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...

WaterSense® Turns 10 – EPA’s Highly Successful Program Has Aged Well and Deserves More Funding 

 Label-Launch-2006-smOn June 12, 2006 a small group took a break from the AWWA Annual Convention and assembled on the humid and sunny Riverwalk in San Antonio for a historic announcement: The EPA was creating the WaterSense® water products labeling program. With this modest announcement, a program was launched that would transform the national market for water efficient products. Over the past 10 years, WaterSense® has made impressive progress, and it has done so without substantive funding similar to that enjoyed by ENERGYSTAR® and moreover without any official Congressional authorization. Happy Birthday WaterSense® -- and our deepest birthday wish is that this program will finally receive the kind of authorization, funding, and respect it deserves.

Water Efficiency Watch Editor Peter Mayer was on hand that hot, muggy day in San Antonio in 2006 and shot this 12-minute video of the Announcement. You will notice AWE’s future President and CEO, future AWE Board Chair, and many other future AWE board members standing with EPA Administrator Steve Johnson during the announcement.


 Since 2006 WaterSense® has had tremendous impact across the US. More than 1,700 utilities, local governments, manufacturers, retailers, distributors, builders, and other organizations have partnered with EPA to produce and promote water-efficient products, programs, and homes. WaterSense® labeled products are independently certified to use at least 20 percent less water, and they perform as well or better than standard models.  While the program launched in 2006, WaterSense® labeled products have been on the market since 2007 when toilets first earned the label. Since then, the number of labeled models has grown to more than 16,000, including products found in residential and commercial bathrooms, commercial kitchens, and for outdoor irrigation.

"As we mark 10 years of WaterSense® accomplishments, EPA thanks our WaterSense® partners for helping American businesses and families save water through the use of water-efficient products and practices,” states EPA Associate Administrator Joel Beauvais in a recent blog post on the milestone.

EPA’s WaterSense® program also certifies homes with WaterSense® labeled fixtures and features. Compared to a typical home, a WaterSense® labeled home can save a family an estimated 50,000 gallons of water a year. To date, more than 700 homes have earned the WaterSense® label.

Learn more about WaterSense® here.  

Despite El Niño, California Drought Persists into 5th Year 

 CA Reservoir Storage - Percent of Normal - 1977 and 2010 - 16El Niño-fueled storms blanketed the Sierra Nevada range with nearly normal snow this winter and carried showers of hope to drought-weary California. But after the flurries stopped and the seasons changed, the melt-off from the high country has been swift and disappointingly scant, according to new water supply estimates from the state.

The California Department of Water Resources now projects that the mountains will produce about three quarters of normal runoff during the months of heaviest snowmelt, shorting the rivers and reservoirs that typically provide a third of California’s water — and cementing a fifth year of historic drought for a dry and weary state.

Yet because of the early snow, there is a widespread perception that the drought may be over. Adding to this perception, on May 18 the State Water Resources Control Board suspended its urban water conservation regulation, instead allowing local water agencies to set their own conservation targets.

Reservoir storage in California in various recent and significant drought years is shown in the figure below from the California Department of Water Resources.

Meanwhile, a new study in Environmental Research Letters by scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the Nature Conservancy estimates how water demand in California will change in 2062 by projecting the present rate of land-use change. This includes urban growth and farmland conversion – both conversion of farms into urban areas and conversion of annual crops to permanent crops, like orchards and vineyards.

The forecasts predict California could see a 4 percent overall increase in water demand in 2062 compared to 2012. This result suggests the impacts of water efficiency will mute the demand impacts of increased population growth.

The study addresses a single scenario based on a relatively normal water year that merely estimates agricultural water consumption and does not include the effects of climate change. Because of these factors, the authors concede that future water demand will probably be greater than their estimate.

The researchers conclude that California’s statewide 25 percent conservation rules should be maintained as a permanent requirement if the state wants to hold water consumption at 2012 levels.

Great Lakes Governors Approve Waukesha Diversion 

Great Lakes Map (2)Eight Great Lakes governors have voted unanimously to approve a diversion of Lake Michigan water to the city of Waukesha, Wisconsin, which lies just outside of the Great Lakes Basin. The landmark decision is the first exception to the 2008 Great Lakes Compact, a binational legal agreement between the eight Great Lakes states and two Canadian provinces meant to strictly limit out-of-basin water transfers.

The June 21 approval by the Great Lakes Compact Council will allow Waukesha to take up to an annual average of 31 million liters (8.2 million gallons) of water per day from Lake Michigan, transport it through a pipeline to the city, and release the treated wastewater back to the Root River, a Lake Michigan tributary. That is less than the 38.2 million liters (10.1 million gallons) that Waukesha sought in its original application for an exception to the compact. Representatives of the governors also added amendments allowing the Compact Council and the states to enforce the conditions of the diversion, and allowing other basin states to audit Waukesha’s performance.

The decision will set an important precedent for other communities seeking to gain access to Great Lakes water. The Great Lakes Compact effectively bans diversions of Great Lakes water to cities that are located outside of the basin, but allows exceptions for those in counties that straddle the hydrological divide between the Great Lakes and other watersheds. Waukesha, a city of 70,000 people located 27 kilometers (17 miles) west of Lake Michigan in the Mississippi River watershed, qualified for an exception.

The city’s quest for Lake Michigan water, however, was long opposed by groups concerned about a potential run on Great Lakes water. Many believed the city’s original proposal loosened the strict protections set out under the 2008 compact. That viewpoint was echoed by representatives of all ten states and provinces, jointly called the Regional Body, that voted in May to trim the area that can be served by Waukesha’s diversion. Representatives from Minnesota abstained from that vote to allow more time to review the city’s application, and the governors of both Minnesota and Michigan were still deliberating just days before the Compact Council’s final vote.

Despite the expressed reservations, the Regional Body and the Compact Council both ultimately agreed that Waukesha has a legitimate claim to Great Lakes water under the compact. The city argued that a Lake Michigan diversion is its only route to a safe water supply. Waukesha is under a court order to alleviate naturally-occurring radium contamination in the deep aquifers it currently uses for municipal supplies, which it notes have dropped 107 meters (350 feet) below pre-development water levels.

“Over the last several months, I have given thorough consideration to this important decision, weighing carefully the long-term consequences the project could have on our Great Lakes, and the region’s environment. During that time, my administration gathered additional information about the Waukesha Diversion Project from a variety of communities and stakeholders, which I carefully reviewed,” said Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton in a statement following Tuesday’s vote. “Those additional efforts, the counsel of our state’s experts, and several important modifications to the previous proposal, have assured me that approving the Diversion Project will provide environmental benefits to the region, and have virtually no impact on our treasured Great Lakes. Therefore, I have voted to approve the project.”

Governor Dayton also noted that the area that can be served by the diversion was significantly reduced from Waukesha’s initial proposal, and that nearly all of the diverted water will be returned to Lake Michigan through the Root River.

Ensuring Waukesha’s compliance with the terms of the diversion will be vital for upholding the strict standards set forth under the compact, according to civil society groups that have been following the issue closely. They will also be assessing the process pioneered over the past six months to evaluate and amend applications for exceptions to the compact’s diversion ban. So far, the response has been positive, though some groups have expressed concern about a lack of public access to the process. The final deliberations Tuesday in Chicago were open to the public, but were not broadcast live as past meetings have been.

“Today’s vote is not the end of the story. Great Lakes advocates will need to be vigilant in making sure that the city of Waukesha and the State of Wisconsin honor the terms of the agreement,” the Chicago-based Alliance for the Great Lakes and the National Wildlife Federation wrote in a joint statement Tuesday. “We will be strong watchdogs to ensure that the Great Lakes are protected. We expect that the Compact Council and its members will act promptly if Waukesha and Wisconsin do not meet every requirement imposed by the Council. And, if necessary, we will take action to compel compliance with the Compact Council’s requirements. Moving forward, we strongly encourage the Regional Body and Compact Council to amend their processes to include improved opportunities for the public to participate in a meaningful and timely way throughout the regional review process no matter where they live.”

AWE Member Spotlight 

York Region Partners with Alliance for Water Efficiency to Support Water Is Awareness Campaign and Rate Increase 

SpotlightLike many water providers, The Regional Municipality of York is working to connect and build stronger relationships with a customer base that may not fully understand the value of their water service.

York Region provides safe, clean, reliable, affordable and convenient drinking water and wastewater services to more than 1.1 million residents. Over the past several years, York Region has focused on helping customers understand how their hidden water system functions, why it’s important and how all users are connected to it.

In 2014, York Region launched the Water Is campaign in an effort to:

  • Enhance understanding of the water system and empower people to become community leaders and advocates of water conservation
  • Inspire people to get involved with efforts to protect the quality of waterways now and for future generations
  • Highlight the “brilliantly invisible” underground water infrastructure while showcasing water professionals
  • Explain why vital water and wastewater rates were increasing effective April 1, 2016

 AWE Photo embedMarket research told York Region they needed to create an emotional connection between residents and water. They needed to humanize it, make it relatable and expose the unseen and untold story behind water. Since its launch, the Water Is campaign has had more than 1.4 million touch points with customers, business leaders, politicians and other stakeholders. Ads, posters and in-house videos were developed to explain how water traveled from the source to taps and provide a behind the scenes look at how many people, resources, infrastructure and facilities are involved in the water business – all of which cost money to operate, maintain, repair and replace.

To help customers understand how their water and wastewater rate dollars are used in advance of the planned increase, York Region partnered with the Alliance for Water Efficiency to customize and produce the “York Region Water: What You Pay For” video. This approach was a logical and cost-effective strategy to produce a high-quality piece of content.

The video launched on March 1, 2016, customized with numerous visuals, figures and messages. York Region posted the video on YouTube, promoted it through social media, and shared it internally with staff. To date, the video has had more than 42,000 views, strong engagement on Facebook, including 218 Likes and 87 shares, and has spiked visits to the Water Is campaign web page.

For more information about York Region water, please contact Michelle Dudzik, Public and Youth Education Coordinator at michelle.dudzik@york.ca.

Paul R. Brown to Give Keynote at WaterSmart Innovations 2016 

 Paul BrownPaul R. Brown, an author, teacher, speaker and practitioner with international experience in planning, development, and management for public utilities and environmental facilities, will deliver the keynote address at the opening session for the 9th Annual WaterSmart Innovations (WSI) Conference and Exposition in Las Vegas on Wednesday, October 5.

Brown is currently Program Manager for the Regional Recycled Water Supply Program being evaluated by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and the Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts. The project has the potential to become the largest water reuse program in the Western United States.

As a professional water resource planner and program manager in California with many years of experience, Brown specializes in stakeholder-driven approaches to integrated resource planning and development. He is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) and a Fellow in the International Water Association (IWA), where he chaired the IWA Cities of the Future program committee. 

Brown also served as a Visiting Professor at the University of South Florida (USF) Patel College of Global Sustainability, where he also was Director of Applied Research.  Brown co-authored the book Water Centric Sustainable Communities.

Learn more about Paul Brown and WSI here. 

Texas Water Conservation Scorecard Released 

 Texas State FlagTexas Living Waters Project has released a water conservation scorecard based on a review of information from more than 300 Texas water utilities.  The Texas Living Waters Project is a partnership of the Sierra Club-Lone Star Chapter, National Wildlife Federation, and Galveston Bay Foundation.  The top scoring utilities were five utilities with total scores of 80 to 90. Those five were the Cities of Austin (90), San Marcos (85), Frisco (82), San Angelo (81), and Lewisville (80).

The scorecard analysis relied on only publicly-reported information that was already available statewide on utility metrics, and the project did not have the capability for a major survey of all Texas utilities with more defining questions.  The scoring metrics chosen, particularly on water loss management and outdoor water efficiency, have been the subject of discussion since publication.

Key findings from the Texas scorecard report are: 

  • Most of the Texas water utilities evaluated need to substantially increase their water conservation efforts – even those utilities scoring highest could do more to help Texans save water.
  • Most utilities are submitting required water conservation plans to the State of Texas but those plans vary widely in quality, detail, and public accessibility – and about one-fifth of the utilities are not submitting progress reports on carrying out those plans and/or submitting required audits assessing how much water is being “lost” in their operations.
  • During 2009-2013 over half of the utilities serving 25,000 people or more beat their targets for water use reduction – although drought restrictions may have been a key factor – but only about 13% of utilities of this size have reached or gone below the per capita water use target recommended by the State.
  • About two-thirds of the utilities serving 25,000 people or more have set a target for water use reduction over the current five-year period that does not even achieve the minimum rate of progress recommended by the State.
  • Only about a third of the utilities serving 25,000 people or more place any limitations on outdoor landscape watering except during drought periods, even though outdoor watering accounts for substantial increases in water use in Texas during the summer, and that increase fuels the building of costly infrastructure to meet peak water demands.

Learn how your favorite Texas city scored here. 

WSO/Cavanaugh team selected to provide Water Loss Technical Assistance to California Urban Water Systems 

pipe leak 1The team of Water Systems Optimization, Inc. (WSO) and Cavanaugh and Associates have been selected for Phase 1 of a Water Loss Technical Assistance Program (Water Loss TAP) contract from the California-Nevada Section of the American Water Works Association (CA-NV AWWA). 

The $3.2-million-dollar program will run approximately 2 years and will train and assist California’s urban water agencies to produce validated system water audits, assisting the CA-NV AWWA with its broader initiative of combating water loss through the Water Loss Control Collaborative. WSO has partnered with Cavanaugh & Associates, P.A. (Cavanaugh) for this groundbreaking program to serve as the Program Management Team.

“The Water Loss TAP will equip the state of California with the information and technical expertise necessary to proactively manage water losses. We are excited to engage with utility, state, and professional partners in advancing water supply efficiency and accountability,” said Reinhard Sturm, Chief Operating Officer for WSO.

The work now underway is part of the broader Collaborative that supports systems employing best-practices for water loss management in California. The Water Loss TAP will specifically aid systems in complying with the provisions of California Senate Bill 555, which established the requirement that each urban retail water supplier, on or before October 1, 2017 (and annually thereafter) submit a completed and validated water loss audit report to the California Department of Water Resources.

“Ultimately, we want all utilities to develop strong water loss control programs which regularly and accurately assess the opportunities to reduce losses. Having a validated audit is a crucial first step,” said Sue Mosburg, Chair of the CA-NV Water Loss Control Committee, immediate past chair of CA-NV AWWA, and Program Manager at Sweetwater Authority.

CA-NV AWWA received a grant through the California State Water Resources Control Board to provide a comprehensive program of training, technical assistance, and water audit validation for the roughly 450 largest California water systems.  Through the Water Loss TAP these systems will attain a base level of competency with the water balance and audit concepts, the free AWWA Water Audit Software (on which SB 555 is based), and the process of water audit data validation.  The Water Loss TAP will be funded from the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund Technical Assistance set-aside. 

More information about the Water Loss Control Collaborative and its Water Loss TAP can be found at www.waterlosscontrolcollaborative.org

Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Releases Legionella Guidance 

The CDC has released: Developing a Water Management Program to Reduce Legionella Growth & Spread in Buildings A Practical Guide to Implementing Industry Standards. 

Legionnaires’ disease is a serious type of pneumonia caused by bacteria, called Legionella, that live in water. Legionella can make people sick when they inhale contaminated water from building water systems that are not adequately maintained. Unfortunately, Legionnaires’ disease is on the rise in the United States.

To reverse this trend, the CDC asks building owners and managers to develop a water management program to reduce the risk for Legionnaires’ disease associated with building water systems and devices. This water management program should identify areas or devices in buildings where Legionella might grow or spread to people to reduce that risk. Legionella water management programs are now an industry standard for large buildings in the United States (ASHRAE 188: Legionellosis: Risk Management for Building Water Systems June 26, 2015. ASHRAE: Atlanta).

This new toolkit will help building owners and managers develop and implement a water management program to reduce the risk for growing and spreading Legionella. Those who already have a program can use the toolkit to assess and strengthen existing plans. Included with the toolkit are practical resources to help commercial building owners and managers ensure that water management programs are comprehensive, effective, and in line with industry standards. This toolkit also highlights special considerations for healthcare facilities.

Water Research Foundation Issues New RFPs, Including Green Infrastructure 

 water research foundation logoThe Water Research Foundation has released the RFPs for two new projects that will provide guidance on (1) capital improvement project (CIP) delivery methods for drinking water and wastewater utilities, and (2) incentives for green infrastructure on private property for combined sewer and stormwater utilities, stormwater program managers, and city planners.

Project #4684, Incentives for Green Infrastructure Implementation on Private Property, will identify how green infrastructure and low-impact development can be incentivized on private property, beyond the minimum required by development and redevelopment ordinances. The outcome of this project will be a resource guide to help combined sewer and stormwater utilities develop or refine incentive programs to become more effective as an offset to CIP implementation.

Project #4685, Project Delivery Performance Evaluation and Decision Support Tool for Water and Wastewater Capital Projects, will provide the first quantitative comparison of design build (DB), construction manager at risk (CMAR), and design-bid-build (DBB) project delivery methods for the water and wastewater sector and develop an electronic decision support tool based on the performance data. Results of this research will provide the water sector with statistically significant comparative results for delivery options for common project metrics (cost, schedule, and quality). The analytical evaluation of these results and development of the decision support tool will increase the water sector’s ability to confidently select the project delivery method that best suits the project specific construction needs.

Sustainable Groundwater Practices Promoted through Water Efficiency Ratings Score

The Green Builder® Coalition has signed a 2-year agreement with the National Ground Water Association (NGWA) on the promotion of sustainable groundwater practices through the Water Efficiency Rating Score.

“One of the big themes of the WERS Program is to utilize the water that falls on the site. For rural homeowners, this is vitally important,” said Coalition Executive Director Mike Collignon. “It makes a lot of sense for us to partner with NGWA, since both organizations have a message that is relevant to a variety of audiences, from individual well owners to municipal planners.”

The Water Efficiency Rating Score, or WERS,  is a predictive, performance-based approach to residential water efficiency and water resource management. The WERS is the culmination of calculations that consider the loading from principal plumbing fixtures, clothes washers, structural waste, and outdoor water management. Potential rainwater and greywater catchment are also calculated. Applicable for both new and existing single-family and multifamily residential properties, it uses a scoring scale of zero to 100, with zero being the most desirable and 100 representing the baseline property.

Metropolitan Water District Launches New Public Outreach Campaign: H2♥ 

h2love_logoThe Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) has launched a $2.2 million advertising and outreach effort to encourage consumers and businesses to continue their water-saving efforts this summer as Southern California continues to recover from a record statewide drought.

“El Niño helped, but after drawing down our reserves the last four years to record low levels, we all must continue using water as wisely as possible to rebuild those reserves and be prepared for what lies ahead,” Metropolitan General Manager Jeffrey Kightlinger said. “Thankfully we’ll be getting more water this year from the State Water Project than we have in the past three years. But we need to use those supplies to refill our regional reservoirs and allow our member agencies more flexibility to replenish their aquifers and reserves. That means we are still relying on Southern Californians to conserve as they have been.  We need to stop thinking about mandated emergency conservation and shift toward thinking of conservation as a way of life.”

The new campaign will use radio, print and digital advertising as well as social media platforms over eight-months to reinforce the message that conservation isn’t just a response to the drought, but a permanent change in how water is used and valued.

The campaign builds on Metropolitan’s Take a Turn advertising and outreach campaign launched last year, which uses eye-catching images of knobs, faucets and handles and helpful tips to encourage the public to turn off the water and turn toward conservation. This year’s campaign takes those ideas a step further, asking every Southern Californian to turn into a water lover with the launch of the H2Love or H2♥ slogan and hashtag.

“When we think about conservation as a way of life, it becomes very personal. We want to encourage residents to make that personal connection to water as a valued resource through our H2Love campaign,” said Sue Sims, Metropolitan’s manager of external affairs.

The campaign will direct readers and listeners to Metropolitan’s bewaterwise.com website for more tips and videos on saving water in their homes, yards, communities and businesses. In addition to the new hashtags #H2Love and #H2♥, the campaign will continue to use the hashtags #TakeATurnCA and #bewaterwise.

New Report Offers Perspectives on Watershed Governance in British Columbia 

A new report from the POLIS Project on Ecological Governance offers perspectives on watershed governance in Canada.  Recent reports and events exploring the concept of watershed governance have laid a foundation for reform in British Columbia. However, considerable knowledge gaps still exist in turning concept into practice. Through an extensive investigation involving interviews, surveys and a First Nations roundtable, this study illuminates the practical needs and capacities required to implement watershed governance in B.C. Key findings and critical insights include that the current system of water management and governance is not working, and that collaborative watershed governance is critical for better decision-making.

Founding Director of National Drought Mitigation Center, Don Wilhite, to Retire 

DonWilhiteAfter nearly 40 years with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Don Wilhite, founding director of the National Drought Mitigation Center, former School of Natural Resources director and dedicated applied climate professor, will retire and shift to emeritus status on June 30, 2016.

“It’s been a great honor to work with the university since I joined the faculty in 1977,” Wilhite said. “On both the domestic and international side, it has been very rewarding to see my emphasis on drought preparedness and drought policy as well as my emphasis on the development of drought early warning systems and vulnerability assessments being adopted as part of NOAA’s National Integrated Drought Information System and by agencies of the United Nations such as the World Meteorological Organization, the UN’s Convention to Combat Desertification and the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization.”

Wilhite was the founding director of the International Drought Information Center in 1989, which focused at an international level on reducing vulnerability to drought through projects directed at planning, early warning and mitigation. The center created a guidebook on drought preparedness for developing countries, organized training seminars and conferences related to drought and water resource management, and helped shape drought policy. 

Learn more here. 

News Briefs and Web Links 

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.

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