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...

A Watershed Year in Washington for Water Efficiency


It is an extraordinary time in Washington for water efficiency. It has been nearly twenty years with little to no importance placed in Congress on national water issues and especially on the benefits of water conservation. But now all that has changed. The Alliance for Water Efficiency is currently monitoring 14 pending bills in the House of Representatives and 8 bills in the Senate – all involving the issue water efficiency in some manner.  Included in these 22 bills are provisions involving water and energy efficiency research and development, smart technology, EPA’s WaterSense program, grants, rebates, incentives and retrofit programs,  studies, cooperative agreements, demonstration projects, commissions, panels, water resources and adaptation, and national water strategies.

And also this month, at the White House, President Obama highlighted the benefits of water efficiency by signing an Executive Order on October 5 that sets sustainability goals for Federal agencies and targets and targets a 26% improvement in water efficiency by the year 2020. The Executive Order requires Federal agencies to set a 2020 greenhouse gas emissions reduction target within 90 days, increase energy efficiency, conserve water by improving the efficiency for water usage, reduce fleet vehicle petroleum consumption and support sustainable communities. Learn more about the executive order here.

On Capitol Hill, significant water efficiency provisions are included in the comprehensive climate bill introduced in the US Senate by Senators Boxer and Kerry.  (The same provisions were included in the House Climate Bill introduced by Congressmen Waxman and Markey earlier this year.) Committee hearings are set to begin by the end of the month as the Boxer-Kerry climate bill moves forward to the Senate’s Committee on Environment and Public Works.   Four other committees will likely see action on this bill also, with the final bill compiled by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.  Water Efficiency provisions in the bill as of this date currently include authorization of EPA’s WaterSense program, a federal procurement program for the purchasing of WaterSense certified products, and a grant program offering incentives to consumers purchasing and installing water efficient products and services.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid recently introduced his own water efficiency legislation designed to conserve the nation’s water supply through efficiency and adapting to the effects of climate change.  The bills provide tax credits and other incentives to encourage water conservation, promote residential water efficiency through state rebate programs, help water systems adapt to climate change, and authorize EPA’s WaterSense program.  Rep. Shelley Berkley introduced similar legislation in the House.

There is a fair amount of overlap between many of the proposed bills, and it is likely that some will be combined through the legislative and committee process.  Keep track of all water efficiency related bills and their progress on the Alliance for Water Efficiency’s Legislative Watch Page.

California Approves Retrofit on Resale Legislation

CaliforniaIf you buy a home, condo, or commercial property in California in the coming years water efficient toilets and urinals will be part of the deal – like it or not.  Under new legislation passed in October and signed into law by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger toilets and urinals across the state must be meet efficiency standards as a condition of receiving a certificate of occupancy.

According to California’s legislative bill-tracking web site, “The bill would require, on and after January 1, 2017, that a seller or transferor of single-family residential real property, multifamily residential real property, or commercial real property disclose to a purchaser or transferee, in writing, specified requirements for replacing plumbing fixtures, and whether the real property includes noncompliant plumbing.”

“The bill would permit an owner or the owner's agent to enter rental property for the purpose of installing, repairing, testing, and maintaining water-conserving plumbing fixtures, as specified,” according to posted information, “and would require, on and after January 1, 2019, that the water-conserving plumbing fixtures prescribed by the bill operate at the manufacturer's rated water consumption at the time that a tenant takes possession, as specified.”

This bill represents a tremendous leap forward in plumbing retrofit policy in the United States.  If other states adopt similar legislation, adoption of efficient plumbing fixtures could occur even more rapidly than anticipate.

Learn more about this groundbreaking legislation here.

DOE Plans Crackdown on Non-Compliant Products

showerDoes your showerhead flow above 2.5 gallons per minute (gpm)?  Conservation experts have noted problems with high-flow fixtures out of compliance with the Energy Policy Act (EPAct) for years.  The Department of Energy (DOE) is finally taking steps to address the problem.

According to an announcement published in the Federal Register on October 14, 2009 the Energy Department is boosting enforcement of efficiency standards for appliances and fixtures by creating a new enforcement team and doing random reviews of manufacturer compliance.

"Strong enforcement of the rules will encourage compliance and keep manufacturers who break the law from having a competitive advantage over manufacturers who play by the rules," said general counsel Scott Blake Harris in a statement.

The department has binding efficiency standards for scores of residential and commercial appliances and fixtures, such as showerheads, dishwashers, lamps, furnaces and many others.

The compliance reviews will be the responsibility of the new enforcement team in the general counsel's office, a squad that DOE said is staffed by lawyers with "extensive litigation and regulatory experience."

The efficiency program requires manufacturers to certify that their products meet the DOE standards. The notice says DOE plans to begin a compliance review this fall of certification reports for covered products.

"The Department intends to randomly select previously filed certification reports for review, to request certification records from manufacturers as needed, and to hold manufacturers' accountable for any failure to certify covered products in accordance with DOE rules," the notice states.

First AWE “Water Star” Award Presented to John Flowers

Mary Ann Dickinson and John FlowersThe first ever Alliance for Water Efficiency Water Star Award was presented to John Flowers on Oct. 7 in Las Vegas at the AWE/EPA WaterSense Partner of the Year Awards Banquet. 

Flowers, who recently retired from the U.S. EPA, was celebrated for his lifetime of achievement in promoting water conservation and water use efficiency. His pioneering visions and efforts changed the way water is used in the United States, and were instrumental in creating programs like WaterSense and organizations like the Alliance for Water Efficiency. The Alliance took great pride in recognizing and thanking John Flowers for all he has done to promote the cause of water efficiency.  Learn more about John Flower's accomplishments and the Water Star Award here

As part of the award ceremony AWE Executive Director Mary Ann Dickinson (pictured here with John Flowers) read a poem written specially for the occasion by Peter Mayer.  A copy of the poem, "The Steadfast Mr. Flowers" is available for download here

AWE looks forward to honoring conservation “Water Stars” as part of a new annual tradition.

EPA Honors WaterSense Partners of the Year

AWEEPA WaterSense Awards Banquet 2009 198 (small)On October 7, 2009, the U.S. EPA announced its 2009 award winners at the first-ever AWE/WaterSense Awards Banquet held in conjunction with the WaterSmart Innovations Conference and Exposition in Las Vegas, Nevada. The banquet was jointly sponsored by WaterSense and the Alliance for Water Efficiency.

The 2009 Partners of the Year award honors partners in four key categories.  Each partner has made great strides in increasing water efficiency and awareness of the WaterSense label across the country. The 2009 winners are:

  • - Kohler Co (Manufacturer and winner of the 2008 award as well - Kohler staff are shown in the photo on the left with Jim Hanlon from the US EPA)
  • - Lowe’s Companies, Inc. (Retailer/Distributor)
  • - Cobb County Water System, Georgia (Promotional Partner – Large Utility)
  • - James City Service Authority, Virginia (Promotional Partner – Small Utility)
  • - Brian Vinchesi (Irrigation Partner)

Learn more about the award winners and the WaterSense partner program here.

Dwarf Planets Rock AWE/EPA Banquet

Peter and dwarf planets smallDwarf Planets, an original rock band from Boulder, Colorado featuring WEW editor Peter Mayer on guitar and vocals, closed out the AWE/EPA WaterSense Awards Banquet in Las Vegas with an eclectic set of original music plus a few choice covers including a rousing "Viva Las Vegas".  It was by all accounts a rocking good time.  If you missed the awards banquet this year, you can check out Dwarf Planets music here.

The AWE/EPA Awards Banquet has quickly developed a reputation as “the best” party in water efficiency.  Make plans to attend next year’s event as part of WaterSmart Innovations 2010.

WaterSense Enters Commercial Market with Flushing Urinal Specification

image010WaterSense labeled urinals are on their way to a restroom near you.  WaterSense recently finalized its specification for flushing urinals, and WaterSense labeled products will soon appear in commercial and institutional restrooms across America.

According to the US EPA, if all urinals installed before 1994 were replaced with WaterSense labeled models, it would save nearly 36 billion gallons of water annually.

The WaterSense specification requires urinals to flush using no more than half a gallon if they are to carry the WaterSense label.  This flush volume is well below the current federal standard of 1.0 gallon per flush (gpf). Older models installed before regulations were in place can use even more water—as much as 5.0 gpf. As with all WaterSense labeled products, urinals must undergo independent, third-party testing and certification before earning the WaterSense label.

Schools, restaurants, businesses, and other commercial buildings will likely benefit from the financial savings of WaterSense labeled urinals. EPA estimates that there are about 12 million urinals currently in use in the United States, and up to 65 percent of them are inefficient models that use significantly more than the federal standard. For every inefficient urinal replaced with a WaterSense labeled model, an estimated 4,600 gallons are saved annually. Learn more about the WaterSense specification for flushing urinals here.

California Tries Again for State Water Agreement

Hope springs eternal in Sacramento as a special session of the California Legislature opened with the prospect of ending years of gridlock over water policy in California.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) ordered the special session to try and finish work on a package of bills meant to address the state's water supply crisis. The special session could last until January 2010 if necessary.  The water package failed at the end of the Legislature's regular session in September, but Schwarzenegger, who will leave office when his term expires in 2010, has re-called lawmakers to Sacramento in hopes of sealing a legacy-enhancing water deal before leaving office.

Closed-door negotiations on the water package have been ongoing, but will see daylight in October as lawmakers hold public hearings on a water package.  Votes in the California Assembly and Senate on a compromise package could come before the end of the month, according to sources close to the process.

The water package includes provisions for a $9 billion bond proposal from the governor and a set of policy measures that would enact arguably the largest environmental restoration effort in the United States. The bond must be approved by California voters and would most likely appear on the ballot in November 2010, with policy implementation coming sooner.

"We're close," said Alicia Trost, spokeswoman for Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D). "We're not there yet, but we're doing everything we can to close a deal."

Proposed MaP Testing for Commercial Toilets Announced at WaterSmart Innovations

The Maximum Performance Testing Protocol (MaP) for residential toilets was established in 2003 with the intention of improving toilet performance through testing with realistic media.  A MaP Testing Protocol is now being developed for commercial toilets. Veritec Inc. and Koeller and Company announced development of the commercial toilet protocol at WaterSmart Innovations.  They are now seeking feedback on the development of MaP for Commercial Toilets. The official announcement document can be viewed here .

The MaP Protocol has proved to be enormously successful in educating consumers, specifiers, design professionals, plumbers, water utilities and others about toilet fixture flushing performance.  It has also spurred innovation among manufacturers that has directly resulted in improved toilet flushing performance. 

Population Growth at Root of Recent Southeast Drought Study Finds

GeorgiaPopulation growth, not global warming, is the root cause of the drought that devastated the southeastern United States from 2005 to 2007, according to an article released the month in The Journal of Climate.

Columbia University researchers found that census figures indicate that in Georgia alone the population rose from 6.48 million in 1990 to 9.54 million in 2007.

"At the root of the water supply problem in the Southeast is a growing population," the researchers wrote.  There has been speculation that climate change could be responsible for the water shortage, according to Richard Seager, a climate expert at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory who led the study. But after examining data from weather instruments, computer models and measurements of tree rings, which reflect yearly rainfall, "our conclusion was this drought was pretty normal and pretty typical by standards of what has happened in the region over the century," he said ( as reported by Cornelia Dean, New York Times, Oct. 2).

DOE Releases Water Heater Market Profile

The U.S. Department of Energy has released an important new study of domestic water heaters: the Water Heater Market Profile: New Technologies, New Savings, prepared by D&R International. The profile is designed for program sponsors who want to know:

  • What is the current state of the water heater market and installed base?
  • What is the energy savings potential?
  • How should program sponsors think about capturing these savings?

According to the study, there are revolutionary changes in water heater technology underway that can dramatically reduce water heating energy consumption and potentially water use. To learn more, download the complete Water Heater Market Profile here

News Briefs and Web Links

  • WaterSense Releases Draft Specification for Showerheads - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released its WaterSense draft specification for showerheads. All interested partners and other stakeholders are encouraged to provide comments on the draft specification prior to the November 9, 2009 deadline. For more information and to provide comments on the draft specification click here.
  • New Report on Hotel HE Toilet Installation - A recent report demonstrates significant water savings through a luxury hotel high-efficiency toilet (HET) retrofit. Over 1,000 guest room toilets were replaced with HETs at the Parc 55 Union Square Hotel in downtown San Francisco. As a result, water consumption dropped by nearly 1,000,000 gallons per month and the hotel's utilities and maintenance charges dropped accordingly. This report can be downloaded from the AWE website here.
  • Water Event to be Held in Fort Worth, Texas November 16-17, 2009 - H2O4TEXAS: The Water Event will increase public awareness of the critical water shortfalls facing the state of Texas and begin mobilizing support for full implementation of the State Water Plan - a goal that the ongoing H2O4TEXAS campaign will continue to pursue before and after the event. Robert Glennon, author of Unquenchable: America's Water Crisis and What to Do About It, will keynote the conference. For more information click here.
  • Deadline for Inaugural Imagine H2O Prize Is Nov. 16 - The inaugural Imagine H2O Prize competition offers prizes of $70,000 in cash and in-kind services to business plans that promise the greatest breakthroughs in the efficient use and supply of water. Entries will be accepted until November 16, 2009.  Areas of interest include solutions to improve water efficiency in agriculture, commercial, industrial, or residential applications, such as water demand reduction, improved water use, water recycling, and/or reuse.  Get more information here.
  • Intelligent Use of Water Film Contest Brings Out Creative Side of Efficiency – Who says water conservation professionals don’t have a creative streak?  From mobsters to musicals, this year’s Intelligent Use of Water film contest, sponsored by Rain Bird, brought out the wonderful, wacky, and frankly weird side of water efficiency.  The WEW editor found the mafia styled film “More or Less” by Mark Petersen to be an unusual and worthwhile entry.  Watch the entries and judge for yourself here.
  • Water Efficiency Projects Qualify for QECBs Under the ARRA - Available funding for Qualified Energy Conservation Bonds (QECB) was increased from $800 million to $3.2 billion through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). Water efficiency projects qualify under the language of the ARRA. To learn more about QECBs visit the Alliance's QECB Page.
  • Mexico Spends to Save - Mexico's Federal District launched an emergency water program to renovate 195 km of leaking water pipelines by the end of 2009. In the midst of an acute water shortage, Mexico City and its environs are losing significant amounts of potable water. The government will invest 760 million pesos in Iztapalapa, Coyoacan, Alvaro Obregon, Tlalpan, Gustavo A. Madero, and Cuajimalpa. Director Ramon Aguirre of the Mexico City Water System (SACM) said that the valves of 35 storage tanks would also be repaired in order to distribute water more efficiently and equitably throughout Mexico City.
  • Drought in Kenya Worsens - An estimated 3.8 million people in Kenya are in urgent need of emergency food assistance in the next six months, according to official reports, as the country continues to suffer from prolonged drought. Poor seasonal rains have affected crop production, resulting in widespread food and water shortages, high food prices, and disrupted livelihoods in pastoralist communities.  Learn more about the situation and what can be done to assist the Kenyan people here.
  • UN: Water Shortages Cause 100,000 to Flee Homes in Iraq - Water stress and over-extraction of groundwater caused the collapse of an ancient water system in Iraq forcing more than 100,000 people in northern Iraq to abandon their homes since 2005, the UN's Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said this month.  Drought and excessive well pumping have drawn down aquifer levels in the region, causing a dramatic decline of water flow in ancient underground aqueducts known as karez according to UNESCO.  Read more here.
  • Gleick Tackles Behavior Change – Turn off the tap while you brush your teeth says Peter Gleick in a recent blog post.  Does it really save any water?  Read the discussion afterwards for some real eyebrow-raising action
  • LA Times Covers Turf Grass Research – The hunt is on for plant varieties that look good and use less water.  This article covers important new research in California and provides a succinct history of turf in America
  • Senate Approves EPA Budget Increase - The US Senate has approved a 33 percent increase in the US Environmental Protection Agency's appropriation and now heads into conference with the US House of Representatives, which this summer okayed an increase of nearly 39 percent.  Read more here.
  • Survey Finds Water is World’s Top Environmental Problem - A survey, commissioned by Circle of Blue and conducted by Toronto and London-based GlobeScan, was made public in Stockholm, Sweden during World Water Week. It found that people around the world view the fresh water crisis as the planet’s top environmental problem.  The fierce impediments to clean water and sanitation, and the millions of premature deaths from water-related disease are seen as having a greater influence on quality of life and the planet than air pollution, species extinction, depletion of natural resources, loss of habitat and climate change. Read more here.
  • Is California’s Water Going to Pot? - Large marijuana plots hidden deep in California's public lands have illegally diverted hundreds of millions of gallons of water, compounding shortages caused by the state's ongoing drought according to public officials in Mendocino County, a region on California's north coast known for its lush redwood forests and potent cannabis.  Officials have witnessed rivers and creeks drained by the large-scale drug operations.  Read more here.
  • Is Climate Change Accelerating? – Wake up and smell the coffee.  The pace and scale of climate change may now be outstripping even the most sobering predictions of the last report of the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC).  An analysis of the very latest, peer-reviewed science indicates that many predictions at the upper end of the IPCC's forecasts are becoming ever more likely.  Read more here.
  • Solar Energy Project Stalls for Lack of Water - In a rural corner of Nevada reeling from the recession, a bit of salvation seemed to arrive last year. A German developer, Solar Millennium, announced plans to build two large solar farms that would harness the sun to generate electricity, creating hundreds of jobs.  But the best laid plans of mice and men often falter on the way to fruition.  The company revealed that its preferred method of cooling the power plants would consume 1.3 billion gallons of water a year, about 20 percent of this desert valley’s available water. Read more here.
  • American Rivers Commends 8 Cities for Climate Change Prep - American Rivers has highlighted eight communities' sustainable water management approaches that will make them more resilient to a changing climate in the new report, "Natural Security: How Sustainable Water Strategies Are Preparing Communities for Climate Change." According to American Rivers, these green infrastructure solutions protect and restore healthy ecosystems which will provide clean water and protect communities from severe weather as the climate shifts.  Read more here
  • Water Budget-Based Rates Stall in San Diego – Efforts to adopt a water-budget based rate structure in San Diego have stalled this year as officials expressed concern about potential law suits.  Meanwhile, nearby California utilities including the Padre Dam Municipal Water District, which serves 125,000 people in El Cajon and Santee, and the Eastern Municipal Water District, which has 125,000 customers in Riverside County approved implementation of budget-based rates.  Read more about the debate in San Diego here.
  • Australia Chokes on Dust from Worst Storm in 70 Years - Australia's worst dust storm in 70 years blanketed the heavily populated east coast in September in a cloud of red Outback grit, nearly closed the country's largest airport and left millions of people coughing and sputtering in the streets.  No one was hurt as a result of the pall that swept in overnight, bringing an eerie orange dawn to Sydney.  Dust clouds blowing east from Australia's dry interior, parched even further by the worst drought on record, covered dozens of towns and cities in two states as strong winds snatched up tons of topsoil, threw it high into the sky and carried it hundreds of miles.

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.