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...

DOE Bans Multiple Showerheads

hydra-showerheadThe US Department of Energy (DOE) has withdrawn a draft interpretative rule setting out the Department's views on the definition of a "showerhead" for purposes of the water conservation standard enacted by Congress in 1992.  This decision appears to outlaw domestically manufactured multi-showerheads effective in March 2013.  A guidance document was issued by DOE on March 4. 

Industry experts are analyzing the ramifications of this announcement.  Water Efficiency Watch will report on this topic in more detail in the next issue.  In the meantime, check out the DOE web site for the latest information.

San Francisco Calls Linking of Sewer Stink and Low Flow Toilets Misleading

San-FranciscoSomething is causing sewers to smell during the summer in San Francisco, but blaming the problem on water efficient toilets or other water conservation programs is misleading according to City officials.  Recent press reports have suggested that San Francisco’s efforts to reduce water demand may have unintentionally caused an odor problem in the sewer system.  But City officials have distanced themselves from that conclusion, and say they have no plans to alter their water conservation efforts.

“Sewer odors occur for a variety of reasons and will always represent a challenge for wastewater utilities,” the City said in a recent press release.   “Whether odors are caused by engineering design issues or flow patterns, they must not become a clarion call to stop water conservation efforts.  Instead they should become part of the long-term capital and operational planning discussion for every utility.”

 The area where the odor problem has occurred is near the new AT&T Park which was redeveloped from warehouses in recent years.  The Alliance for Water Efficiency is working with the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission to respond to the bad publicity that has occurred.  An op-ed piece is being prepared and will be widely distributed .  The City plans to continue to offer rebates for water efficient toilets and pluming fixtures.  Read more here.

WaterSense Pre-Rinse Spray Valve Study Finds Savings, Problems at Low Flows

pre_rinse_spray_valve_4High-efficiency pre-rinse spray valves (PRSVs) save water and energy over older models, but may save less than expected if flow rates below 1 gallon per minute (gpm) are adopted.  These are the results from a new study conducted by ERG and released by the US EPA’s WaterSense program in February.

PRSV’s are used in commercial food operations for the purpose of removing food waste from dishes prior to dishwashing. PRSVs can consume nearly one-third of the water used in the dish room. In 2009, the EPA announced its intent to develop a specification for water-efficient, energy-efficient, and high-performing PRSVs for the WaterSense and ENERGYSTAR programs.

Key findings from the study include:

  • PRSVs with flow rates less than 1.0 gpm are used longer in the field than higher flowing PRSVs. As a result, high-efficiency PRSVs might save less water than expected. 
  • Users are generally not satisfied with high-efficiency PRSV performance, although these same PRSVs score well on the ASTM F2324 cleanability test.

The report concluded that use time remained relatively constant among the PRSVs tested and that high-efficiency PRSVs did use less water and energy. The report also found that users were less satisfied with PRSVs that flowed at less than 1.0 gpm. However, use time did not have a perceivable impact on user satisfaction in this study, which may be because use time remained relatively constant among the PRSVs tested and users could not perceive a difference in the amount of time they used each PRSV.

The study also found that the ASTM F2324 cleanability test did not indicate which of the PRSVs tested the users preferred, nor was it an indicator of actual use time in the field. Since several users indicated pressure (i.e., spray force) as a reason for dissatisfaction, pressure may be a factor that EPA should consider for differentiating PRSV performance.

Because PRSVs have demonstrated significant water and energy savings potential, EPA plans to continue working to develop a WaterSense product specification that ensures long-term water and energy savings and acceptable performance.

Tampa Suspends Rate Structure In Response to High Bill Complaints

Tampa-FloridaTampa, Florida city council members suspended the two highest water rate tiers last month after citizens complained about unexpectedly high water bills.

Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio called for a special meeting to consider the rate structure after hundreds of residents across Tampa complained of unusually high water bills. In some cases, homeowners' charges were five to 10 times higher than expected. Thousands of residents saw their bills more than double.

The higher tiers were put in place in 2010 in an attempt to curb excessive water use during droughts.

Under the city's seven-tier pricing structure, customers within city limits are charged $16.38 for every 100 cubic feet (HCF), or 748 gallons of water, used at the highest tier, and $10.92 per HCF at the second-highest tier. The lowest rate is $1.82 per HCF.

The council's vote on a resolution suspends the top tiers that charge $16.38 and $10.92 per HCF of water and leaves in place the five lower tiers.

AWE Introduces Great Lakes Water Rates Primer

GL Rates Primer CoverThe Alliance for Water Efficiency has released a new water rates guidance document for the Great Lakes region and beyond.  Water pricing plays a central role in water resource stewardship and sustainability, and is a key element of any sound water conservation program.  

The “Water Pricing Primer for the Great Lakes Region” was written by noted water rates expert Dr. Janice Beecher of Michigan State University.

Funded by the Great Lakes Commission and the Great Lakes Protection Fund, the Alliance for Water Efficiency conducted three workshops with Dr. Beecher on conservation pricing and prepared the primer.  This primer provides an introduction to key principles and concepts of ratemaking.  It also high­lights findings from Dr. Beecher’s 2010 Great Lakes Water Rate Survey that was conducted as part of this initiative.  Download the Great Lakes Water Rates Primer here

WaterSense Fix a Leak Week March 14-20, 2011 

fix-a-leak-week-2011It is estimated more than 1 trillion gallons of water are lost to leaks from U.S. homes each year. Many household leaks, such as those caused by worn toilet flappers, can be easily repaired.  Help reduce leakage losses by participating in WaterSense's Fix a Leak Week program that runs from March 14-20, 2011. Check out the WaterSense Fix a Leak Week web page for more information and to get involved.

Study Finds Tankless Water Heaters Save Energy But Not Water

tankless-water-heaterA 2010 study of the water and energy use of tankless water heaters found that these devices reduce energy consumption by an average of 37% compared to a standard tank-type water heater.  But the study also found that the wait for hot water with a tankless water heater is substantially longer and that even with the energy savings the high cost of the devices result in a payback period of 20-40 years.

The study, “Actual Savings and Performance of Natural Gas Tankless Water Heaters”  was conducted by the Center for Energy and Environment for the Minnesota Office of Energy.  The research included a 2-year field monitoring program.

The study found that tankless water heaters saved energy and provided homeowners with acceptable hot water service at a reduced monthly cost without increasing total hot water consumption, but they did not offer measurable water savings.  Many of the tankless models tested delivered hot water to the tap more slowly than a standard tank type water heater particularly at low flow rates the study found.

Download the full report here.

Alliance for Water Efficiency Now on Facebook

facebook-logoThe Alliance for Water Efficiency has dipped into the social networking world by creating a Facebook page as another way of communicating with members, potential members, friends, and donors.  If you’re a Facebook user, be sure and “Like” the Alliance for Water Efficiency.  Thanks!


Water Research Foundation Restructures Program

WaterRF-logoThe Water Research Foundation (WaterRF) (formerly the American Water Works Association Research Foundation) has restructured its research program to better serve members while reducing costs.  The restructured program will have the following three key elements:

  • The Focus Area Program will identify a limited number of broadly relevant subscriber issues and solve them with a targeted, multi-year research response. Sixty percent of the annual research budget will be allocated to this program, which incorporates and replaces the Solicited and Strategic Initiative Programs.
  • The Emerging Opportunities Program enables the Foundation to respond quickly to emergent subscriber challenges and research opportunities identified throughout the year. Twenty percent of the annual research budget will be dedicated to this program, which replaces the Unsolicited, Rapid Response, and Partnership programs.
  • The Tailored Collaboration Program enables the Foundation to partner with utility subscribers on research that may be more limited or regional in impact. This program is unchanged and funding for it will increase from fifteen to twenty percent of the annual research budget.

Learn more about the Water Research Foundation here.

“Smart” Electric Meters Face Opposition.  Are Water Meters Next?

The New York Times reported on fierce opposition to Pacific Gas and Electric’s (PG&E) plan to install wireless smart electric meters in Northern California.  Opponents are concerned that these meters are unnecessarily intrusive and may be bad for people’s health.

smart-electric-meterAccording to PG&E, their smart meter system collects electric and natural gas usage data from homes and businesses every 15 minutes or every hour and then transmits the data periodically via a secure wireless network.  Some automated metering infrastructure (AMI) for water functions in the same manner.

“It’s not all about saving money — it’s about control,” said Deborah Tavares, 61, who was arrested in January with other protesters who blocked the driveway of the dispatch center for meter installation trucks in Rohnert Park, south of Santa Rosa.

The health concerns about the smart meters often focus around a condition known as “electromagnetic hypersensitivity,” in which people claim that radiation from cellphones, WiFi systems or smart meters causes them to suffer dizziness, fatigue, headaches, sleeplessness or heart palpitations.

Water utilities considering automated meter infrastructure could face similar opposition and should be prepared.

Colorado River District Launches Conservation Campaign

CO-same-water-cons-campaignThe Colorado River District, based in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, has developed and implemented a water conservation awareness campaign titled “It’s the Same Water” and placed billboards in strategic locations across Colorado.

“The overall message is to have people relate to the fact the water they play on is the same water they use to bathe in and drink,” said Jim Pokrandt, communication and education director for the Colorado River District. “Conservation is important, and it should apply on both sides of the divide.”

The District is hoping that by encouraging water conservation they can stave off future transmountain water transfers to the rapidly growing cities that stretch north and south of Denver.

The billboard features irrigated fields, a skier, a lawn sprinkler and a woman taking a shower with the message: “Itsthesamewater.com, Let's conserve it.”  Learn more here.

2011 WaterSense Partner of the Year Award Applications Being Accepted

WaterSense Partners of the Year 2010As the WaterSense program prepares to celebrate its fifth anniversary, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is now accepting applications for the 2011 WaterSense Partner of the Year awards.

The awards showcase WaterSense partners who have done the most in the past year to increase awareness and understanding of water efficiency and the WaterSense label.

The WaterSense Partner of the Year awards recognize program partners in six primary categories (manufacturers, irrigation partners, retailer/distributors, home builders, promotional partners such as utilities, and licensed certification providers), based on their demonstrated accomplishments promoting water-efficient products and practices in 2010.

Applicants must be WaterSense partners in good standing, and award applications must be submitted online by April 1, 2011, to be considered. Winners will be announced at the WaterSmart Innovations Conference and Expo in Las Vegas, Nevada, October 5 to 7, 2011. Learn more about the awards, view past winners’ accomplishments, and find the 2011 online application by visiting WaterSense website.

Lawsuit Against USGBC Amended

(Adapted from IAPMO’s  Green Newsletter ) The case filed against the US Green Building Council (USGBC) New York alleging fraud and false advertising has been amended, adding new plaintiffs and softening the charges against the LEED rating system.

The original lawsuit, filed in November of 2010, accused the USGBC of fraud, false advertising, deceptive trade practices, and unfair competition. The amended lawsuit drops the class action claim, and focuses only on the false-advertising and deceptive trade practices as outlined under Federal and New York law.

The new suit no longer names Rick Fedrizzi and Rob Watson as defendants, and does not put a dollar amount on the damages suffered, but instead requests all of USGBC’s profit derived from the unlawful conduct as well as damages suffered by the plaintiffs because of USGBC's "unlawful acts."

The key argument remains the same – the USGBC falsely advertises that its buildings save energy. According to the plaintiffs, the USGBC's own data suggests LEED buildings use 29% more energy. The lawsuit uses the Northland Pines High School LEED certification challenge as evidence.   Water Efficiency Watch will continue to follow this case which has broad implications for the water and energy efficiency communities.  Learn more here.

New Zealand Expert Calls for Virtual Water Labels

pantsA plant water use expert has called for a labeling system to help consumers better understand how much water is used to grow agricultural products or manufacturer goods.  For example, it is estimated that it takes 1,800 gallons of water to produce a pair of jeans, with much of the water being used to grow the cotton.

Dr. Brent Clothier of the New Zealand Institute for Plant and Food Research Ltd., whose specialty is plant water use, urged the introduction of a water labeling system at the Australian Society of Agronomy conference, held in Lincoln, New Zealand, toward the end of 2010.  Clothier believes a water-labeling system would increase consumer awareness of water use and encourage manufacturers to use less water to manufacture products.

Some virtual/embedded water estimates include:

  • Two thousand gallons are used to make tires for the car
  • Manufacturing one pound of plastic requires 24 gallons of water
  • One latte requires 53 gallons of water, which includes the water necessary to grow the coffee as well as to make the paper and plastic for the cup.

 Although the water-labeling idea has not garnered government interest as yet, it is getting attention in private industry. The organization Waterfootprint.org is making an effort to coordinate initiatives from the industry and making companies aware of the real water use, exchanging experiences on improving the management of it.

Montana and Wyoming Duke it Out Over the Yellowstone.  Supreme Court Will Settle the Issue.

(Adapted from  New West Food and Agriculture by Kylee Perez) 

Yellowstone-RiverEfficient irrigation or a breach of contract?  That is the question that will be settled by the US Supreme Court.

The states of Montana and Wyoming have been in a legal battle since 2007 over the 1950 Yellowstone River Compact, an agreement that apportions water from the river and its tributaries among Montana, Wyoming and North Dakota.

Montana claims that more efficient irrigation techniques used by Wyoming farmers are actually using more water from the Powder and Tongue rivers, leaving less for downstream users. Wyoming’s stance is their farmers are simply using a more efficient method to water crops.

According to Montana, the use of sprinkler irrigation can result in increased water consumption.  This may occur “because increases in efficiency often result in reduced return flows on which downstream farmers historically relied,” said Montana Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Anders in an e-mail. “We believe that characterizing sprinkler irrigation as an ‘efficiency gain’ to the overall system is a misnomer.”

When the compact was first signed, flood irrigation was the most common method in both states. Basically, farmers would flood their fields and what didn’t go into the ground slowly made its way back to the stream. “When you dump a bunch of water on a field you have to put more water on there than you really want to,” explained Peter Michael, Wyoming Senior Assistant Attorney General.

A Special Master, an attorney appointed by the Supreme Court to hear the case and make a preliminary decision, sided with Wyoming, saying more efficient irrigation techniques do not violate the agreement.  This will likely not the final word on the matter.  Read more here.

EPA Budget On the Chopping Block

President Obama's FY2012 budget proposal would reduce US Environmental Protection Agency’s budget by $1.3 billion, including cuts to the Clean Water and Drinking Water state revolving funds. President Obama requested $990 million for the DWSRF, $390 million less than appropriated for FY2010, and $ 1.55 billion for the CWSRF, $55 million less than FY2010.  

RIP:  UK’s Demand Management Bulletin

Eulogy by Peter Mayer

We lost a valuable resource last month when the UK Environment Agency announced that the venerable Water Demand Management Bulletin (WDMB)  would no longer be published.  For many in the water conservation world, this publication was a key link for learning about programs and projects in England and Europe.  WDMB is another victim of government austerity measures.

I first subscribed to WDMB about ten years ago and I immediately saw the value of this small, unassuming newsletter.  Here was a real attempt to communicate useful information about demand management efforts around the world to water professionals.  I was inspired and decided we needed something similar in the US, so I created Wiser Watch, an on-line water conservation newsletter posted on AWWA’s WaterWiser web site.  That newsletter evolved into the Alliance for Water Efficiency’s Water Efficiency Watch, which you are reading right now.

WDMB was originally edited by David Howarth, but he handed over the duties to Philip Turton several years ago.  Both David and Philip regularly attended conferences in the U.S. and made a point of reporting on water efficiency progress in North America as well as Europe.

The hole left by the departure of WDMB will be hard to fill.  How will we learn about conservation efforts in the UK and Europe now?  We probably won’t and that is a real loss.

AWE maintains an archive of past issues of WDMB.  Sadly, this archive will not be expanding any more.  I’m very sorry to lose this important resource.











Smartphone App NextDrop Wins BOP Award

The GSMA mWomen Programme has announced the winners of the GSMA mWomen BOP (Base of the Pyramid) Apps Challenge, sponsored by Vodafone, at the Global Mobile Awards at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. NextDrop, an application spreading information about the location of water, won in the feature phone tier.

The NextDrop application improves women’s access to water. In many areas of the developing world, water is only available through pipes for a few hours at a time. The NextDrop application sources information about local piped water delivery from the water consumers themselves. By providing incentives in the form of micro-payments, women with mobile phones can send a text message to the system when the water begins to flow in their locality. Information is verified by comparing inputs from multiple users in the same geographic area, and then the app pushes announcements to other subscribers in the same locality.

“We are thrilled to be recognized with this important award,” said Ari Olmos of NextDrop. “Hundreds of millions of people live with intermittent piped water in cities throughout the developing world. Women, in particular, lose immense amounts of time waiting for water. We will use this award to take NextDrop forward and reach more families with timely, accurate water availability information.”

News Briefs and Web Links

  • DOE Issues Final Rule Waiving Federal Preemption for Conservation Standards - The U.S. Department of Energy announced the issuance of the final rule regarding certification, compliance, and enforcement for covered products and covered equipment. This rule allows states to set plumbing standards that are stricter than the Federal standard. Download the final rule notice here
  • AWE Issues Media Campaign RFP - The Alliance for Water Efficiency is seeking qualified firms to design a consumer media campaign, to be used by member water utilities as well as the Alliance itself. Responses are due April 4, 2011 at 5:00 p.m. CDT. Click here to download the RFP
  • New Report Finds Conservation Capable of Meeting A Significant Portion of Metro-Denver's Future Water Needs - A new report from Western Resource Advocates titled, "Filling the Gap - Commonsense Solutions for Meeting Front Range Water Needs"  suggests that expanded water conservation efforts could go a long way towards meeting future water needs in the Denver metropolitan area.
  • Save Water Today Offers Outstanding Water Conservation PSAs – Looking for water conservation public service announcements?  Check out www.savewatertoday.org.
  • Western States Consider Future of the Colorado River – Brett Walton’s excellent article for Circle of Blue looks at new ideas for managing the seven-state river basin, which supplies water to 30 million residents and thousands of farms.
  • Southwest US Water Supply Disappearing Says New Study – A new report from the Stockholm Water Institute, Last Drop: Climate Change and the Southwest Water Crisis, paints a bleak picture of the future water supply for the Southwestern US.  The New York Times blogs about the article here or download the full report here.
  • AWWA Water Conservation Symposium March 14-16, 2011 - The American Water Works Association is holding a Water Conservation Symposium March 14-16, 2011 in Orlando, Florida. The focus of the symposium is the financial aspects of water conservation and how to design a conservation program in these difficult economic times. Learn more and register here .
  • The 2011 Intelligent Use of Water Summit: California Agriculture at a Crossroads, March 15, 2011 – Rain Bird Corporation in partnership with the Center for Irrigation Technology, California State University, Fresno presents this event in Clovis, CA.  Please register online here.
  • Journal AWWA Publishes Annual Conservation Issue – The February 2011 issue of the Journal of the American is focused on water conservation and includes articles on water loss, behavior change programs, and trends in water use.  Learn more here.
  • Water Environment Federation Energy and Water Conference July 31, 2011 - The Water Environment Federation is hosting a conference titled Energy and Water 2011-Efficiency, Generation, Management, and Climate Impacts in Chicago, Illinois on July 31, 2011. For more information and to register click here.
  • IA Accepting Abstracts for 2011 Innovations in Irrigation Conference – The IA will accept abstracts through May 4 for the 2011 Innovations in Irrigation Conference to be held in San Diego, CA from November 6-8.  Learn more and submit an abstract here.
  • PERC Welcomes a New Member  - The Plumbing Efficiency Research Coalition has welcomed the American Society of Plumbing Engineers as its sixth member. PERC was founded in 2009 to develop research projects that will support the development of water efficiency and sustainable plumbing products, systems and practices.
  • Organizational Name Changes – PMI has changed its name to Plumbing Manufacturers International (International replaces Institute).  The Irrigation Association Education Foundation has changed its name to the Irrigation Foundation.
  • What are the Feds Doing for Climate Change Adaptation? – A new report from the Pew Center on Global Climate Change documents actions from Federal agencies on climate change adaptation.  Download the report and learn what is and isn’t happening at the Federal agency level. [LINK TO PDF]
  • CNN Investigates High Bill Complaints in AtlantaWatch the video here.
  • Factory Chimneys Are a Source of Water? - Research has demonstrated that high-grade water can be recovered from flue gases of certain factory chimneys by utilizing strongly improved membrane technology.  Learn more here.
  • Before the Faucet, After the Flush – The video story of Chicago’s water supply produced by our friends at the Field Museum. 
  • The Cycle of Insanity: The Real Story of Water – Here is a kid-oriented video that connects the impacts of our current water management system to coastal issues and offers common sense solutions to illustrate how we can make progress toward sustainability in water and wastewater management.
  • Lakewood , CA Offers Irrigation Rebates - The city of Lakewood, California, is offering up to $195 in rebates to residents who install water-saving devices and take other measures to save water on their irrigation systems.  Learn more here.
  • Former AWE Board Member Creates Watery Foundation – Tom Swihart, a former AWE board member, has announced the creation of the Watery Foundation, website and  blog is all about water management in Florida.
  • Farmers in the state of Western Australia are competing with mining companies for precious water supplies. Australian farmers are battling a Chinese company and their local representatives over groundwater.  Read more here.
  • East Africa Could Face More Frequent Drought - The increased frequency of drought observed in eastern Africa over the last twenty years is likely to continue as long as global temperatures continue to rise, according to new research published in Climate Dynamics. This poses increased risk to the estimated 17.5 million people in the Greater Horn of Africa who currently face potential food shortages.  Read more here.
  • What Happens When the Arab World Runs Out of Water? – Protests across the middle east have rattled governments from Tripoli to Toronto.  If you think things are hot now, this UK Guardian article discusses how the impending water crisis could impact the region.
  • Brazil Approves New Dam Project Despite Protests - The Brazilian government has issued a "partial" installation license allowing the Belo Monte Dam to break ground on the Amazon's Xingu River.  The partial permit was issued in spite of on-going protests about the environmental and human costs of the project.  Read more here.
  • China Confronts Water Shortages, Need for More Energy – Circle of Blue reports on how the Chinese are adapting to water and energy scarcity.   Read the article here.
  • Green Roof Collapses - A 500’ x 60’ section of green roof on Aquascape Corporation’s headquarters in St. Charles, Illinois, collapsed onto the parking area, shutting down operations at the site until further notice.  No one was injured by the collapse, which company officials said was likely the result of an ice dam that prevented water from the rapidly melting snow from draining off the roof.  Read more here.
  • Loews Hotels Touts New Toilets – While not your standard selling point for a hotel chain, apparently Loews believes guests will flock to flush their new commodes.  We hope they are right.  Read more here.
  • Victorian Era Documents Show Water Conservation is Nothing New – Apparently there is nothing new under the sun including water conservation.  Read more here.
  • Clycloclean Offers Bicycle Powered Water Purification – In parts of the world where there is no electricity, water purification is almost non-existant.  Cycloclean hopes their bicycle powered filtration system helps improve public health in these regions.  Learn more here.

How to Submit Content for Water Efficiency Watch

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

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.