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...

 Senate Joins the House in Authorizing a WaterSense®  Program at EPA 

WS Promo LogoTen years after its launch, the WaterSense® program may finally be official.  U.S. Senate has joined the House in authorizing a WaterSense® program at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to identify products and services that conserve water and promote stormwater management.   This would be the first formal authorization for the program.  Although there is no funding now associated with the measure, Congressional authorization is nonetheless the first step in securing additional program funding for the future.

How did this finally happen?  Senate approval of a broad, bipartisan energy efficiency bill included an amendment creating a WaterSense® program sponsored by Sen. Tom Udall, D-NM, and five other senators. The Senate bill now must be reconciled with a House-passed energy bill that includes a similar WaterSense® authorization. Agreement on a compromise bill is expected before June.

The Alliance for Water Efficiency has been a key backer of the WaterSense® program since its inception in 2006. EPA has operated WaterSense® under the discretionary authority of the EPA administrator, but the program has never been formally recognized by Congress. The House and Senate bills would for the first time establish a formal WaterSense program. 

WaterSense promotes water conservation through voluntary labeling of products and services that reduce water use and the strain on water stems and wastewater or stormwater infrastructure EPA estimates that WaterSense has helped consumers save a cumulative 1.1 trillion gallons of water and more than $21.7 billion in water and energy bills since it was established 10 years ago.

 Residential End Uses of Water, Version 2 Released 

water research foundation logoResidential indoor water use has declined substantially, particularly in the volume used for washing clothes and flushing toilets according to the new Residential End Uses of Water, Version 2 released by the Water Research Foundation.  The new study is a companion piece to the classic 1999 Residential End Uses of Water and like that study was prepared by a consulting team lead by William DeOreo and Peter Mayer.

Average indoor per capita water use reduced from an average of 69.3 gpcd in the 1999 study to 58.6 gpcd, a 15% reduction or approximately 1% per year.  Most of the reduction has come from clothes washers and toilets, but other categories like dish washer also showed reductions.

“It’s impressive to see the impact high-efficiency clothes washers are having in North American households,” Mayer said. “In the 1999 study the average clothes washer used more than 41 gallons per load.  In the 2016 study the average was 31 gallons per load and we know many washers on the market today use 20 gallons per load or less.  Furthermore, people are not doing more loads of wash as the machines have gotten more efficient.”

Mayer also noted that the average toilet flush volume reduced from 3.65 gal. to 2.6 gal. per flush in the 2016 study.  “There is still additional room for future water savings by reducing flush volumes,” Mayer said.  “The data also show that toilet flushing frequency has not increased, so in fact people are not flushing their water efficient toilets any more often than the old ones.”

A free Executive Report summarizing key findings from the study is available here.  To get a copy of the full report or the accompanying end uses of water database, you must be a member of the Water Research Foundation. 

 Lower Colorado River Negotiations Underway 

Lake MeadSecretive negotiations about the future of Lake Mead and water use in the lower Colorado River basins are underway.  According to a report in the Arizona Daily Star, Arizona, California and Nevada negotiators along with the Federal Bureau of Reclamation and other water users are moving toward a major agreement triggering cuts in Colorado River water deliveries to Southern and Central Arizona in hopes of averting more severe cuts in the future.

As presently envisioned, cuts would be shared by all three states including California. This is surprising; since the late 1960s, the legal requirement established has been for the Central Arizona Project to relinquish all its supply during shortages, before California loses any.

Negotiations of this nature are sensitive and agreement has not been reached, but it appears water officials are convinced cuts are necessary due to the continued drop in the level of Lake Mead over the past 16 years due to drought.  If approved, such an agreement would represent a significant shift in approach towards the Lake Mead structural deficit.

If cuts are necessary, Arizona Department of Water Resources director Tom Buschatzke says his state is prepared.  Arizona has banked millions of acre feet underground in anticipation of just such a situation as the current drought conditions present.

 Updated Drainline Transport Study Released 

1 PERC-logo-colorThe Plumbing Efficiency Research Coalition (PERC) has released the Phase 2.1 supplemental report on the drainline transport of solid waste in building drains. The Phase 2.1 report details the findings from additional work the Coalition was able to conduct using remaining funds carried over from the PERC 2.0 research study.

The Drainline Transport of Solid Waste in Buildings – Phase 2.0 was originally released in September of 2015. The PERC 2.1 findings appear as a new appendix to the PERC 2.0 report, and the combined reports are available for download free of charge on the PERC website.

PERC was formed in 2009 through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to develop research projects that support the development of water efficiency and sustainable plumbing products, systems, and practices. PERC identified drainline transport as its first research project. The six members of the coalition are represented by: Mary Ann Dickinson, Alliance for Water Efficiency (AWE); Billy Smith, American Society of Plumbing Engineers (ASPE); Peter DeMarco, International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO); Fred Grable, International Code Council (ICC); Michael Copp, Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors National Association (PHCC); and Barbara C. Higgens, Plumbing Manufacturers International (PMI).

The Phase 2.1 supplemental report focuses on two previously unaddressed areas of study — the implications surrounding dual flush toilet discharge patterns, comparing results to single volume flush toilets of comparable flush volume, and on the impact of drainline slope deviations on the transport of solid waste.

“The PERC Phase 2.1 provides new and useful information for the plumbing trades, engineers, designers, code officials, water efficiency experts, and manufacturers,” said IAPMO’s DeMarco, who acted as technical director for all of the PERC drainline transport studies.

 Rollercoaster Winter Leaves California Thirsty for More 

 20160426_usdm_homeEl Nino delivered a bit, but did not bring the heavy snows California dreamed of last Fall, and warm temperatures have melted snow faster than ever according to climatologists.   Throughout late March and into April, much of the West experienced unseasonably warm days. Then, in late April, temperatures plummeted in Southwest Colorado’s San Juan Mountains and more than 2 feet of wet, heavy spring snow fell. Suddenly, ski boots were out again and for a day or two, it felt like winter was back.

But those storms have only helped just a fraction of the West, with much of the moisture buoying snowpack levels along the Eastern Rockies in Colorado and Wyoming. Meanwhile, the rest of the region is on the opposite trajectory, losing snowpack at record-breaking rates.
At the beginning of April, snowpack levels across the region were “near normal,” says Cara McCarthy, deputy director for the National Water and Climate Center in Portland, under the Natural Resource Conservation Service. The season was off to a slow start with sporadic storms in October through December, but January winter precipitation increased levels across all states, according to NRCS SNOTEL sites, which measures snow depth at thousands of stations nationwide. For months, most of the region hung on to above-normal snowpack measurements.
But in just the few short weeks since then, that snow is melting faster than climate hydrologists have seen in nearly four decades, bringing the snowpack far /below/ normal in most states in the West.
For states already struggling with dwindling water, the quick retreat of snowpack may affect how much water resource managers can store in nearby reservoirs. For California, in its fifth year of drought, this season has been a bit of a rollercoaster. In January, snowpack readings increased to 127 percent of normal (up from 90 percent in December) — good news for a state where 30 percent of the water supply is dependent on snow.
But now California’s three most crucial basins for the state’s water supply are far below normal: The Northern Sierra is at only 66 percent normal for late April, Central Sierra is at 64 percent of normal and the Southern Sierra is at 49. “This should be a bit of a wake-up call for water resource managers,” McCarthy says.
Temperature has been a major factor in the accelerated melting, although minimal snowfall has also played a role. According to the NRCS and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, much of the Pacific Northwest, California, Idaho and Montana have experienced abnormally high temperatures between the beginning throughout April — in some places departing from historical averages by as much as 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Colorado and parts of New Mexico and Arizona have been more or less normal.

 Innovative Conservation Program Grants Available 

 ICPFor the first time, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is participating with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation as well as the Central Arizona Project, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and Southern Nevada Water Authority in the Innovative Conservation Program (ICP). The program, which also includes Southern California Gas Co., seeks to advance water-saving efforts by finding new and innovative methods for using supplies more efficiently. 

This year's $500,000 ICP cycle focuses on water-saving devices, technologies and strategy proposals that address the water/energy nexus. Awards will be made in two funding categories: up to $30,000 and between $30,000 and $100,000. Proposals that address other aspects of water-use efficiency also will be considered. All proposals are due May 23Learn more here. 

 AWWA issues water audit challenge for World Water Day 

pipe leak 3At the White House Water Summit in Washington, D.C., on World Water Day, the American Water Works Association announced a challenge to its member water utilities and others across the globe to complete 1,000 water audits over the next two years using AWWA's newest Water Audit Software.

Water audits allow utilities to become more efficient by showing how much water is lost through leaking distribution pipes and highlighting other potential concerns, such as faulty meters or billing problems. Understanding the scope of water loss within a water system sets the stage for introducing innovative and creative solutions.

“A water audit is the first step to a successful water loss control program,” said AWWA CEO David LaFrance, who attended the White House event. “By accepting this challenge, utilities will demonstrate their commitment to efficient business practices and excellent stewardship of our most precious natural resource.”

The White House Water Summit, which took place on World Water Day, raised awareness of the national importance of water and highlights new commitments and announcements that the Obama Administration and non-federal institutions are making to build a sustainable water future.  The Alliance for Water Efficiency was also an invited participant.

Utilities that participate in the AWWA challenge will be able to access the Association’s Water Loss Audit Software version 5.0, a free tool that was recently updated to support audits for water systems of all sizes. In addition to completing an audit, AWWA is challenging utilities to report their findings on AWWA's website, to their governing boards, and to the customers they serve. 

“All of us have a role in encouraging efficient use of water,” LaFrance said. “From those who manage water resources, to agricultural water users, to the utilities, to consumers, we can all take steps to use water efficiently and avoid waste.”

 2016 Watershed Summit June 9 at the Denver Botanic Gardens 

The 2016 Watershed Summit is designed to bring together water experts and the next generation of water leaders from across the region. Attendees will help develop the dialogue around current water issues and practical solutions for addressing them. 

Building on the success of last year’s inaugural event in Boulder County, the 2016 Watershed Summit is being elevated to a state-wide event through a collaborative partnership between the Colorado Water Conservation Board, Denver Water, the City of Boulder, the One World One Water Center, Center for ReSource Conservation and the Denver Botanic Gardens. 

This year’s focus on “Water Is Your Business” seeks to add new voices to the discussion, introduce innovative ideas, and break down silos. The goal is to bring local influence to global issues.  Learn more and register for this free, but limited space event here. 

 AWWA Water Conservation Division Social - Chicago 

Haymarket_Pub_ChicagoThe Alliance for Water Efficiency and the AWWA Water Conservation Division are hosting a social on June 20, 2016 during the AWWA Annual Conference in Chicago. The popular annual social will be held at the Haymarket Microbrewery in downtown Chicago. All Water Professionals working in water efficiency and conservation, water loss, and water resource and sustainability planning are welcome to attend!  Admission is $15 per person. Get your tickets and more information here. 

 Kohler Co. and San Francisco Public Utilities Commission Support Mobile, Efficient Showers for the Homeless 

Lava Mae bus_#07_Aug 6th__-¬Henrik Kam 2014_In 2012, Lava Mae founder Doniece Sandoval sought a creative solution to provide showers and better access to hygiene for the 3,500 men, women and children who live on the streets of San Francisco. Two years later, Lava Mae launched an innovative initiative that takes retired public transportation buses and converts them into mobile hygiene units for the homeless. The organization now helps approximately 200 people shower weekly, and is in the process of adding another bus to their fleet.

Two AWE partners, Kohler Co. and San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC), have joined forces with Lava Mae to provide this service in the most water-efficient way. The initiative has considered water efficiency as an objective since the outset.

“When you’re trying to give showers to a large number of people, that objective must go hand in hand with water efficiency,” said Lava Mae Mobile Services Manager Michael Morrow. 

LavaMae Bathroom (2)Kohler Co. provided a suite of efficient fixtures and appliances, including their Highline Pressure Lite toilets and Awaken showerheads and hand showers, which all meet EPA WaterSense standards. They also contributed the DTV Prompt Shower Interface with water-saving mode, which can be configured to only allow one spray to function at a time and can be programmed to limit shower time. This allows the Lava Mae team to provide a dignified experience to guests without using excessive amounts of water. Lava Mae aims for a limit of 10 minutes or less with each guest, as some guests need 10 minutes or more due to physical disabilities. 

Rob Zimmerman, Senior Manager for Sustainability at Kohler Co. stated, “Kohler was happy to support Lave Mae because we know how to create a rejuvenating showering experience. To be able to help provide that to those in need was very meaningful. And to demonstrate that such experiences can be delivered efficiently was a bonus.”

LavaMae Bathroom (1)Lava Mae partnered with SFPUC to procure their water from fire hydrants, and uses a SFPUC-issued water meter to track and pay for water use. SFPUC was able to provide information about water budgeting, usage data, and efficiency strategies to maximize Lava Mae’s conservation goals. Finally, SFPUC worked with Lava Mae around permitting and creative solutions for wastewater management, including establishing disposal locations. Tanks under the bus store black water, which is disposed of safely at an easily accessible SFPUC location, allowing them to maximize the number of clients they serve. 

“Our partnership with Lava Mae reflects our Agency’s efforts to be a good neighbor in the communities we serve,” said Kay Fernandez Smith, Director of Community Benefits & Social Responsibility at SFPUC. “There is a clear nexus between these types of partnerships, our commitment to sustainability, and our mission of providing high quality water and sewer services”.

Looking to the future, Lava Mae is working on ways to educate users during their experience about their water use, such as using lighting or musical cues informing them of how long they’ve been in the shower or how much water they’ve used. 

America’s Water: Infrastructure in Peril What to do, how to fix it, and how to finance it

Beginning May 11 and running through fall 2016, Circle of Blue, American Public Media, and Columbia University -- and a global audience -- will dig deep and explore the state of the nation's water infrastructure. From what happens when pipes and policies fail to the opportunities for innovative finance, policy, and technology. Bring your voice May 11 for the first of four dynamic town halls about America's water infrastructure.  Learn more and register here. 

 EPA Announces $3.3 Million in Funding for Water Reuse and Conservation Research 

EPA Logo with BorderThe U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced funding to five institutions to research human and ecological health impacts associated with water reuse and conservation practices. 

“Increasing demand for water resources is putting pressure on the finite supply of drinking water in some areas of the United States,” said Thomas A. Burke, EPA Science Advisor and Deputy Assistant Administrator of EPA’s Office of Research and Development. “The research announced today will help us manage and make efficient use of the water supply in the long term.”

Water conservation practices that promote water reuse are becoming increasingly important, especially in the western United States, where factors such as climate change, extreme drought, and population growth are decreasing water availability. To help promote sustainable water reuse, this research will evaluate how reclaimed water applications such as drinking water reuse, replenishing groundwater, and irrigation can affect public and ecological health.

EPA announced these grants in conjunction with the White House Water Summit, which was held to raise awareness of water issues and potential solutions in the United States, and to catalyze ideas and actions to help build a sustainable and secure water future through innovative science and technology.

The following institutions received funding through EPA’s Science to Achieve Results (STAR) program:

  • Water Environment Research Foundation (WERF) Alexandria, Va. to actively identify contaminant hotspots, assess the impact of those hotspots on human and ecological health, and quantify the impact of water reuse and management solutions.
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Urbana, Ill. to develop a new framework to understand how adaptive UV and solar-based disinfection systems reduce the persistence of viral pathogens in wastewater for sustainable reuse.
  • Utah State University, Logan, Utah to assess the impacts and benefits of stormwater harvesting using Managed Aquifer Recharge to develop new water supplies in arid western urban ecosystems.
  • University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Nev. to quantify microbial risk and compare the sustainability of indirect and direct potable water reuse systems in the United States.
  • University of California Riverside, Riverside, Calif. to measure levels of contaminants of emerging concern in common vegetables and other food crops irrigated with treated wastewater, and to evaluate human dietary exposure.

More information on these grants is available here. 

 IWA’s Efficient2017 to be Held in Tel Aviv

 The International Water Association has announced that Efficient 2017 will be held in Tel Aviv, Israel from March 21-23, 2017.  The specialist conference will address issues of conservation and efficiency and will be held in one of the driest parts of the world where important innovations have been made.  Learn more and download the callfor papers here. 

 Colorado Approves Rain Barrels, but Not Water Loss Control 

 rain-barrelAfter several years of legislative effort, residential rain barrels will finally become legal in Colorado when a law approved this session is inked by Governor John Hickenlooper (D).

HB 16­1005 will allow Colorado residents to have two 55­ gallon rain barrels to collect rainwater from their rooftops. The water can only be used for outdoor irrigation, such as in gardens and on plants. Instead of letting all the rainwater get used by the lawn under the gutter, rain barrels will allow homeowners to direct a small amount of water to the garden instead.

Not all water conservation related legislation was as successful.  A bill that would have required the 80 largest water providers in Colorado to prepare and submit an annual water audit using the AWWA M36 methodology failed to make it out of the House Agriculture Committee last month.  The bill won support from the Colorado Water Conservation Board, but the M36 water audit concept did not garner much support from Colorado water utilities or the agricultural water interests.  Bill sponsor, Rep. K.C. Becker of Boulder, plans to re-introduce the measure next year.

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 – peter.mayer@waterdm.com.

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