geared toward potential multi-family builder partners.  Learn more about the WaterSense new home specification here.

BLM Green Lights Southern Nevada Groundwater Project

Nevada State FlagThe US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) gave the green light to a project that could bring more than 80,000 acre-feet of water to Southern Nevada. The decision follows a finding by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service that the project would not jeopardize federally endangered or threatened species in the area.

Federal officials have signed a Record of Decision authorizing the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA), the water agency that supplies water to Las Vegas and surrounding communities, to construct facilities associated with the Clark, Lincoln and White Pine Counties Groundwater Development Project.

“This is a huge milestone for Southern Nevada,” said SNWA General Manager Patricia Mulroy. “The ability to draw upon a portion of our own state’s renewable groundwater supplies reduces our dependence on the drought-prone Colorado River and provides a critical safety net for the two million people who call Southern Nevada home.”

Learn more about the BLM decision here.

2012 “Flash Drought” Extends Into 2013

http://drought.unl.edu/Portals/0/user_image/news/images2013/drmon0108.gifThe drought that swept across wide areas of the United States in the past year was historically unusual in its speed, its intensity and its size, climatologists at the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln said in December.

Dry conditions are expected to last at least through winter as NDMC forecasts show little sign of quick improvement, deepening the negative effects on agriculture, water supplies, food prices and wildlife.

"We usually tell people that drought is a slow-moving natural disaster, but this year was more of a flash drought," said Mark Svoboda, a center climatologist and an author of the weekly U.S. Drought Monitor. "With the sustained, widespread heat waves during the spring and early summer coupled with the lack of rains, the impacts came on in a matter of weeks instead of over several months."

January to November 2012 was the warmest January-to-November out of 118 years of data for many states from Utah to Massachusetts.  January to November 2012 was the driest January-to-November for Nebraska, Colorado and Wyoming in 118 years of data.

EPA Releases “National Water Program 2012 Strategy: Response to Climate Change”

National Water Program 2012 Strategy: Response to Climate Change Cover The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released a major new water strategy document addressing the critical issue of climate change and water resources.  As part of the response strategy, EPA plans to work with state, tribal, and local governments and public and private stakeholders to understand the science, develop tools, and implement actions to respond to the impacts of climate change on water resources and to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.

The strategy document says that climate change impacts will vary in different regions of the U.S., but potential impacts include increased flooding and drought, water quality and ecological impairment, damage to infrastructure, and other impacts to society caused by:

  • Severity and length of droughts.
  • Less total annual rainfall, less snowpack in the mountains and earlier snowmelt.
  • Warming air temperature that raises stream and lake temperatures.
  • Increases in rain and heavy precipitation events.
  • Sea level rise and encroachment of saline waters into freshwater areas

Learn more and download the National Water Program 2012 Strategy document here.

Landscape Irrigation Sprinkler and Emitter Standard Draft Open for Public Comment

pop up rotator headsThe International Code Council Consensus Committee on Landscape Irrigation Emission Devices has produced a first draft of ASABE/ICC 802-201. The standard seeks to establish minimum requirements for landscape irrigation sprinklers and micro-irrigation products in order to:

  • Ensure adequate safety and performance.
  • Specify testing methods.
  • Promote uniformity in classifying, rating and marking landscape irrigation sprinklers and emitters.

The draft is the product of a joint effort between ICC and American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers. The deadline for public comment is Feb. 18.  The draft is available for review here.

California Irrigation Institute's Annual Conference Set for Early February 2013

The 51st Annual California Irrigation Institute Conference, Embracing Innovation: The Next Generation will be held on February 4-5, 2013 in Sacramento, CA. Engage with colleagues in discussing the future of California Water. Join them in their continuing mission to explore new technologies, to seek out new techniques and new practices. A special feature of this year’s conference will be a free course on water budget management, with the potential to take an exam and be certified.  Learn more and register here.

18th Annual Water Conservation Conference Set for Late February 2013

The 18th Annual Water Conservation Conference, Our Water, Our Future: Communication and Cooperation Across Disciplines will be held on Feb 28 - Mar 1, 2013 in Albuquerque, NM. The conference is an interdisciplinary collaborative effort of The Xeriscape Council of New Mexico and Arid LID.  The conference is expected to attract more than 250 land and water use professionals. The agenda features expert speakers, networking opportunities, a catered lunch, and more.  Learn more and register here.

News Briefs and Web Links

  • 2012: Hottest year ever in US…by far – How hot was 2012?  It smashed average temperature records by a full 1 degree Fahrenheit making 2012 the hottest year ever in the U.S.  Read more about this troubling new record here.
  • Seeking comments of rainwater catchment standards – The comment period on rainwater catchment design and installation standards closes January 18, 2013.  Learn more and submit comments here.
  • US weathered 11 separate billion-dollar extreme climate events in 2012 -  In 2012, the United States experienced 11 extreme weather and climate events that cost more than $1 billion in losses, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climactic Data Center.  Learn more here.
  • New study of outdoor residential water use in Texas – A study from the Texas Water Development Board evaluated indoor and outdoor consumption patterns for 259 Texas cities from 2004 through 2008 and for 17 Texas cities from 2004 through 2011. Download the report here.
  • A pipeline from the Missouri River to the Colorado River? – In an era of growing water scarcity, farfetched ideas are getting a serious hearing.  This one may prove too expensive to implement, but who knows.  Learn more here. 
  • Brown is the new green for golf courses in winter – Over-building and rising water costs have changed winter management of golf courses in the southwest according to the Wall Street Journal.  Learn more here.
  • Experts in India recommend pricing water for conservation – In water scarce regions like India, economists are recommending the use of water pricing to reduce demand.  Learn more here.
  • What a difference a rate makes – This blog post examines the impact of electric rates on holiday lighting decisions with clear analogies to water.
  • Danger Will Robinson!  A poop powered robot? - A robot powered by human waste from a sewage treatment works has been unveiled. Learn more 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.

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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.