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...

 AWE to Join Forces with the California Water Efficiency Partnership 

AWE CWEP logos verticalThe Alliance for Water Efficiency will soon have a new family member and strategic partner, the California Water Efficiency Partnership (formerly the California Urban Water Conservation Council).  AWE announced that it has begun negotiations with the California Water Efficiency Partnership with the goal to formalize a relationship between the two organizations in the coming months.

“I will lead the negotiation process and will provide direction to the Partnership as it evolves into a formal relationship with AWE,” said AWE President and CEO Mary Ann Dickinson. “What we want to avoid is the duplication of another very similar but separate water efficiency non-profit organization to AWE, and instead allow a merging of purpose and resources. In doing so, we expect the financial and programmatic benefits will be significant for both organizations and its collective membership.” 

Dickinson will serve as the Partnership’s transition CEO and will work closely with Deputy Director Sarah Foley, who will continue to run the Partnership’s day-to-day operations in Sacramento. Dickinson’s role will be to develop the plan to bring these two valuable organizations together.

Learn more here

Trump Cutting the EPA WaterSense® Program Makes No Sense at All 

By Mary Ann Dickinson, President and CEO, Alliance for Water Efficiency 

(Originally published on June 8, 2017 in the The Hill) 

 MADPresident Trump promised clean water for all Americans while preserving our natural resources. Yet his recently announced 2018 budget seeks to eliminate or drastically curtail programs that do just that.

It is especially perplexing to see EPA’s small but mighty WaterSense program on the chopping block. WaterSense, like its larger predecessor ENERGY STAR®, is a voluntary water product-labeling program that partners with business and communities to enhance the market for water-efficient fixtures and appliances. In this way, WaterSense encourages consumers to purchase products that save water and energy.

In just ten years since its launch, the WaterSense program has already made valuable contributions to building water security for American communities. It has saved more than 1.5 trillion gallons of water, enough to serve all of California’s residents for a year. Those savings help protect the nation’s water future — ensuring that more water is available for future generations, emergencies and our waterways. Less water used also means less energy used to heat, pump and treat water — thereby eliminating 78 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions from our atmosphere.

The blue and green WaterSense logo helps customers easily choose new toilets, showerheads, faucets and irrigation controllers that have been independently certified to perform as well as or better than standard models — while using at least 20 percent less water.

That choice is good for American families that already spend an average of $1,100 per year on water. In fact, it has already saved consumers $32.6 billion in water and energy bills. With water rates rising each year, WaterSense can help families better manage their household expenses.

WS Promo LogoBut WaterSense isn’t just delivering more reliable and affordable water to consumers; it’s actually driving innovation and supporting economic growth — goals at the core of Trump’s platform. Large American plumbing and irrigation manufacturers have seen their businesses grow by adding WaterSense-labeled products to their portfolios, while start-ups and smaller shops are getting their products to market more quickly, thanks to the clearly defined performance standards and certification process in the WaterSense program. This has resulted in a competitive edge for companies manufacturing American-made WaterSense products. In addition, as water becomes more scarce and expensive, WaterSense can help all businesses reduce their operating costs and increase their resiliency by installing high-efficiency fixtures in their facilities.

WaterSense isn’t a mandatory program or an example of overreaching and costly regulations. It is a voluntary, public-private partnership program where businesses and communities opt in to participate.

And they have overwhelmingly opted in. More than 1,700 partners build their businesses and support their communities by participating in the WaterSense program. Nearly 200 of them recently signed a letter asking EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to continue to fund it into the future. 

So how much money is it? WaterSense costs taxpayers a mere $3.1 million per year to run — a meager federal expenditure for a significant economic benefit delivered to businesses and individuals. Continued public investment is key. A product labeling program run by the private sector would lack objectivity and credibility to consumers.

The WaterSense program is the best kind of government program. It leverages a small public investment into big savings for homeowners and businesses, while ensuring secure and sustainable water supplies. Let’s make sure it stays in the 2018 budget.

  Act Today to Save WaterSense. 

 AWE Peak Day Water Demand Management Study Pilots Innovative Load Shifting System 

Peak-Water-Demand-Management-Study---CoverGrabbing a page from the energy efficiency play book, a new report from the Alliance for Water Efficiency (AWE) describes an innovative load shifting experiment carried out during the summer of 2016 by New Jersey American Water (NJAW), Rachio, and WaterDM. The AWE Peak Day Water Demand Management Study explores the viability of using remotely-controlled irrigation systems to reduce peak water demands and introduces a promising new approach.

The peak reduction concept and research design were developed by Margaret Hunter, Senior Project Manager at American Water, and while this experiment was a small-scale pilot study, the expanded implications are significant. Additionally, Peter Mayer, Principal and Founder of WaterDM, provided the analysis methodology and networking to support American Water in this research.

In the AWE study, fifteen NJAW customers, equipped with Rachio irrigation controllers, agreed to have their irrigation remotely interrupted on two separate dates in August 2016 for the experiment. Irrigation programs were successfully interrupted and resumed normal operation the following day, demonstrating the ability to precisely target specific sites and dates to shave peak demands. Based on historic water use records of the participants, an estimated total of 84 kgal of peak demand reduction occurred on each day of interruption.

“This research opens an exciting new chapter in urban water management where connected devices and partnerships with customers can be used to solve complex management problems, in this case summertime peak demands,” said Mary Ann Dickinson, President and CEO of the Alliance for Water Efficiency. “This pilot study is a small step in the direction of a more advanced approach to water demand management of urban water systems and AWE is proud to be at the forefront of this effort.”

Further analysis of historic irrigation patterns was undertaken to extrapolate the potential peak reduction that could be seen if this approach was implemented on a larger scale. The results of the analysis suggest that 1 MGD of irrigation reduction can be achieved with approximately 500 to 1,700 participants; reduction of 5 MGD can be achieved with approximately 2,500 to 8,600 participants; and a 10 MGD-reduction can be achieved with approximately 5,000 to 17,300 participants. Variability in landscape size, character, and irrigation system output necessitate a broad range estimate, particularly when extrapolating from a small sample. Future research will further refine these estimates.

The report concludes, “It is not enough to simply shut systems off one day and shift the load to the next, thus creating a different, but similarly large peak day. With thousands of enabled irrigation controllers in a system, much more sophisticated load shifting approaches become possible. In a fully developed water demand management system, urban irrigation could be orchestrated to match water production profiles during key parts of the summer. The system could also be used to remotely shutdown irrigation systems across a community or in specific neighborhoods during an emergency such as a water main break, a major fire, or an earthquake.”

“AWE research is driving innovation in the water and irrigation industries,” said Dickinson. “This project is a great example of our partnership approach and we are always looking for others to partner with.”

 Two New AWE Reports Show How Conservation is Keeping Rates Low in Arizona 

AWE has released two major new reports explaining how water efficiency has helped keep water rates lower in Tucson and Gilbert, Arizona. 

TucsonAZ_IconIn Tucson, Ariz., customers today pay water and wastewater rates that are at least 11.7% lower than they might have been if they had not conserved for the past 30 years. Water customers in Gilbert, Ariz. today pay water and wastewater rates that are 5.8% lower, and tap fees for new development that are 45% lower than they would be without 20 years of conservation. A 2013 AWE report also revealed that customers in Westminster, Colo. pay water rates that are 47% lower than what they would be had conservation not been made a priority more than twenty years ago.

“These findings demonstrate that conservation – often blamed when rates increase – is an important sustainable water management strategy that actually keeps rates lower over time. When communities come together and conserve, it adds up to benefit water providers and customers’ wallets in the long-term,” said Mary Ann Dickinson. “By investing in conservation now, communities can keep water available and affordable into the future, and avoid or minimize unnecessary infrastructure investments.” 

The AWE analyses examined how water demands would be met today if the communities had not implemented measures to conserve water and consumptive demand had not thereby changed. Common conservation measures include fixture and appliance replacements, outdoor water efficiency programs, smart water metering, efficiency-oriented rates, green infrastructure strategies, changes to building codes, and customer education. 

“Thanks to conservation, each person uses 31% less water today than they did 30 years ago. Had we not invested in long-term conservation programs, we would have needed to secure, treat, and deliver more water to serve our current population,” said Candice Rupprecht, Water Conservation Manager, Tucson Water. “We now know that conservation ensures we raise rates only as much is absolutely necessary to keep reliable water service flowing, and should be prioritized in our supply planning”.

GilbertAZ_IconToday, Tucson is able to store over one-third of their annual renewable supply for future use, because they are producing the same amount of water they did in the mid-80’s, despite a 40% increase in population.

In Gilbert, the city would have needed to raise rates to cover nearly $341 million worth of investment costs for new water resources and water and wastewater treatment capital costs. In both communities, water and wastewater customers avoided the costs of acquiring, delivering and treating additional water supplies just by conserving water.

“Thanks to reduced demand on the existing system, we didn’t need to build as much capacity to meet demands for new development,” said Haley Paul, Water Conservation Specialist, Town of Gilbert. “A residential unit’s system development fee is $7,700 lower today than it would have been. Water conservation contributes to our economic success story and affordable system development fees make Gilbert an attractive place to move to or grow a business.”

The Alliance developed this research as part of its Financing Sustainable Water initiative, which seeks to help water providers develop rate structures and financial policies that balance revenue management, resource efficiency, and fiscal sustainability. The reports were authored by AWE Technical Advisor and Principal of WaterDM, Peter Mayer, and funding was provided by the Walton Family Foundation.

Download the Tucson Report and Fact Sheet 

Download the Gilbert Report and Fact Sheet 

View the Infographic   

AWE Completes Peer Review of MWD Conservation Programs

MWD-peer-review-2017-report-coverThe Alliance for Water Efficiency has completed a peer review of the conservation programs of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.  The results and final report were presented to the MWD Board Committee on Local Resources and Conservation on May 23, by project leader Peter Mayer, P.E.

The goal of the peer review project was to perform a thorough, but high level, review of

Metropolitan's water conservation program efforts to date and to offer insights and recommendations about how the program could evolve in the future to be more effective.

The AWE peer review team included

  • Doug Bennett, Conservation Manager, Southern Nevada Water Authority
  • Karen Guz, Conservation Director, San Antonio Water System
  • Erin Morey, Director, NYC Environmental Protection, Bureau of Environmental Planning & Analysis, Integrated Water Management
  • Kathy Nguyen, Senior Project Manager, Cobb County Water System
  • Carol Ward-Morris, Assistant Director, Arizona Municipal Water Users Association
  • Bill Gauley, Principal, Gauley Associates Ltd.
  • Mary Ann Dickinson, President and CEO of the Alliance for Water Efficiency

The peer review team developed eleven recommendations for improving Metropolitan’s conservation program including:

  • Evaluating and increasing the Base Conservation Rate
  • Expanding conservation research
  • Creating a conservation education and outreach effort
  • Re-instating Metropolitan’s turf replacement program

Download the full report and recommendations here

The Tough Job of the Elected Water Board Director 

By Mary Ann Dickinson, President and CEO, Alliance for Water Efficiency  

Our country’s water systems are run in a wide variety of governance structures, both public and private, but the most prevalent form of supplying water to a community is through a local public water district with its own locally elected board of directors. These dedicated community leaders provide public service for very little – if any – pay, and often come from non-water backgrounds. They are on the hotseat for all decisions related to safe, affordable drinking water in their communities, and they endure the public’s scrutiny and ire as part of the job. Often the water board is the first elected position for an aspiring community leader, and if they have desires for further political office, pleasing the voters/ratepayers is of paramount concern to them.
So it is important that these elected officials get correct information that they can use to make their decisions and to also discuss with their ratepayer constituents. Undoubtedly, the biggest issue facing a water board official is the setting of rates, and sometimes those discussions turn acrimonious. Voting yes on rate increases usually does not please the voters. The Yorba Linda Water Board in Yorba Linda, California has become a case study for how a fight over a water-rate increase of $25 a month in an affluent community led to bitter debates and ultimately a recall election of their water board members. Rate increases are often proposed in communities like Yorba Linda to compensate for reduced water sales during a drought, when customer water use has been restricted. This rate adjustment then leads to the clear public perception that conservation makes their rates rise, and that conservation is a reduction of the customer’s water use with no direct financial benefit to the community.

Read the full blog post here.

 The Psychology of Water Rates: Designing Effective Messages for a Rate Increase 

By Megan Chery, Manager, Alliance for Water Efficiency 

FSW Logo-SmIt’s not always easy to explain water rates, and no one likes to hear they’re going to pay more for something – even something as important as water service. But as DC Water General Manager George Hawkins reminds us, there are good reasons water rates are rising, and people will understand that investing in water is good for their families and their communities. We just have to explain it to them!

Breaking the news of a rate increase doesn’t have to be a painful or controversial process. If you communicate to your customers and other stakeholders consistently over time, and involve them in the rate design process, they are more likely to trust that your utility is making smart decisions for them and the community.

As more rates are changing nationwide, it’s timely that new research is telling us more about how to design rates-related messages that customers understand. Research conducted by AWE partner Hahn Public on 13 messages most commonly used by utilities (and others) during a rate change revealed useful findings on which utility rates messages work best and why. These messages were categorized as being either “fact”, “feature”, and “character and competence” messages.

Read the full blog post here.  

New Video on Conservation and Rising Water Rates 

AWE launched a new video, "Good Question: Why Are My Rates Going Up?," as part of its Financing Sustainable Water initiative, which seeks to help water providers develop rate structures and financial policies that balance revenue management, resource efficiency, and fiscal sustainability. To help explain how water conservation helps keep rates low, AWE’s video contains important consumer messages about the link between conservation and rising water rates.

View  the video entitled “Good Question: Why Are My Rates Going Up?” click here.   

New Vermont Law Shows How States Can Protect National Efficiency Standards

VermontVermont’s reputation for innovative energy policy continues.  Last month Governor Phil Scott signed legislation that protects against rollbacks of federal appliance energy efficiency standards. House Bill H.411 passed with strong support from Republican, Democratic, and Independent Vermont lawmakers. At a time of uncertainty about Washington's direction on energy efficiency policy, passing this protective law makes it clear that Vermont, and hopefully the nation, will not go backward when it comes to saving energy.

Historically, federal energy efficiency standards (most of which started out as state standards in places like Vermont) have enjoyed broad, bipartisan support. But the shifting  political environment in Washington, DC, has created an opening for those who would seek to weaken the national energy efficiency standards program, or even to remove standards for some products. 

States like Vermont are stepping up to stem the tide.  Learn more here. 

CDC Study finds Legionella Bacteria in Cooling Towers Across the U.S.A. 

Cooling_tower_Denver waterA recent CDC study analyzed water samples from 196 cooling towers from all over the United States. Legionella DNA was detected in 164 (84%) of the samples, and 79 of those samples had the presence of live Legionella bacteria.

Dr. Anna Llewellyn, a fellow at the pneumonia response and surveillance laboratory at the CDC, commented that the findings were "surprising" and "it reinforces the fact that cooling towers probably do play an important role in Legionella, and that trying to maintain them and test them and clean them will hopefully prevent Legionella in the future."

Legionella is found naturally in bodies of water, but the concentration of the bacteria does not always reach levels high enough to cause illness. In the CDC's report, cooling towers were identified as the source of the largest number of Legionnaires' disease cases and the second largest source of exposure for the outbreaks that occurred between 2000 and 2014.

Dr. Laura Cooley, a medical epidemiologist on the CDC's Legionella team noted that some cases of Legionnaires' disease have been tied to very low levels of Legionella in the water. Variables such as this make it difficult to determine exactly how much Legionella bacteria it takes to start an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease.

The researchers now intend to identify exactly what factors make a cooling tower a risk.  However, there are some steps you can take right away to help minimize the risk of spreading Legionnaires' disease through the cooling system at your facility.

To start, it is strongly recommended that owners of cooling towers adopt the voluntary standards issued by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) in 2015. Additionally, the CDC published a tool kit in 2016 on preventing Legionella growth in water systems.

 Blueprint for a Water Efficient UK Released 

London, UK. Waterwise has announced an ambitious blueprint for a water efficient UK and released a new strategy document 

 Key actions from the strategy are:

  • Support a 110 liter-per-person-per-day consumption average in areas of water stress.
  • Encourage water companies and regulators to improve their ambition for water efficiency and continue to be innovative and creative.
  • Deliver a clear and consistent message about water efficiency. 
  • Address issues of poor products - such as leaking dual flush toilets leaking on average 215 liters per day.
  • Form a Water Efficiency Strategy Steering Group to deliver the actions within the strategy.

“This strategy sets out a vision for what a water-efficient UK could look like -- with all of us really valuing water, and using it wisely every day.”  Said Waterwise managing director Nicci Russell, “Lots of great stuff is happening already, but we need more innovation and ambition, and I’m really delighted that partners across the sector have agreed actions to help us deliver our strategy."

A Water Efficiency Strategy Steering Group supported by Water UK has already been formed and it is chaired by Jean Spencer, Anglian Water’s executive director of Strategic Growth and Resilience, and sector resilience leader. The group will ensure delivery of the actions in the strategy, on which Waterwise will report on progress annually and review the strategy in 5 years time.   More on this program will be presented at the Efficient2017 Conference July 18-20 in Bath, England.

News Briefs and Web Links 

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Water Efficiency Watch welcomes submission of articles, photos, stories, commentary, new technologies, web links, etc.  Please e-mail your submission to Peter Mayer.

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.