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.  Like and follow AWE on Facebook and Twitter for a chance to win an iPod Touch! 

In this issue of Water Efficiency Watch...


LEED 2012 Ratings Include Important Water Efficiency Changes

sprinklerThe US Green Building Council (USGBC) is seeking comments on the LEED 2012 rating system which includes substantial changes to the water efficiency component.  The long-term ideal for achieving water efficiency in buildings through LEED is to create a comprehensive water budget that allows project teams to determine their project's major water uses and target efficiency measures at the areas of largest impact.

According to USGBC, the 2012 ratings system for water efficiency has been expanded in scope.  The 2012 water efficiency category addresses more building water uses than LEED 2009.  In LEED 2012, the credits are reorganized as an incremental step towards an integrated water budget, along with mandatory requirements for water metering.

The LEED Water Efficiency Technical Advisory Group (WETAG) worked hard to ensure that efficiency pre-requisites were maintained in LEED 2012.  AWE and its members on the WETAG played an important role in this successful outcome. As one example, the LEED pre-requisites provide two different options for complying with the outdoor efficiency requirement: (1) reduce the project’s Landscape Water Requirement by 30% from the calculated baseline; or (2) show that the landscape will not require long-term irrigation beyond a maximum two year establishment period. 

USGBC is soliciting comments on LEED 2012 through March 20, 2012, and AWE is urging its members to weigh in.  Learn more about LEED 2012 and submit comments here. 

Obama Budget Elevates WaterSense Profile, Promotes Rivers Initiative

WaterSense Profile Elevated

watersenseLogoThe growing importance of the WaterSense program came in for special mention in the fiscal 2013 budget of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

"In a short timeframe, WaterSense has become a national symbol for water efficiency," said EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson in her justification for the EPA budget submitted to congressional leaders. "Awareness of WaterSense is growing every day...and a strong network of stakeholders across the nation will build awareness of the need for efficient use of water."

Despite President Obama proposing the third consecutive decrease in overall EPA spending, Jackson cited WaterSense as an example of the agency's efforts to ensure long-term sustainable water infrastructure. The president's budget asked for an $8 million increase in funding for Surface Water Protection programs, which include WaterSense, without specifying the funding level for WaterSense.

Rivers Initiative Applauded

Yellowstone-RiverThe President’s 2013 budget prioritizes within the new Rivers Initiative river restoration and recreation projects in all 50 states; the development of a National Blueways System to recognize communities which rediscover, restore, and reconnect with rivers; and a National Rivers Atlas and other online river restoration and recreation tools.  The move was applauded by numerous river advocacy organizations, including River Network and American Rivers.

The budget incorporates many of the projects that river advocates around the country helped generate through the America’s Great Outdoors initiative.  Learn more here. 

Texas Court Links Groundwater Rights with Land

TexasTexas landowners can claim the groundwater underneath their land as personal property, the Texas Supreme Court ruled in February, in a blow to state regulators.

"We held long ago that oil and gas are owned in place, and we find no reason to treat groundwater differently," Justice Nathan Hecht wrote for the court. 

A pair of landowners filed suit after failing to obtain a permit to drill a replacement well on their 381-acres ranch above the Edwards Aquifer, which San Antonio uses for water.  The Edwards Aquifer Authority refused to give a permit because it believed that the previous well wasted water. But the landowners claimed they should be compensated for the loss of their right to pump water.

The ruling from the Texas high court restores the farmers' right to pump the water and gives them ownership of the water below their land.  This is a shift from the court's ruling dating back to 1904 that adopted the rule of capture and recognized no such rights for groundwater.

The ruling leaves questions about the future regulation of groundwater in Texas.

“Unquestionably, the state is empowered to regulate groundwater production,” the Texas high court opinion states. “In many areas of the state, and certainly in the Edwards Aquifer, demand exceeds supply.”  However, the court found that if the regulation of water is thought to be unreasonable, the landowner can seek redress in the courts.  Learn more here. 

$1,000,000,000,000 (trillion) Needed for US Water Infrastructure: AWWA

pipe leak 1Restoring existing water systems as they reach the end of their useful lives and expanding them to serve a growing population will cost at least $1 trillion over the next 25 years if utilities in the US are to maintain current levels of water service, according to a new report from the American Water Works Association (AWWA).

The report, Buried No Longer: Confronting America’s Water Infrastructure Challenge, says that because of its age, “it comes as no surprise that a large proportion of US water infrastructure is approaching, or has already reached, the end of its useful life.”  What’s more the report notes, over the coming 40-year period -- through 2050 -- water infrastructure needs exceed $1.7 trillion.  Customer water bills are going to have increase to pay for this infrastructure, the report concludes.

The report found that the South and the West regions of the US will face the steepest investment challenges, and total needs in these areas account for well over 50% of the national total. This is largely attributable to the fact that the population of these regions is growing rapidly. The report notes that in the Northeast and Midwest, growth is a relatively small component of the projected need. However, the population shifts away from these regions complicate the infrastructure challenge, as there are fewer remaining local customers across whom to spread the cost of renewing their infrastructure.

Events Scheduled Nationwide for Fix a Leak Week

Fix A Leak 2012From Oregon to Georgia, water professionals are gearing up for Fix a Leak Week, a WaterSense program designed to focus attention on the water lost leaks.  Fix a Leak Week 2012 is scheduled for March 12 – 18 and the emphasis is on empowering people to take action to repair leaking toilets and fixtures.

Here is a snapshot of events scheduled across the country for Fix a Leak Week:

  • Georgia - The Athens-Clarke County (ACC) Water Conservation Office has partnered with the University of Georgia Office of Sustainability for Fix a Leak Week this year with a “helping hands” approach to fixing leaks. Volunteers from Athens-area churches and faith-based student organizations at the University of Georgia-Athens will perform water conservation audits at churches, show residents how to audit homes, and distribute free WaterSense labeled faucet aerators and other water-saving devices.
  • Oregon - The Banks City Council has issued a proclamation declaring Fix a Leak Week, and customers will receive a flyer about Fix a Leak Week in their February water bills. If the customer mentions the flyer, select plumbers will provide the first half hour of labor for free during that week.
  • New Mexico – In Gallup, the Fix a Leak Week celebration will be held one afternoon at the county courthouse, with a free showerhead, aerator, and toilet leak detection packet for the first 300 customers.

Get more information about Fix a Leak Week here. 

National Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation Kicks Off March 30

Tampa-FloridaThe National Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation set for March 30 – April 30, 2012, is a national competition to reduce water use with winners taking big prizes including a new Toyota Prius.

The competition is structured into four different regions, West, Midwest, South and Northeast and is further categorized by population. Communities with 5,000 to 30,000 residents will compete against one another as well as cities with 30,001 to 100,000 residents and cities with 100,000+ residents.

In addition to the Toyota Prius Hybrid, other prizes up for grabs include a new Rain Bird sprinkler system, Eco-Flow showerheads from WaterPik, Sterling water-saving toilets and Lowe’s gift cards.

Learn more and sign up for the Mayor’s Challenge here.

Water Footprinting “Standard” Released

A new manual attempts to establish uniform internationally agreed upon methods for calculating the water footprint of goods and services across the globe.  The Water Footprint Assessment Manual: Setting the Global Standard prepared by the Water Footprint Network offers a complete and up-to-date overview of water footprint assessment methods and standards.

The manual available for free download offers:

  • A comprehensive set of methods for water footprint assessment
  • How-to methods for calculating water footprints for individual processes and products, as well as for consumers, nations and businesses
  • Detailed worked examples of how to calculate green, blue and grey water footprints
  • Methods for assessing the sustainability of the aggregated water footprint within a river basin or the water footprint of a specific product

Perhaps most importantly, the manual includes an extensive library of possible measures that can contribute to water footprint reduction.

Learn more here. 

Wisconsin Public Service Commission Mandates Annual Water Loss Audits:  Legislative Approval Still Required

wisconsinThe Public Service Commission of Wisconsin has approved changes to Administrative

Code impacting all Wisconsin water utilities that will require an annual water audit as well as updating standards for evaluating water loss in utility distribution systems. 

It is hoped that the code changes will also update and streamline the water utility construction authorization process, establish cost effectiveness criteria for voluntary water conservation programs, and require additional education and outreach. 

The rules were sent to the State Legislature for final approval, which is expected to occur later this spring.  The proposed rules can be viewed here. 

Florida and Alabama Ask Supreme Court to Rule on Water Dispute with Georgia

supreme courtAlabama and Florida are taking their 20-year water fight with Georgia to the U.S. Supreme court.  The states filed petitions with the U.S. Supreme Court last month seeking review of an appellate court decision in June that gave metro Atlanta rights to water from Lake Lanier.

This latest appeal is expected to delay work on an operations manual to establish the Atlanta area's share of water from the federal reservoirs at Lake Lanier and Lake Allatoona, said Lisa Coghlan, deputy public affairs officer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The corps is under court order to complete the manuals by June.

Florida and Alabama hope the Supreme Court will reverse a June 2011 ruling by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals that overturned a 2009 decision by U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson.  That decision that found the Atlanta area had no right to water in Lake Lanier, a federally constructed reservoir. Magnuson gave the states until this summer to reach agreement on downstream releases or threatened to pull metro Atlanta's access to the lake, removing a key source of water for 3.5 million people.

"For 60 years, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has consistently stated that its original plans for Lake Lanier did not intend for any part of the reservoir to be dedicated to the Atlanta area’s water supply," said Jeremy King, a spokesman for Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley. "No other court of appeals in the country has overridden an agency’s viewpoint in similar circumstances, so this is the type of case the Supreme Court needs to review.”

EPA’s Climate Ready Water Utilities Initiative Adds Adaptation Strategies Guide

EPA-climate-readyThe Adaptation Strategies Guide for Water Utilities is now available on EPA’s Climate Ready Water Utilities website.

Climate change impacts pose challenges to the water sector -- drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater utilities -- in fulfilling their public health and environmental missions. Extreme weather events, sea level rise, shifting precipitation and runoff patterns, temperature changes, and resulting changes in water quality and availability contribute to a complex scenario of climate change challenges that have potentially significant implications for the sustainability of the water sector.

EPA's Climate Ready Water Utilities (CRWU) initiative provides resources for the water sector to adapt to climate change by promoting a clear understanding of climate science and adaptation options and by promoting consideration of integrated water resources management (IWRM) planning in the water sector. 

Feds Block Flaming Gorge Pipeline, Applicants Vow to Continue Effort

WyomingFederal energy regulators have rejected an application for a controversial 500-mile water pipeline from Flaming Gorge Reservoir in Wyoming to Colorado’s Front Range.  The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) dismissed a preliminary permit application for the pipeline -- a move that could derail the project according to some.


"The Flaming Gorge pipeline is a zombie project at this point," said Rob Harris and attorney with the Colorado-based Western Resource Advocates (WRA), a conservation group opposed to the pipeline.

Project developer Aaron Million insisted that the FERC decision just means he needs to fill in more details before resubmitting the required FERC application. Time will tell.  Learn more here. 

New ACEEE White Paper Details Innovative Local Delivery of Energy Efficiency

In the absence of leadership at the federal level to enact comprehensive climate and clean energy legislation, local municipalities and community organizations are adopting policies, strategies, and partnerships that promote energy efficiency, save money, and reduce pollution. This increased level of activity in promoting energy efficiency at the local level is the focus of a white paper released in February by ACEEE and the MIT Energy Efficiency Strategy Project.

The white paper presents eight case studies from communities across the country and showcases how local governments and civil society can support energy efficiency efforts through enabling policies and program partnerships.  Learn more and download the white paper here. 

2012 WaterSense Partner of Year – It Could be You

WS Partner LogoThe 2012 WaterSense Partner of the Year application period is currently open with all award applications due by April 6.

 Launched in 2008, the WaterSense Partners of the Year awards program recognizes WaterSense partners who:

  • Help advance the overall mission of WaterSense
  • Increase awareness of the WaterSense brand in a measurable way
  • Demonstrate overall excellence in the water-efficiency arena

Partners of the Year contribute to the program's success by enhancing the market for water-efficient products, practices, and services.  Find out if you’ve got what it takes to be a WaterSense Partner of the Year, download and submit your application here. 

News Briefs and Web Links

  • Some Texas Reservoirs Are Filling, Some Restrictions Lifted – Welcome precipitation is easing drought conditions in parts of Texas while others remain in extreme drought.  Check out this graphic from Texas Water News depicting reservoir levels from across the state. In related news, the San Antonio Water System officially lifted Stage One drought restrictions on March 6.
  • Below Average Water Year Expected in Utah – Unless snowpack improves dramatically, Utah snowpack and snow-related water supply will be lower than usual this year.
  • Benefits of Washing Clothes in Cold Water Touted - When doing laundry, heating water can account for up to 80 percent of the energy used per wash load in the U.S. By moving to cold water, Americans could reduce CO2 emissions by up to 11 million metric tons annually according to the Alliance to Save Energy. Learn more here. 
  • 5.6 Million Trees Killed by Texas Drought: Forest Service - In Texas, 5.6 million shade trees in urban areas have died as a result of the drought, according to the Texas Forest Service. This accounts for about 10 percent of the total amount of trees in the urban forest. 
  • EPA Launches Green Infrastructure Web Site - Green infrastructure is an approach that communities can choose to maintain healthy waters, provide multiple environmental benefits and support sustainable communities. Check out the web site here. 
  • Don’t Care for Xeriscape?  Try Ecoscape! – Strathcona County, Alberta, Canada is providing useful information on a new version of waterwise landscaping called “ecoscape”. Whatever you call it, we think it’s a great idea.  Learn more about ecoscaping here. 
  • Postel’s National Geographic Blog Recognizes AWE – Water expert Sandra Postel gave a welcome shout out to AWE in her recent Water Currents blog for National Geographic.  Thanks Sandra!
  • Is Metro Atlanta a Leader in Water Conservation? – PolitiFact investigates the claim of a local official that "The Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District is now the national leader in conservation," and finds it “mostly false.”  Nevertheless, important strides have been made in Georgia over the past few years.  Read more here. 
  • Seven Curious Things About Water Management – Dr. Jay Lund of UC Davis offers (at least) seven useful insights into water management in this blog post.
  • Clarke Prize Nomination Deadline Extended to April 1- The deadline for nominations for the 2012 recipient of the NWRI Athalie Richardson Irvine Clarke Prize for excellence in water research has been extended an additional month.  The new deadline is April 1.  The Prize, which includes a medallion and $50,000 award honors scholarly and practical achievements in water research. 
  • Carole Baker Profiled in “Our Hero” Blog – AWE’s board chair gets some well-deserved kudos in this blog interview. 
  • EPA Insists More Information Needed on Colorado River Diversion Project - A project to divert additional Colorado River water to growing Colorado suburbs may cause "significant degradation" of already deteriorating ecosystems along the upper Colorado and the EPA has insisted on more information before approval.  Learn more here. 
  • Conservation Seminar Brings Efficiency Message to Drought-Shocked Texas - More than 300 people immersed themselves in a water conservation symposium last month at the Amarillo Civic Center to hear from state officials and representatives from cities noted for being progressive conservationists.  Learn more here. 
  • ASHRAE and IAPMO Team to Promote Built Environment Codes and Standards - ASHRAE and the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO) have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) specifically detailing ways in which the two organizations can work together to advance and promote mutual interests in built environment codes and standards.
  • Innovative Design Combines Rainwater Capture and Electricity Generation - What would you end up with if you combined a solar light with a rainwater harvest system wrapped in a design reminiscent of nature?  Check out this innovative design concept here. 
  • Texas Military Golf Course Irrigates With Recycled Water - Every year, Corpus Christi, Texas, used to dump 80 million gallons of recycled water in the nearby Laguna Madre Bay, near the Gulf of Mexico. Now, under a new agreement signed with the military, the city will be providing this water to the Golf Winds Golf Course, located at the Naval Air Station, Corpus Christi.  Learn more here. 
  • Carbon Disclosure Project Releases 2011 Global Water Report - CDP Water  disclosure’s goal is encourage meaningful and systematic reporting on water use globally so that investors and other stakeholders can understand how companies are building water into their core business strategies.  Download the 2011 report here. 
  • WWF-UK Teams with Beverage Giant for Water Footprint Report – The World Wildlife Fund (WWF-UK) and beverage giant SAB Miller (beer & Coca Cola) have teamed to produce a new report: Water Footprinting: Identifying and Assessing Water Risks in the Value ChainDownload the report here. 
  • UK Author Tries to Reduce Water FootprintLearn about one person’s efforts to reduce water use. 
  • AWWA Sustainable Water Management Conference Heads to Portland, Oregon March 18 – 21 - This year’s AWWA Sustainable Water Management Conference will be held in Portland, Oregon from March 18 – 21, 2012.  Learn more here. 
  • UK Waterwise Conference Set for March 21, 22 - This year's UK Waterwise conference will be in Oxford at Lady Margaret Hall and the theme is 'Engaging water users'.  Learn more here. 
  • IAPMO Green Technical Committee (GTC) Meetings Scheduled - April 19-20 in Chicago at the Embassy Suites Hotel O’Hare-Rosemont and August 23-24 in Ontario at IAPMO Headquarters.  Learn more here. 
  • MWD Spring Green Expo to be Held May 3 in LA – Join the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California for a one-day water conservation and sustainability expo featuring speakers and exhibits.  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.

Don’t forget to like and follow AWE on Facebook and Twitter for your chance to win an iPod Touch. 

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.