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...

 Research Gaps in Understanding the Connection between Water and Energy Identified in New AWE/ACEEE Report 

W-E White Paper Cover June 2013 SmAs the US struggles to carve a path to combat the effects of climate change through more sustainable resource management, gaps remain in the understanding of the relationship between water and energy. In July the Alliance for Water Efficiency (AWE) and its partner the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) released a report, Water-Energy Nexus Research: Recommendations for Future Opportunities which assesses existing research on this nexus and identifies priority research areas for investments to enhance integrated resource management and support overall efficiencies.

"Water is needed to produce energy, and energy is needed to pump, treat, move, and heat water,” said Mary Ann Dickinson, President and CEO of AWE.  “These linkages are profound. Our ability to achieve energy and water security as well as successful carbon reduction will only occur if we manage this connection between water and energy."

It takes large amounts of water to produce energy -- according to the US Geological Survey; in 2005 53% of all freshwater withdrawals in the U.S. were used for energy production. Similarly, the sourcing, heating, treatment, pumping, and delivery of water can account for as much as 13% of the nation's electricity consumption. The AWE/ACEEE project, funded by the Turner Foundation and conducted by GEI Consultants, Inc., was released two weeks after President Obama unveiled a nationwide plan to pursue low-carbon energy sources, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and build resilience to the climatic changes that are affecting the stability of water supply resources.

The report identifies specific recommendations for research to accelerate collaboration and integrated approaches to managing water and energy resources.  Several key recommendations include:

  • Collect embedded energy in water data to determine the impact nationally of energy use in the water sector.
  • Conduct detailed audits of embedded energy demands for an entire water and wastewater system to help determine opportunities for system optimization.
  • Identify and eliminate regulatory barriers to co-implementation of energy and water efficiency programs.
  • Develop water and energy industry accepted evaluation, measurement and verification protocols for efficiency programs.
  • Assess potential impacts to water supplies and quality from energy resource development, such as hydraulic fracturing and biofuels development, and identify solutions to mitigate these impacts.

Other areas where research is needed include landscape irrigation, rate structures and financing mechanisms that support efficiency, and supply chain and product embedded water-energy evaluations.

"Filling the research gaps identified in this report would help overcome some barriers to joint water and energy efficiency," said Steven Nadel, Executive Director of ACEEE. "For example, identifying costs and benefits of water and energy would help utilities and policymakers design more effective programs."

Learn more and download the report and research database here.  

AWE Launches Water Sustainability Training for Canadian Plumbers 

Canada flagCanadian plumbers have the opportunity to champion water efficiency across the country. The Alliance for Water Efficiency, with funding from the Royal Bank of Canada's Blue Water Project, is launching a national water sustainability training and accreditation program for plumbers.

Canada has 44,820 plumbers that interface daily with home owners and businesses, providing a significant opportunity to strengthen water conservation efforts across the country. Yet, water sustainability is not integrated into apprenticeship programs. 

Plumber-toilet"Sustainability training for plumbers is a natural,” said Mary Ann Dickinson, President and CEO of the Alliance for Water Efficiency. “By providing consistent and relevant information across Canada, this program will help plumbing professionals improve water use in homes and businesses."

"Water is our most precious natural resource, and we know that industry, government, business and individuals can all play a part in protecting water in our growing towns and cities," said Shari Austin, Vice-President, Corporate Citizenship, RBC and Executive Director, RBC Foundation. "We are pleased to help the Alliance for Water Efficiency contribute in such a tangible way to a culture of water stewardship."

The Canadian pilot program will cover the fundamentals of water treatment and supply, advances in water efficient technology, and opportunities in sustainable practices. It will also provide testing and accreditation so plumbers can market their standardized training to customers. After completion, plumbers will have the knowledge and tools necessary to be frontline water efficiency and conservation ambassadors. 

Training will be offered to 120 plumbers this fall in the Greater Toronto Area, the Region of Waterloo and City of Guelph, and in Vancouver. Feedback from these pilot sessions along with a national industry survey will be used to customize a Canadian program, setting the stage for ongoing national delivery. 

Learn more here. 

Connecticut Governor Signs Bill to Support Conservation-Oriented Water Rates

ConnecticutOn June 5, 2013, Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy signed Substitute Senate Bill No. 807 “Conservation, Municipal Reporting Requirements and Unpaid Utility Accounts at Multi-Family Dwellings,” which removes barriers to water conservation by allowing utilities to set rates that promote more responsible water use. The bill went into effect when signed and serves to further the state’s goals to reduce energy demands, protect natural resources, enhance streamflows, and ensure public health and safety.

The bill includes several provisions to encourage conservation while also protecting the financial viability of the water utility. Authorized rates will consider the use of metering and other measures to provide timely price signals to customers and allow for alternative rate designs that promote conservation and reduce water loss. The Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) will identify those conservation programs for which water companies will be eligible for cost recovery. Another section creates a revenue adjustment mechanism to allow a water company to make up the difference between its allowed annual revenue and actual annual revenue when actual demands – and revenue - fall short of projections.

Learn more about the Connecticut bill here. 

New Mexico and Texas Battle for Rio Grande Water 

New Mexico State FlagTexas State FlagNew Mexico is being sued by Texas over Rio Grande water.  To make matters worse, New Mexico is expected to have an increasingly difficult time in coming decades meeting its legal obligation to deliver water to its downstream neighbors, according to a soon to be released federal study - The Upper Rio Grande Impacts Assessment.

Higher temperatures are bringing a double whammy, reducing water supplies through evaporation from reservoirs and rivers while increasing water consumption by gardens, farms and the Rio Grande’s riverside forests, according to this new analysis by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and Sandia National Laboratories.

“The supplies are going down, and the demands are going up,” said Sandia’s Jesse Roach, one of the study’s authors.

Scientists have repeatedly projected decreased river flows in the region as a result of rising temperatures, which are driven by increasing greenhouse gases. The new study is the most detailed effort to date to tease out the water policy implications.

The scientists found that if New Mexico water use patterns are not changed, the state will run an increasing deficit in its legal obligation under the Rio Grande Compact to deliver water to Texas. The study comes as Texas is in court, asking the U.S. Supreme Court to take up a dispute over whether current New Mexico water practices are illegally depleting the Rio Grande’s flow before it reaches the New Mexico-Texas state line. 

Water Efficiency Watch and the Alliance for Water Efficiency will continue to track this evolving situation.

Colorado Water Plan Seeks to Keep Water for Agriculture 

Colorado State FlagThe Colorado Water Plan recently commissioned by Governor John Hickenlooper will seek to preserve agriculture and reduce the economic and environmental impacts on rural communities that have occurred when water is sold and removed from an agricultural to an urban area.

“I applaud the governor,” said Ron Carleton, deputy commissioner of the Colorado Department of Agriculture. “There’s a serious recognition that harm could be done to Colorado agriculture.”

The effects to Colorado agriculture have sounded alarm bells. “Agriculture is being dewatered to the point where agriculture isn’t sustainable,” said James Eklund, incoming director of the

Colorado Water Conservation Board. “We want to see farmers given the tools to keep them in agricultural production.”

According to Eklund, the state’s Arkansas River and Rio Grande River valleys “are in a dire situation. Moreover, our largest regional gap is set to occur in the South Platte Basin, our most populous as well as our largest agriculture-producing basin.” The South Platte Basin supplies water to Colorado’s Front Range, which runs along the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs.

Farmers in the South Platte Basin are also getting priced out of the water market as shares of the Colorado Big Thompson (CBT) project recently reached their highest level ever - $18,500 per share which in most years amounts to approximately $20,000 for one acre-foot of water.

The completed Colorado Water Plan is expected to be delivered by Dec. 10, 2014, one month after the November general election where Hickenlooper is expected to seek a second term as governor.

Learn more about the Colorado Water Plan here. 

DOE Schedules Public Meeting on Plumbing Product Test Procedures 

DOE Logopre_rinse_spray_valve_2The Department of Energy will hold a public meeting on July 30, 2013 to receive public comment regarding test procedures for showerheads, faucets, water closets, urinals, and commercial pre-rinse spray valves. 78 FR 42719 .

Find more information on the rulemaking, including milestones, statutory authority, rulemaking documents, and any other related rulemakings here. 

All notices, public comments, public meeting transcripts, and supporting documents associated with this rulemaking are included in Docket No. EERE-2011-BT-TP-0061.

Learn how to participate in the public meeting scheduled to be held at the U.S. Department of Energy, Room 8E-089, 1000 Independence Avenue SW, Washington, DC 20585. 

The public comment period closes on August 9, 2013.  Get information on how to comment here. 

Follow the links here to find product information about current standards and test procedures for showerheads,faucetswater closetsurinals, and commercial pre-rinse spray valves; recent product updates; waivers, exceptions, and exemptions; the statutory authority; historical information; and contact information.

Drought Update 

July-2013-Drought-MonitorThe following new briefs provide and update on drought conditions, preparation, and response.

  • New Mexico is Ground Zero for 2013 Drought – The US Drought Monitor shows that New Mexico is now the epicenter of the 2013 drought.  The shortest ever irrigation season for the federal Rio Grande Project ended in July after little more than a month.  The season typically runs up to 8 months.  Farmers and cities that rely on this project water must now turn to groundwater supplies and hope for a wet winter.
  • Texas lake levels plummet in summer heat -  Texas drought and water woes continue. The Texas Water Development Board’s Water Data For Texas shows a dramatic drop in lake levels across Texas.  Learn more here. 
  • Study: Texas Lost Enough Water in the 2011 Drought to Fill Lake Mead Nearly Twice Over – That’s a lot of water.  Learn more here. 
  • Drought hits Colorado hard - The federal government has declared 14 Colorado counties to be primary natural disaster areas, qualifying them for federal disaster relief, and an additional 24 as contiguous disaster counties because of the ongoing drought.
  • MWD of Southern Cal Prepares for Record Dry Conditions – With “record” storage reserves, California’s largest water provider keeps its chin up as drought conditions persist.  Learn more here. 
  • Colorado River shortage looming - The July 24-month Colorado River Basin study from the Bureau of Reclamation forecasts that a first-ever water shortage on the iconic river could be declared as soon as April 2015.  Learn more here. 
  • Coping with drought in the American West – Better drought preparation and information are needed according to a new report from the Western Governors’ Association and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration which notes that better data on streamflow and soil moisture are necessary, as is information to help with wildfire preparation.  Learn more here. 

Excellence in Building Conference Set for Sept. 24-26 in Phoenix 

EEBA_logoThe Energy & Environmental Building Alliance with partners including the Alliance for Water Efficiency proudly presents the 31st Excellence in Building Conference from Sept. 24-26 in Phoenix, AZ.   The Excellence in Building Conference offers countless opportunities, educational seminars, expert presenters and hands-on demonstrations to help builders tap into the most up-to-date building science and home performance best practices, as well as, profit-building possibilities.

Participants at the conference can attend more than 55 educational sessions covering every facet of building science and special networking events. The exhibit hall floor will feature what’s next in home performance products and services. EEBA’s Excellence in Building Conference is where building science professionals and newcomers alike come to make contacts, do business and develop solutions in the brave new world of building science.

Learn more and register for the Excellence in Building Conference here. 

New Report Analyzes How Water Rate Structures Can Help Foster Resiliency in the Face of California’s Changing Conditions 

Pac-inst-reportWater service providers are facing new challenges in forecasting and preparing for future water demand, staying fiscally solvent while providing fair prices, incorporating conservation and efficiency, and communicating clearly to customers about rates and service. Beginning in 2012, the Pacific Institute conducted an extensive survey and series of workshops on water rates and finances to better understand how water is priced by more than a thousand different water providers in California, both public and private – and to help agencies identify effective rate-making strategies.

The resulting Need To Know: Water Rates series released in partnership with the Alliance for Water Efficiency and the Community Water Center, highlights strategies that help water service providers cope with the “new normal” or an era of decreased water demand due to a variety of factors from weather to the economy to increased conservation and efficiency. In the spring of 2013, the first white paper on the Water Rates Survey and research was also released. This new research analyzes different rate structures that can be used to accommodate this “new normal” so that a utility is able to meet costs and ensure resiliency in an uncertain future.  This work will be further augmented by a detailed rates and revenue stability project which AWE is undertaking next year.

Learn more and download the report here. 

New WaterRF Study Examines Opportunistic Pathogens in Building Plumbing Systems 

WaterRF-logo-2013Are premise plumbing systems harboring dangerous water-borne pathogens?  A new study from the Water Research Foundation (WaterRF) presents information on the state of the science and research needs for opportunistic pathogens in premise plumbing (OPPPs) based on a WaterRF Expert Workshop. The report focuses on five model OPPPs: Legionella pneumophila, Mycobacterium avium Complex (MAC), Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Acanthamoeba spp., and Naegleria fowleri. Current understanding of their epidemiology, microbial ecology, methodology, and engineering controls are discussed.

The full report is available for free download here. 

Two Perspectives on Forest Health and Water Use Under Climate Change 

Tress Using Water More Efficiently as Carbon Dioxide Increases 

austin-river-treesNew research from Harvard University has found that increasing levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide over the last two decades have made forests dramatically more efficient in how they use water, an impact that has been predicted by scientists. However, the Harvard study has found that forests across the globe are becoming even more efficient than expected.

Using data collected from forests in the northeastern US and elsewhere around the world, the researchers, found increases in water efficiency larger than those predicted by even the most state-of-the-art computer models. The research, which was done in collaboration with researchers from the Harvard's Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, the USDA Forest Service, Ohio State University, Indiana University, and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany, is described in a July 10 paper in Nature.

"This could be considered a beneficial effect of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide," said Research Associate Trevor Keenan, the first author of the paper. "What's surprising is we didn't expect the effect to be this big. A large proportion of the ecosystems in the world are limited by water -- they don't have enough water during the year to reach their maximum potential growth. If they become more efficient at using water, they should be able to take more carbon out of the atmosphere due to higher growth rates."

While increased atmospheric carbon dioxide may benefit forests in the short term, Assistant Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology Andrew Richardson emphasized that the overall climate picture would remain grim if levels continue to rise.

"We're still very concerned about what rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide mean for the planet," Richardson cautioned. "There is little doubt that as carbon dioxide continues to rise -- and last month we just passed a critical milestone, 400 ppm, for the first time in human history -- rising global temperatures and changes in rainfall patterns will, in coming decades, have very negative consequences for plant growth in many ecosystems around the world."

Learn more about this research here. 

Southwest “Mega Drought” is Bad News for Global Forests 

droughtScientists are predicting mass forest die-offs and prolonged “mega drought” for the U.S. southwest as they examine the relationships between drought, wildfire, and a warming climate which is already changing the landscape.   There is growing concern that a warming climate may permanently destroy forests in the southwestern U.S. and in some other regions around the world.

With a highly variable climate, the Southwest boasts perhaps the best-studied megadrought history in the world. Park Williams, bioclimatologist and postdoctoral fellow at Los Alamos National Laboratory, teamed with specialists at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the University of Arizona to re-examine tree ring and climate data sets spanning the years 1000 to 2007.  Williams and his team devised a new “forest drought-stress index,” integrating tree-ring measurements with climatalogical and historical records for a paper published earlier this year in Nature Climate Change.

The West’s drastic drought-related fires over the past 10 years may foretell what could happen to forests globally as the climate warms. Tree-mortality has been on the rise according to a 2009 Science study, and recent analysis from the National Center for Atmospheric Research projects “severe and widespread drought” by the 2060s for much of the Americas, as well as Europe, southern Africa, southeast Asia, parts of the Middle East, and Australia.

Learn more about this research and analysis here. 

AWE Book Sale is On Now 

Dry Run Book CoverAWE is offering some water classics at steeply reduced prices including the classic Handbook of Water Use and Water Conservation by Amy Vickers for just $65.  Other sale books include, A Practical Approach to Water Conservation for Commercial Industrial Facilities, by Mohan Seneviratne, and Dry Run by Jerry Yudelson.  Get your copies of these and other water classics at a great price here.

News Briefs and Web Links 

  •  ANSI/AWWA G480-13 Water Conservation Program Operation and Management Standard Available - Purchase a copy of this new voluntary standard here.  
  • Texas farmers explore water efficiency options – An agricultural demonstration project in the panhandle region aims to keep more water in the Ogallala Aquifer. Learn more here. 
  • GAO will update 2003 report on freshwater shortages - The Government Accountability Office (GAO) announced that it will do a ten year update on its July 2003 report, States' Views of How Federal Agencies Could Help Them Meet the Challenges of Expected Water Shortages. A release date for the update has not been announced.
  • Oberlin, Ohio dashboard lets citizens track city-wide water and energy demands - The Oberlin project is out in front of a wave of projects designed to illustrate water and energy flows and uses.  Learn more here. 
  • Baltimore Residents Balk at Water Rate Increases – A proposed 42% rate increase over three years came under fire from angry residents.  Learn more here. 
  • Energy Efficient Pool Pumps Make a Splash - The principle function of a pool pump is to re-circulate water through a filter to maintain water clarity and hygiene, but significant amounts of energy can be wasted.  According to the Department of Energy, a pool pump typically uses 1,500 kWh/year. That makes it the number one energy consuming device in a home with a pool, often accounting for up to 20 percent of the energy a home uses.  Learn more here. 
  • Condition of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef Deteriorating – A recent study downgraded the condition of the Great Barrier Reef ecosystem from “moderate” to “poor”.  Learn more here. 
  • Palm Springs Airport Plans to Remove Turf, Save Water –Learn more here. 
  • Unprecedented Climate “Extremes” Measured Over Last Decade -http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-23154073 
  • Water Buybacks Are Most Cost Effective Way of Delivering Environmental Flows: Aussie Study – Research on the Murray-Darling Basin found water buybacks were more cost effective than infrastructure upgrades.  Learn more here. 
  • Energy Efficiency Increases Property Value - Energy saving improvements made to a property could increase its value by 14 per cent on average - and up to 38 per cent in some parts of England - new research has shown.
  • Ireland Offers Free Leak Repair as Metering Begins – The government will pay for repairs in homes as part of a phased water meter installation process.Learn more here. 
  • Evaluation Guide for Water Efficiency Initiatives Released by UKWaterwise Learn more here. 
  • UK Demand Management Bulletin Available – The July issue of the UK Environment Agency’s Demand Management Bulletin is available for download here. 
  • Home Water Works Offers Consumer Efficiency Information – AWE’s Home Water Works web site – www.home-water-works.org – offers useful information on how to easily save water in your home or apartment and a Water Calculator to estimate how water is used.  Check it out 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 – 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.