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...

Legislative Update: National and State Efficiency Bills Advance 

It has been a busy legislative season for water efficiency and conservation related measures at the Federal and State level.  AWE’s Legislative Watch page includes information on all key pending water efficiency-related legislation in the U.S. Congress.  Below is a brief review of the key measures that have made progress towards passage over the past weeks.

Federal Update 

whitehouse-washington-DCWaterSense Tax Credit - H.R. 4114, introduced at the end of February, would provide a tax credit toward the purchase of WaterSense®-certified products. "The Water Efficiency Improvement Act of 2014," introduced by U.S. Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-Stockton, Calif.) proposes amending the IRS Tax Code to provide a 30-percent tax credit (up to $2,000 per taxpayer) on the purchase of products "tested by an American National Standards Institute (ANSI) accredited third-party certification body or laboratory in accordance with the Environmental Protection Agency's WaterSense program."

"Everyone can agree that using water more efficiently makes sense," McNerney said. "The WaterSense program is a commonsense public-private partnership that benefits consumers and small businesses across the country. My bill builds on this program's success and makes it easier to invest in the products that will help families save money each month. This bill will help create jobs, ensure our resources go further, and encourage innovation."

The Energy Efficiency Improvement Act of 2014  (formerly The Better Buildings Act of 2014) - A plan to develop new water efficiency standards for federal and commercial buildings was approved by the House on March 5, 2014 with a vote of 375 – 36.  HR 2126, The Energy Efficiency Improvement Act of 2013, would require model energy efficiency standards and best practices for federal and commercial building leases, and includes an amendment by Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-CA) to include standards for cost-effective water efficiency. Learn more about the Better Buildings Act here

The legislation would require the Administrator of General Services (GSA) to develop model leases and best practices wherever the federal government is a landlord or tenant to encourage building owners and tenants to invest in cost-effective energy and water efficiency measures.  It would also require federal officials to encourage state, county and municipal governments to utilize these model leases and best to manage owned and leased building space in accordance with the goal of encouraging investment in all cost-effective energy and water efficiency measures.

A similar measure being considered by the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, but is currently limited to energy efficiency only.

Power Plants - Recognizing that vast amounts of water are used every day to produce vital fuels and to cool power plants in the U.S. while a great deal of electricity is needed to treat, transport and convey water across the country, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee released S 1971 Nexus of Energy and Water for Sustainability (NEWS) Act of 2014, a bipartisan bill which would create a committee within the National Science and Technology Committee to coordinate and streamline federal activities related to the management of this energy-water nexus. Learn more about S 1971 here

Colorado WaterSense Plumbing Fixture Legislation Advances  

Colorado State FlagDenver, CO - A measure that would require all toilets, showerheads, and faucets sold in Colorado to carry the WaterSense label was approved by the Democratic Controlled State Senate in February on a 19-16 mostly party-line vote.  The measure would take effect in 2016 and now moves on to the House where Democrats hold a slim majority. Governor John Hickenlooper (D) has not taken a position of the measure.  Download a PDF of the proposed legislation hereRead about the debate in the Colorado Senate hereGet information about this legislation and a list of supporters (including AWE) here.  

Massachusetts Bill Could Fund Conservation  

Massachusetts State FlagIn early March, the Massachusetts State Senate unanimously passed legislation aimed at addressing some of the unmet funding needs for water infrastructure projects.  A Senate Ways and Means version of the bill passed 37-0, with several amendments adopted that were filed by both Democrats and Republicans.

One of those amendments, launched by Gloucester-based Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, creates a municipal impact fee.  Tarr said there needed to be some emphasis on water conservation in the legislation. The amendment incentivizes conservation by offering individual ratepayers a fee reduction of up to 25 percent if they install any low flow fixtures or water efficient appliances in their homes.  Learn more about the Massachusetts legislation here

Washington High-Efficiency Toilet Measure Dies in Committee  

Washington State FlagSpokane, WA - A bill introduced to the Washington House in February from Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon (D-Olympia, WA) would have adopted a more stringent low flow toilet standard overriding the federal 1.6-gallons-per-flush standard that’s been in place since 1994. The bill died in committee and supporters plan to reintroduce the bill in the next Legislative session. 

The legislation would have provided that all toilets, other than institutional and commercial toilets, toilets used by children in day care facilities, and toilets used in bariatric applications, sold, offered for sale, or distributed in this state must be high efficiency toilets,” described as having an “effective flush volume…not exceed[ing] 1.28 gallons.”   Under the law, these fixtures would be required to meet ASME performance, testing, and labeling requirements.

California Drought: Worst in 20 Years 

20140304_ca_noneCalifornia's historic drought reached a new milestone at the end of January when the U.S. Drought Monitor showed that “exceptional drought” covered 9 percent of the state.  It has been estimated that there is now a 1 in 1000 chance that enough rainfall could occur to bring the state to average precipitation levels this year.

This is the worst possible category of drought in the analysis, and is the first time since the Drought Monitor analysis was started in 2000 that any part of the Golden State has seen “exceptional drought.” Current California drought status in available here from the U.S. Drought Monitor

Most farmers in California who have contracts with the Central Valley Project, a federal canal system, will get no water this year, according to initial projections by the Bureau of Reclamation, which operates the canals.

Contractors that supply water to industries and cities in the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys, the canal system’s service area, will receive 50 percent of historical use. Wildlife refuges in the valleys will receive 40 percent of their contract. Historical use is often less than the full contract.

In the Central Valley where 1/3 or jobs are related to farming, agricultural workers are bracing for an unemployment crisis. Strains on water supplies are expected to force farmers to leave fields unplanted, creating a ripple effect on food processing plant workers, truck drivers and those who sell fertilizer, irrigation equipment, and tractors.  In Northern California, homeowners and businesses are bracing for the impact of anticipated water use limitations as utilities prepare for the spring and summer.

California Water Plan  

Folsom Lake Jan 2014At the end of February, the California Legislature speedily approved the $687 million California Water Plan to provide immediate help to drought-stricken communities.  Most of the money will come from accelerated spending from two bonds approved previously by voters. Get updates and information about the California Water Plan here

Even as California moves to make better use of shrinking water supplies for California's thirsty farms, water managers understand traditional agricultural efficiency is not a panacea for what ails the State.  Unfortunately, increasing irrigation efficiency under the California Water Plan is not likely to do anything to make more water available to other users, including industries, cities, and rivers.

Public and Private Sectors Respond to Drought 

In response to the drought, utilities across the state, like AWE member - the San Diego County Water Authority (SDCWA) are stepping up conservation efforts.  SDCWA has announced they will offer qualifying residents, businesses and public agencies up to $2.50 per square foot to replace conventional turf grass with water-efficient plants.

The private sector is working to improve water efficiency as well. Google, Adobe and eBay offered their own water efficiency efforts at data centers and buildings across California as an example for others to follow.

A water shortage this severe forces broad re-examination of water use across the region. An interesting comparison of residential per capita demand across California published from Department of Water Resources demand data shows inherent efficiency of dense populations where per person water use is lower than in more sparsely populated areas with big yards and more irrigation.  Not surprisingly, large properties and irrigation demands dominate in regions with high per capita use.

The long term water supply prospects for the region are uncertain.  While snowpack in the Colorado River basin stands above average, water level in Lake Powell is only 56 percent of average and the massive lake is currently only 39 percent full and has not been 100% full since 1999. In 2014, water releases to Lake Powell are expected to be 7.48 million AF which for the first time since Powell was constructed that releases will be less than the 7.5 million AF minimum specified in the Colorado River Compact.

Proposed Temperance Flat Dam Could Help Salmon, But Won’t Quench Cities 

A new Bureau of Reclamation feasibility report found that that the proposed $2.6 billion Temperance Flat Dam would increase the average annual water supply to cities and agriculture by only 61,000 acre-feet to 76,000 acre-feet (75 million cubic meters to 94 million cubic meters) because of water supply restrictions designed to help salmon and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.  That’s a drop in the bucket compared with forecast future demands for the region.

In critically dry years, such as this one, the average supply from the project would be as much as two-thirds less.  Even so, the report argues that in seven out of eight scenarios the benefits of the $US 2.6 billion project outweigh the costs.  Critics not that the analysis relies on assumptions about rejuvenated salmon runs to justify the dam, which would boost river flows and decrease water temperatures to a range acceptable to the fish.

Upcoming AWE Webinars – March 11 and April 16 

March 11 -  Change the Way Customers Use Water in 2014 with Never Waste  

neverwaste_logo_color_rgb-325x115AWE knows that it is more important than ever for water utilities to get customers thinking differently about their water use.  A free webinar on Tues. March 11 will show how utilities can use AWE’s Never Waste campaign to motivate efficiency.

Never Waste is a consumer-facing educational campaign built around the idea of a water bottle to quantify and measure how much water we waste daily – and it’s free for members of the Alliance for Water Efficiency to use.

 he webinar will also feature the City of Ventura in California explaining about how they forged partnerships within their community to reach their customers through creative platforms, and cost-effectively leveraged Never Waste to make a splash through owned properties, media and events.

 Never Waste Webinar info: 

April 16:  Innovative Outdoor Water Conservation with Karen Guz of San Antonio Water System  

 Karen Guz PhotoKaren Guz, Director of Conservation for the San Antonio Water System and 2012 AWE Water Star award winner, will offer a 45 minute webinar on San Antonio’s innovative outdoor efficiency programs as an example of lessons learned in Texas for those water utilities nationwide that are suffering with drought. 

This event was just announced.  Registration, information and details will be available from AWE soon.  In the meantime, save the date! 

DOE Publishes NOI for Commercial Clothes Washers Energy and Water Conservation Standards 

DOE LogoThe Department of Energy (DOE) has published a Federal Register notice of proposed rulemaking establishing the intent to establish energy and water conservation standards for commercial clothes washers. 

This NOI establishes modest energy savings targets for commercial clothes washers, but does not report the anticipated water savings that might be associated with these changes.  It is unknown if the benefits of water use efficiency were included in DOE’s analysis, but it is usually considered as standard procedure.

The efficiency levels DOE included in this NOI offer modest energy and water improvements and are similar to the 2015 standards DOE established for residential clothes washers, but not identical.  The NOI includes a weaker water factor (WF) standard (8.8 rather than 8.4) for commercial top loading washers.  For front loaders, the NOI is stronger than the 2015 residential standards and aligns with CEE tier 3 – a WF of  4.1 rather than 4.7.

WaterSense Challenges Hotels to Get Efficient 

hotel-challenge-2013The EPA WaterSense H2Otel Challenge launched in February to encourage hotels managers to assess water use, learn about the best management practices for reducing water use, and track their results.

Under the program, WaterSense partners will challenge hotels to learn about WaterSense at Work: Best Management Practices for Commercial and Institutional Facilities (BMPs), a comprehensive guide to commercial water efficiency. EPA and partners can provide interested water agencies and hotels with the tools to "ACT":

  • Assess water use and savings opportunities;
  • Change products or processes to incorporate BMPs; and
  • Track their water–saving progress and achievements.

 Learn how to recruit hotels to join in. For hotels that are already interested in saving water: why waste another gallon? Take the pledge today! 

 To learn more about the WaterSense H2Otel Challenge, review specific water best management practices, and hear from professionals who are using water more efficiently, you can join EPA WaterSense for a series of educational webinars:

  • Take the Plunge: The WaterSense H2Otel Challenge on March 12, 2014 from 2:00 to 3:00pm Eastern: Register here.  
  • Assess, Track, Realize Paybacks on March 6, 2014 from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. Eastern: Register here
  • Washing 101: A Plumbing and Laundry Efficiency Primer on March 27, 2014 from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. Eastern: Register here

Colorado Begins Annual Collection of Utility Water Demand Data 

Colorado colorThe State of Colorado will begin a new utility water use and conservation data collection program in 2014 and plans are already in the works to make use of the information to update state water plans.   In 2010, the Colorado General Assembly adopted HB10-1051 which requires retail water providers who sell 2,000 acre feet or more of water annually to report, on an annual basis, water use and conservation data to be used for statewide water supply planning.

The bill directed the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) to adopt guidelines regarding the reporting of water use and conservation data by covered entities (Guidelines), and to develop reporting Guidelines through a public participation process

The CWCB has developed an on-line data reporting tool that utilities will use to annually submit water use and conservation program information to the State.  The CWCB has a long list of projects waiting to take advantage of this important new data resource including the Colorado State Water Plan and the 2016 State Water Supply Initiative.

Learn more about Colorado’s data portal and reporting requirements here


AWE Takes Part in The Johnson Foundation at Wingspread's Inspiring Solutions

DickinsonAWE's President and CEO, Mary Ann Dickinson participated in a recent national online dialogue on water scarcity. The conversation, titled Inspiring Solutions and hosted by The Johnson Foundation at Wingspread, is meant to spark a dialogue on the future resiliency of the country's urban water supplies. In addition to AWE, AWWA, ReNUWIt, the White House Council on Environmental Quality, the Office of Water at the U.S. EPA, and Xylem Inc, participated in the conversation. View Mary Ann's posting entitled, Recognizing Water Efficiency's Value here

New Report: Designing Water Rate Structures for Conservation and Revenue Stability in Texas 

texasA new report from The Environmental Finance Center  at the University of North Carolina and the Sierra Club Lone Star Chapter have collaborated on a report, Designing Water Rate Structures for Conservation and Revenue Stability, to help Texas water utilities use their water rates and financial policies to encourage customers to reduce their water use while still maintaining the financial viability of the utility.   

The report offers an overview of rate making principles, an analysis of municipal water pricing in Texas, and recommendations and considerations for designing a water rate structure for conservation and revenue stability.

Another recent analysis from the EFC shows a snapshot of debt service as a percentage of water utility operating revenue.  This analysis comes from the recently completed Water Research Foundation study Defining A Resilient Business Model for Water Utilities

Water Resources Challenges Confront Salt Lake City in Uncertain Future 

Water is front and center as Salt Lake City planners prepare for an uncertain climate future. 

Laura Briefer“The most important issue is water resources,” said Laura Briefer is the Water Resources Manager with the Salt Lake City Department of Public Utilities.  “By that I mean supply, quality, quantity, and demand. To give you some context, we — as most water utilities do — plan for our water resources needs for 30 to 50 years into the future. The last big planning that we did as a community was during the 1930s/1940s, when most of our big infrastructure projects were planned and being constructed. Then we did a water supply planning out to the year 2030 about 10 years ago. We’re constantly trying to align our projections of supply and demand.”

Briefer co-authored a study with the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences and Western Water Assessment that investigated how rising temperatures could challenge Salt Lake City’s water supply. The study – “Planning for an Uncertain Future: Climate Change Sensitivity Assessment toward Adaptation Planning for Public Water Supply” – was published in the journal Earth Interactions in November 2013.

Read an extended interview with Laura Briefer here

World Plumbing Day is March 11 

Initiated by the World Plumbing Council, World Plumbing Day is an international event observed every March 11 that celebrates the important role plumbing plays in the health and safety of modern society. We know that negative connotations are sometimes attached to plumbers and plumbing, so we wanted to engage the public in changing people's perception of them and have a little fun.                             

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. 

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.


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