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...

US Water Withdrawals Reduced by 13% from 2005 – 2010, Now at pre-1970 Levels 

USGS report coverWater use in the United States in 2010 was estimated to be about 355 billion gallons per day (Bgal/d), which was 13 percent less than in 2005 according the United States Geological Survey (USGS). The new report from USGS, Estimated Use of Water in the United States in 2010 found that total withdrawals are at the lowest level since before 1970. 

USGS does not make a distinction between water that is withdrawn and fully consumed and water that is withdrawn, used, and then returned to the body of water it was withdrawn from. USGS utilizes the term "water use" to describe consumptive and non-consumptive water use .

A summary of water withdrawals in the US in 2010 is shown in the USGS graphic below:

usgs-pie-chartFreshwater withdrawals were 86 percent of total withdrawals, and saline-water withdrawals were 14 percent of total withdrawals. Significantly, fresh surface-water withdrawals were almost 15 percent less than in 2005, and fresh groundwater withdrawals were about 4 percent less than in 2005.

Public-supply withdrawals, the focus of water efficiency efforts from AWE and utilities across the US, were 5 percent less in 2010 than in 2005.  This is the first measured decline in public-supply withdrawals since the 5-year reporting began in 1950.  This decline was achieved even though population increased by 4% in the US from 300.7 million people in 2005 to 313.0 million people in 2010. 

 “This is tremendous news,” said Mary Ann Dickinson, President and CEO of the Alliance for Water Efficiency.  “The analysis from USGS confirms the remarkable impact that water efficiency programs and policies are having across the US.  Water efficiency is a powerful and effective method to extend water supplies and protect the environment.”

Public-supply withdrawals accounted for 14 percent of the total freshwater withdrawals for all uses and 22 percent of freshwater withdrawals for all uses excluding thermoelectric power. The number of people that received potable water from public-supply facilities in 2010 was 268 million, or about 86 percent of the total U.S. population. This percentage was unchanged from 2005.

Thermoelectric power and agricultural irrigation remained the two largest uses of water in 2010, and total withdrawals for both were notably less than in 2005. Withdrawals in 2010 for thermoelectric power were 20 percent less and withdrawals for irrigation were 9 percent less than in 2005.

Withdrawals for thermoelectric power represented the lowest levels since before 1970.  Agricultural irrigation withdrawals in 2010 were at lowest levels since before 1965.  Get more info and download the full USGS report here. 

Abstracts Due by November 15 for International Efficiency Conference in Cincinnati 

 Cincinnati-roebling-suspension-bridge Credit Derek JensenAn international conference on “Water Efficiency and Performance Assessment of Water Services” will be held in Cincinnati April 20-24, 2015, co-sponsored by the US EPA and the International Water Association.  More than 600 efficiency professionals from around the world are expected to attend.  Registration and hotel rates are expected to be be quite reasonable and presenters are offered a discount.  AWE’s Mary Ann Dickinson is chairing the Program Committee.  Abstracts are due November 15, 2015.  Visit www.efficient2015.com for more information and to file an abstract.

Amy Vickers Awarded 2014 AWE Water Star Honor 

WS-awards-VickersOn October 9, 2014 -- at the Water Smart Innovations Conference in Las Vegas -- the Alliance for Water Efficiency presented Amy Vickers with its coveted annual Water Star Award, an award intended to reward individual excellence in water efficiency.  Vickers was honored for over 25 years of achievements in the water efficiency field.  

Amy Vickers is a nationally recognized water conservation and efficiency expert, engineer, and author of the award-winning Handbook of Water Use and Conservation.  She is also recognized as having spearheaded the inclusion of plumbing standards in the 1992 U.S. Energy Policy Act, which has saved the nation trillions of gallons of water over the past twenty years.  The decline in public supply water withdrawals from 2005- 2010 reported by the USGS, is in no small part due to the work of Amy Vickers over the past 25 years.

“Amy has been an unfailing champion for water conservation, wise and efficient water use,” said Mary Ann Dickinson, President and CEO of the Alliance for Water Efficiency upon presentation of the award.  “Her research, analysis, advocacy and leadership have advanced the field of water conservation and educated thousands of water conservation professionals.”

A prolific author, Vickers has written over 75 professional papers, articles, op-eds, and essays in addition to her book.  Congratulations Amy Vickers, the Alliance for Water Efficiency's 2014 Water Star!

WaterSmart Innovations 2014 Tops 900 Participants


WaterSmart Innovations 2014, the annual not-for-profit water efficiency event put on by the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA), proved that water efficiency is a front burner issue across the globe. With more than 900 professionals participating, WSI 2014 brought tremendous expertise and well as energy and enthusiasm for the field of sustainable water management. 

For many water professionals, WSI began on Tues., Oct. 7, one day before the official start of the conference with the Alliance for Water Efficiency’s annual in-person committee meetings and the AWE Annual Member Meeting.  This year’s speaker, Bruce Rhodes, Manager of Water Resource Management at Melbourne Water, gave a fascinating talk about the recent cycle of drought followed by floods in Australia that has played yo-yo with water efficiency programs.  mayer and demarco jam at AWE music night The meeting was capped with tasty appetizers, drinks, and for the first time live music performed by AWE members including Peter Mayer, Amelia Nuding, Jorge Figueroa, Pete DeMarco, Will Jernigan, and Gary Tilkian.  WSI was off to a rocking start.

WSI officially began on Wednesday Oct. 8 with a powerful keynote address delivered by Sandra Postel.  Postel is a true hero to many in the water field and is founder of Global Water Policy Project. She also is co-creator of Change the Course, the national freshwater restoration campaign undertaken by National Geographic and its partners, and piloted in the Colorado River Basin.

postel-wsi2014From there on, WSI 2014 was an amazing array of professional presentations, panel discussions, posters, and a sold-out exhibit hall with 72 exhibitors.  Participants came from 36 states and the District of Columbia, as well as Australia, Brazil, Canada, Egypt, France, Japan, Mexico, The Netherlands, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.  This year marked the welcome return of EPA WaterSense staff, who were prohibited from attending in 2013 because of the Congressional budget shutdown.  The professional sessions were generally very well attended and the hallways and exhibit hall were constantly busy with people exchanging business cards and networking.

 “WaterSmart is meeting a critical need for communities with challenged water supplies,” said Doug Bennett, who also is Conservation Manager for SNWA. “People leave the event with concepts and resources they can deploy quickly. That’s particularly important in drought-affected regions.”

The SNWA again presented WSI in partnership with the Alliance for Water Efficiency, American Water Works Association, Audubon International, California Landscape Contractors Association, California Urban Water Conservation Council, Green Plumbers USA, the U.S. EPA’s WaterSense Program, International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials, International Center for Water Technology, International Code Council, Irrigation Association and Imagine H2O.

logo - WSI 2015If you missed WSI 2014, be sure and mark your calendar for October 6-9, 2015 when the water efficiency world will return to the South Point in Las Vegas for the 8th annual event.  The call for asbstracts was recently released. Abstracts for WSI are due Feb. 2, 2015.  Learn more and submit an abstract here. 

 EPA Presents 2014 WaterSense Partners of the Year at WSI 

WaterSense-logo_partner-of-the-year-2014On October 9 the 2014 the EPA WaterSense Program announced the annual Sustained Excellence Award winner, Partners of the Year, and Excellence Award winners at the WaterSense and Alliance for Water Efficiency Awards Luncheon at the WaterSmart Innovations Conference and Exposition.

For the second year in a row, WaterSense awards its highest level of recognition, a Sustained Excellence Award, to Kohler Co., a partner that continues its exemplary efforts to advance WaterSense and water efficiency.

WaterSense recognized nine Partners of the Year for helping to promote WaterSense and water efficiency all year. The winners were:

  • Cobb County (Georgia) Water System
  • Colorado Springs Utilities (Colorado)
  • Delta Faucet Company
  • HydroPoint Data Systems
  • The Home Depot
  • KB Home
  • Energy Inspectors Corporation
  • The Irrigation Association
  • The Sonoma-Marin Saving Water Partnership

 WS-award-winnersWaterSense also honored partners who demonstrated both commitment and success in a specific area with Excellence Awards. The following excellence awards were presented:

For Excellence in Outreach and Education:

  • Athens-Clarke County (Georgia) Public Utilities Department
  • San Francisco Public Utilities Commission
  • Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Dallas

For Excellence in Strategic Collaboration:

  • Denver Water

For Excellence in Promoting WaterSense Labeled Products:

  • Puget Sound Energy (Washington)

Congratulations to all of the EPA WaterSense award winners!

 Upcoming AWE Workshops and Webinars – Financing Sustainable Water and Efficiency Innovations 

AWE has put on some amazing workshops and webinars in 2014 and the final offerings of the year are coming up in November.

FSW Logo-SmOn Nov. 12 and 13, AWE is presenting two workshops in Texas on Financing Sustainable Water, sponsored by the Texas Water Foundation and other local partners. The Nov. 12 workshop is in Houston and the Nov. 13 workshop is in Dallas.  Both workshops run from 9:30 – 2:30 p.m. and cover the same material.   Learn more and register for the Texas workshops here. 

1-AWE Horizontal LogoOn Nov. 18, AWE will host a webinar titled, “Innovation in Efficiency”.  This webinar showcases two AWE members who are merging technology and scientific findings to help create smarter water consumers at home and in the classroom. Join us to stay ahead of the curve on innovations in efficiency.

Showcase 1: Lessons for Water Managers from Behavioral Science  

watersmart-logo-grayThe insights gleaned from behavioral science are often contrary to traditional economic theory. For example, giving customers information about how their water use compares to neighbors has a greater impact on reducing water use than purely economic messages that focus on lowering bills. A recent independent report showed that sending WaterSmart Software’s Home Water Reports with social norm comparisons resulted in an average of 4.4%-6.6% savings. This Showcase will demonstrate how WaterSmart partners with communities to apply behavioral science insights and achieve efficiency objectives.

Showcase 2: Educating Efficiency and the Role of STEM  

meterhero-logoMeterHero puts the power of tracking water and energy data in the hands of the individual. In partnership with the STEMhero program, MeterHero is being used by teachers around the country to help students learn about efficiency. The program focuses on participatory learning, building on research showing that students are more likely to retain learning when they have a hands-on experience. This Showcase will share the STEMhero curriculum that teachers and school districts are using in places like Milwaukee to help instill the lessons of water efficiency in the next generation.

The webinar will be held on Nov. 18 at 11:00 a.m. P | 12:00 p.m. M | 1:00 p.m. C | 2:00 p.m. E.  Learn more and register here. 

 California Agrees Not to Tax Efficiency Rebates 

California State FlagA new California law provides an exclusion from gross income for any amount received as a rebate or voucher from a local water or energy agency or supplier for the purchase or installation of a water conservation device.

“This is an important step that could encourage people to seek rebates and vouchers,” said Mary Ann Dickinson, President and CEO of the Alliance for Water Efficiency.  “We hope other states will see what California has done and enact similar laws. Even better would be a national policy to do the same at the federal level.

The California Personal Income Tax Law and the Corporation Tax Law covers rebates and vouchers for water closets, energy efficient clothes washers, and plumbing devices. The law provides an exclusion from gross income for any rebate, voucher, or other financial incentive issued by the California Energy Commission, the Public Utility Commission, or a local publicly owned electric utility for any expenses paid or incurred by a taxpayer for the purchase or installation of a thermal system, solar system, wind energy system device that produces electricity, or a fuel cell generating system.

 Los Angeles Strives for 20% Water Demand Reduction 

The mayor of Los Angeles, California, Eric Garcetti, recently announced that he is aiming to reduce city water use by 20% over the next three years, using a mixture of voluntary restrictions for residents and mandatory restrictions for city departments.

“The ongoing drought has created a water crisis second to none. We need bold action,” Garcetti said.  “Our relationship with water must evolve.  We cannot afford the water policies of the past.”

The mayor explained that the city’s significant reductions in water use to date were still inadequate given the seriousness of the drought.  Garcetti warned that if the restrictions and other water efficiency measures do not meet his goal, the city could impose mandatory restrictions on residents, including limits on car washing, reducing outdoor watering from three days a week to two, and requiring all pools to be covered to reduce evaporation.

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has also been told to reduce purchases of imported water by 50% by 2024 – around 80% of the city’s water currently comes from outside the state. State Water Board chair Felicia Marcus called the plan, “the most aggressive of any major city in California.”

Learn more here. 

 NYC Hotel Efficiency Challenge Cuts Use by 5% 

hotel-challenge-2013The New York City Water Challenge asked New York City’s largest hotels to reduce their water use intensity (gallons per square foot) by 5% in one year as part of a friendly 1 year competition that started in mid-2013

At the conclusion of the Challenge, May 2014, four NYC hotels managed to reduce their demand by the targeted 5%. These four hotels were so successful in implementing their water efficiency plans that they managed to surpass the 5% goal and save more than 10% over the previous one year period.

As part of the project, AWE partnered with NYC to produce a new guide for hotel managers/staff on water use and efficiency.  Learn more about the NYC hotel challenge and download the guide here. 

Front Load vs. Top Load Clothes Washer Debate Rages as Technology Changes

Laundry GraphicThe clothes washer market is in flux. According to sales tracking firm Traqline, as recently as the fourth quarter of 2009 about 45 percent of washers sold in the U.S. were front-loaders. Today, that figure is just 29.5 percent.  What happened?

According to a report in USA Today, the first generation of front loading machines weren't as reliable or user-friendly as the machines they replaced, even though they often cost three times as much. Some vibrated so badly that they would "walk" across the floor. Others developed foul odors—a complaint that took manufacturers all the way to the Supreme Court.

Many of the problems with front loading clothes washers were fixed in successive generations, but the public is clearly skeptical. Consumers who have been living with problematic first-gen front-loaders are just now replacing them, and many are opting for high-efficiency top-loaders which are now a viable option.  The front-load advantage isn't as big as it used to be, as high-efficiency top-loaders have improved substantially in both cleaning performance and efficiency according to recent tests.

Meanwhile, major changes are afoot in the appliance industry.  Long time industry stalwarts, General Electric and Siemens are selling off their appliance businesses and leaving the market.

 Scientists Map Creeping Bentgrass DNA 

creeping-bentgrassCould genetics help reduce outdoor water use?  Scott Warnke, a plant geneticist with the USDA, thinks so.  Scientists at the USDA, in collaboration with researchers at Rutgers University and the University of Massachusetts, have developed the first ever linkage map for creeping bentgrass, a turfgrass commonly used on golf course putting greens.

Warke and his U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) colleagues in the Agricultural Research Service are using molecular genetics to determine the genetic workings of creeping bentgrass. This turfgrass has a tolerance for low mowing that allows it to thrive where other grasses would die.

The linkage map will eventually help in marker-assisted breeding of economically important traits, such as disease resistance to dollar spot and brown patch, which are common diseases of bentgrass. The research will aid in the development of improved turfgrass germplasm, which will require less pesticides, fertilizer and water. 

Improved germplasm will be released to plant breeders at public and private institutions for further development and eventual release of new cultivars.

Creeping bentgrass is often used on putting greens at golf courses and is generally not considered a good choice for residential applications because of the skill and expense required to maintain it.  Learn more about this grass species here. 

 US Bureau of Reclamation Seeks Colorado River Water Conservation Project Proposals 

The US Bureau of Reclamation is seeking project proposals for water conservation from municipal, agricultural and industrial holders of entitlements to Colorado River water in Arizona, California and Nevada. Water users in the upper basin are invited to participate. The projects are intended to demonstrate that cooperative, voluntary projects to reduce demand for Colorado River water are viable.  Learn more about the grant program here. 

 Sacramento, CA Advanced Metering Infrastructure Symposium Set 

An AMI Symposium will be held on Thursday, February 26 in West Sacramento, CA.  This event will provide an excellent opportunity to learn about the technology itself, how it can be used for water conservation purposes, pertinent economic considerations, and practical advice from utility and industry representatives. Also, attendees will receive up to three continuing education contact hours for California water distribution or water treatment certifications. Registration deadline is February 5. Learn more here. 

 Prince Sultan International Water Prize Winners Announced 

Four research teams from the US and individuals from Spain and Greece have won the sixth award of the Prince Sultan International Prize for water.

The $266,000 creativity prize was divided between a team at Princeton University and a team from the University of Colorado, Boulder.

The surface water prize went to Dr. Larry Mays of Arizona State University for surface water hydrology and water resources engineering work.

Dr. Jesús Carrera Ramirez, of the Institute for Environmental Assessment and Water Research in Barcelona won the groundwater prize for contributions to the development of mathematical hydrogeology and transport modelling in groundwater systems.

Dr. Polycarpos Falaras of the National Centre for Scientific Research in Athens won the Alternative Water Resources prize for an innovative water purification technology exploiting solar energy and NF membranes.

The Water Management and Protection prize went to Dr. William W-G Yeh of the University of California in Los Angeles for developing optimization models to plan, manage and operate large-scale water resources systems globally.

Learn more about the Prince Sultan Water Prize here. 

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.