Water Efficiency Watch 


News from the Alliance for Water Efficiency

 August 26, 2013 

Water Efficiency Watch is the online newsletter of the Alliance for Water Efficiency, edited by Peter Mayer.   

In this issue of Water Efficiency Watch...

Colorado River System Nears Shortage Declaration, Best Immediate Action = Increased Conservation 

lake-powell-1999-2013The Colorado River, life blood of seven western states in the US, is in trouble.  In August the US Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) announced that in 2014, water releases from Lake Powell to Lake Mead would be just 7.48 million acre-feet - the lowest amount of water to be released since the filling of Lake Powell in the 1960s.

“This is the worst 14-year drought period in the last hundred years,” said Upper Colorado Regional Director Larry Walkoviak, explaining the BOR’s decision. The BOR operates dams on Lake Powell and Lake Mead in tandem to provide water to lower Colorado River Basin users. The two reservoirs, which sit on each side of the Grand Canyon, are both less than half full today, putting their ability to generate hydropower at risk.  Water levels in Lake Powell in 1999 and 2013 are shown in the satellite image on the left (courtesy of NASA Earth Observatory),

Under a 2007 shortage sharing agreement signed off on by all seven Colorado River Basin states, if a shortage is eventually declared, Arizona, Nevada and the nation of Mexico will be curtailed.  At the first shortage level, total water use is to be cut by 4.4 percent in the three Lower Basin states: Arizona would take an 11 percent cut and Nevada 4 percent, while California’s allocation would not be reduced. Mexico’s deliveries would take a 3.3 percent hit.udall-basin-contents 

Some have argued that the required cutbacks are not nearly big enough.  “The cutbacks are trivial compared to what is needed,” said Tim Barnett, a marine physicist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California. In 2008, Barnett and his colleague David Pierce, a climate scientist, published a paper arguing that Lake Mead has a 50 percent chance of going dry by 2021.

There is little disagreement about the best immediate action to address the potential shortage declaration – increased water conservation.  The BOR’s significant Colorado River Basin study, completed in December 2012 with the cooperation of the Basin states, makes it crystal clear that water conservation is the cheapest and fastest way to address the shortage as other options are explored.

“Using water sustainably has always been important in the Colorado River Basin” said Mary Ann Dickinson, President and CEO of the Alliance for Water Efficiency. “This month’s shortage announcement is a painful wake-up call of how much more conservation we really need to do, and how expensive it will ultimately be if we don’t.”

 AWE Works to Address Utility Revenue Stability and Conservation 

Increase-chart-graphHow can water utilities continue to incentivize water efficiency through rates while achieving essential revenue stability? The Alliance for Water Efficiency has been awarded two grants from the California Water Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation to continue vital work helping water suppliers implement rate structures that incentivize conservation yet achieve revenue stability in the process. Support from the Johnson Foundation at Wingspread and Metropolitan Water District will provide additional resources for this effort.

AWE will undertake a two-year project that aims to address the inadequacies of current water rate structures to reconcile the challenges utilities face today, such as rising costs, declining sales and revenue, and other trends affecting utility financial stability, while also allowing for needed conservation and efficiency programs to manage strains on water supplies.

 “The adoption of much-needed, stronger water efficiency strategies has been slowed by the unfortunate revenue side effects of declining water sales across the North America,” said Mary Ann Dickinson, President and CEO of AWE. “By developing user-friendly solutions to this complex challenge and by collaborating with industry and utility partners, we hope to  help water utilities stay stable and shift the current negative dialogue on water conservation programs from being perceived by utility managers as a problem, to being perceived instead as an important financially beneficial solution.”

Declining Report Cover SmAWE’s planned work will build on the 2012 Declining Water Sales and Utility Revenues Summit, which discussed this “conservation conundrum” of declining sales and revenue loss.  This Summit convened 30 experts, including rate setters, economists, regulators, utility executives, and advocates to discuss the various drivers of declining utility revenues across the country.  A Summit Summary was published following the event to present the major discussion threads and conclusions.

 The 2013-2014 grant funded project will include the following components:

  • New econometric research results on various parameters related to demand that will help inform progressive rate design to be featured in this solution set.
  • The development of a Handbook, modeling tools and additional resources and case studies geared toward the water utility manager who must navigate these issues.
  • A second Summit to continue dialogue on the issue with leaders and showcase new solutions across the industry.
  • Training and education opportunities for utility decision makers and financial staff, including webinars, workshops and forums for peer-to-peer learning.

 As part of this project, AWE will endeavor to translate these solutions into action by working directly with utilities to implement elements of rate restructuring that support financial stability, and providing support throughout the process. AWE will also work closely with partners and other organizations working on this issue to ensure that resources are as comprehensive as possible.

AWE water supplier and utility members who may be interested in participating in this project should contact Megan Chery for more information.

Water Conservation Program Operation and Management Standard Sets Bold New Baseline for Utility Programs 

 G480-13-Conservation-standardThere’s a new way to determine if a water utility’s water conservation efforts are up to snuff.  The new G480 Water Conservation Program Operation and Management Standard from the American Water Works Association (AWWA) is a voluntary standard that can be adopted by water providers at their own discretion to demonstrate commitment to proven demand management practices. 

The G480 standard describes the critical elements of an effective water conservation program and encompasses activities undertaken by a utility within its own operations to improve water use on the supply side through distribution system management and on the demand side through customer billing and education practices. A conservation program meeting this standard has the potential to impact all water users.

The G480 Standard includes the following voluntary requirements: 

  • Dedicated staff for conservation efforts (point of contact)
  • Conservation planning
  • Integrated resources planning
  • Public information and education
  • Water waste ordinance
  • Universal metering practices
  • Non-promotional water rate
  • Monthly or bi-monthly billing based on metered use
  • Landscape efficiency program
  • Water loss control program

 Additional requirements and verification components are described in detail in the standard document itself.

 AWWA’s vision for the G-series of voluntary management standards is to enhance public and regulatory confidence while demonstrating continuous improvement efforts of the water industry as a whole.   G-series standards offer water utilities of all types and sizes outcome-oriented, self-assessment tools that go above and beyond established regulations and whose performance is verified by peer evaluators.  Through the G-series effort, AWWA hopes to foster excellence in water utilities through self- and peer-evaluation that encourages continuous improvement while providing confidence to the utility itself and the public and increasing consumer satisfaction with utility services.  Get additional information about the G480 Standard here. 

It is anticipated that AWWA will soon work to develop a guidebook to assist water utilities in adopting and complying with the G480 Water Conservation Program Operation and Management Standard.

Learn more and purchase a copy of the AWWA G480 Standard here. A portion of all sales of the G480 standard directed from our website will go to support Alliance for Water Efficiency programs and services like this newsletter.

Water Calculator 2.0 Now Available at Home Water Works 

water-calculator-HWWThe Alliance for Water Efficiency has released an updated version of its Home Water Works Household Water Calculator featuring key enhancements that will help more consumers across North America save water. The Household Water Calculator is a powerful tool that estimates where water is used in the home and provides a personalized plan to save water and energy.

For the first time, water users in Canada can access more accurate results using Canadian postal codes and climate data, and will receive results and tips in liters. The new calculator is also more accurate, featuring more precise estimates for water demand in households with more than four people. Finally, the calculator has been adapted for mobile use and can now be used on tablets and smart phones that do not support Flash technology. These improvements also mean faster load times and a more intuitive interface to provide a more seamless experience for users.

“These improvements will make the calculator more useful to our members and to all water users at a time when water conservation is needed in numerous areas facing shortages,” said Mary Ann Dickinson, President and CEO of the Alliance for Water Efficiency. “The more we understand about our personal water use, the easier it is to take action. Every gallon saved at home helps reduce strains on our water supplies and reduces water and energy costs.”

Check out the Water Calculator 2.0 here. 

WaterSense Prepares to Develop Flushometer-Valve Toilet Specification 

WS Logo Meets CriteriaTo help increase water efficiency in the commercial and institutional sector, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plans to develop a WaterSense specification for flushometer-valve toilets. To get the ball rolling, EPA has released a Notice of Intent (NOI) that describes the efficiency and performance criteria WaterSense is considering including in a draft specification, as well as the technical issues that still need to be more fully defined and resolved.

EPA will host a teleconference and webinar with stakeholders to discuss the NOI on September 12, 2013, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Eastern.  Registration information for the teleconference is available here. Call-in and other meeting information will be emailed upon registration. Meeting materials will be sent to registered participants via email closer to the meeting date.

EPA is currently comments on the NOI via email. 

PERC Releases Work Plan Proposal for Phase 2 of the Drain Line Transport Study  

1 PERC-logo-colorThe Plumbing Efficiency Research Coalition (PERC) has announced its intention to launch a Phase 2 study, building upon the results of its successful Drainline Transport Study released in November 2012.

 While the initial study provided important insights, it also raised new questions, providing an opportunity for further research. Phase 2 will focus on: Pipe size reduction, additional flush volume levels, toilet discharge and toilet paper characteristics. Learn more here. 

 Ventura Water Pairs AWE Never Waste Campaign with Film Contest 

Never-Waste-TrolleyLights, camera, action…cue the Never Waste water bottles!  In a clever pairing of water efficiency program concepts, Ventura Water, California is using AWE’s Never Waste campaign to help promote their Water: Take 1 Online Short Film Contest.

“Water: Take 1 was created to challenge how we look at water, how we use water and how we share water,” said Ventura Water General Manager, Shana Epstein.  “As an online contest, Water: Take 1 attracts a global audience and Never Waste, as a national effort, was a natural fit.  The Never Waste theme also resonated at a local level with Ventura’s dedication to sustainability and environmental stewardship.”

As Ventura began planning for the second year of Water: Take 1, they sought ways to expand the dialogue with water customers about how to care for water resources and to help them get involved – without having to get behind a camera.  The Alliance for Water Efficiency’s Never Waste campaign proved to be a perfect match for Ventura to communicate the ideas of Water: Take 1.  Never Waste demonstrates the value of water by comparing water wasted in our daily lives with a familiar object – a water bottle.  Ventura found this concept a relevant, easily accessible and customizable way to cross promote their film competition.  Read more about how Ventura leveraged the Never Waste campaign here. 

Learn more about the Never Waste campaign and how your utility can use this terrific resource here. 

 AWE Meeting Schedule for Water Smart Innovations 

HiRes-Liz_Fazio-1854-SmIf you’re planning to attend Water Smart Innovations in Las Vegas this year, don’t forget to come a day early to attend the Alliance for Water Efficiency’s annual in-person committee and general membership meetings on October 1.  Nick-named “AWE day” at WSI, this annual day of meetings has become an important and popular gathering since the founding of AWE. The keynote speaker at AWE’s Annual Member Meeting will be Liz Fazio to talk about the Texas water legislation.  Learn more here. 

$50,000 Innovative Conservation Grants Available Again in 2013 

MWDSC LogoMetropolitan Water Authority of Southern California’s (MWD) Innovative Conservation Program provides up to $50,000 in funding for research that will document water savings and reliability of innovative water savings devices. The objective is to evaluate the water saving potential and reliability of innovative water saving devices, technologies, and strategies.

The program is run by MWD in cooperation with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Southern Nevada Water Authority, and the Central Arizona Project.  The 2013 program focus is on landscape irrigation and commercial, institutional, industrial (CII) water use efficiency.  However, proposals that address all aspects of water use efficiency are welcome.

A total of $450,000 is available.  Projects requesting up to $50,000 will be considered.  All proposals will be competitively evaluated.  The submission deadline is October 15, 2013. Recipients will be announced in February.

Learn more about the program and how to submit a grant application here. 

Updated Toilet Performance Testing Results Available 

map-test-logoMaP recently posted the latest product information and test results for 100 different brands of toilet fixtures sold in the U.S. and Canada.

  • 2,533 different tank-type toilet models, all independently tested for flush performance. Seven MaP-approved laboratories in North America and Asia conduct tests to our MaP test protocol.
  • 1,693 different toilet models certified to the U.S. EPA WaterSense Program specification listed and described. (1,100 of these have been fully MaP-tested for flush performance)
  • 98 WaterSense tank-type toilet fixture models qualifying for our NEW high-efficiency PREMIUM label, now earning special additional water agency rebates in some areas.
  • 376 different toilet bowl and flushometer valve combinations for heavy use commercial installations, all MaP-tested at independent laboratories.

 Learn more about MaP testing here. 

EPA Debuts Upgraded Energy Star Portfolio Manager Benchmarking Tool 

energy-star-logo-big-imageThe U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released of an upgrade to its popular online energy management and tracking tool, Energy Star Portfolio Manager. The new Energy Star Portfolio Manager delivers a more user-friendly interface, enhanced data sharing capabilities, better reporting, and for the first time, the ability to manage buildings across their lifecycle from design through occupancy.

Energy Star Portfolio Manager is tool used to measure the energy performance, water use, utility costs, and greenhouse gas emissions of more than 40 percent of the nation’s commercial building space.

“You can’t manage what you don’t measure,” said Janet McCabe, principal deputy assistant administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation. “The new ‘turbo-charged’ Portfolio Manager makes it easier than ever for building owners and managers to make strategic business decisions that are good for the environment and good for the bottom line. Consistent with President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, this tool helps businesses cut wasted energy, reduce harmful carbon pollution, and save money.”

Learn more about the Portfolio Manager and download useful water data trends here. 

NASA Measures Texas-Sized Water Depletions in Lone Star State 

A new study from the National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA) reveals epic water resource depletions in Texas due to drought.  Between February and September of 2011, total water reserves in Texas dropped by 62.3 billion cubic meters (50.5 million acre feet) – nearly enough water to fill Lake Mead, the nation’s largest reservoir, twice over. That amount of water would cover the state of Texas to a depth of 9 centimeters (3.5 inches).

The lion’s share of the decline, some 70 to 80 percent of it, evaporated from soils, according to the study published online journal Geophysical Research Letters. The rest of the depletion came from groundwater (8 to 16 percent) and reservoirs (about 12 percent).

“Groundwater depletion can be significant locally. However, by taking Texas as a whole, most water depletion comes from soil moisture during drought,” Di Long, lead author of the article.

Learn more here.  

Upcoming Conferences and Events 

So many conferences, so little time!

Will US Supreme Court Settle FL, GA, AL Water Dispute?

supreme courtA long standing water fight between Floridan, Georgia, and Alabama may land in the lap of the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013. Florida Governor Rick Scott, a Republican, has announced that he plans to file a lawsuit this September in the U.S. Supreme Court to stop what he calls “Georgia’s unchecked consumption of water that threatens the existence of Apalachicola fisheries and the future economic development of this region.” The Apalachicola Bay is the center of Florida’s oyster industry, which has been crippled recently by lower river flows and Federal officials are declaring a fishery disaster for Florida's oyster industry in the Gulf of Mexico. “The fastest and best resolution is an agreement, not a lawsuit going into an election year,” said Georgia Governor, Nathan Deal, a Republican, in a statement.

Alabama, the third state in the basin, is sitting on the sidelines for now, according to press reports.

Read more about this water dispute from Circle of Blue here.  

Utah Water Funding Proposal Unpopular with Urban Suppliers 

UtahAs Utah struggles to pay for drinking water and water quality programs in the Department of Environmental Quality, proposed new fees have come under fire from urban water providers and anti-tax critics. The proposed fees - amounting to about $1.10 per month for water district customers - have been criticized across Utah, with urban districts voicing some of the loudest concerns.

"They're basically selling tax increases in the form of fees," said Fred Finlinson, of the Utah Water Coalition, a group made up of the state's four largest water conservancy districts. Some have dubbed the proposal a “toilet tax”.

Beyond the potty humor, the proposals offer a decidedly new approach for funding water programs in Utah.  Such programs that benefit the public have historically been paid for by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and state general funds, but the state is starting to feel the squeeze of Congressional sequestration cuts.  Less federal funding means that the State must step up in new ways if these programs are to continue.

Ken Bousfield, director of the Utah Drinking Water Division, explained that the EPA reductions are his main reason for seeking the new fee from about 1,000 public water districts. Without the fee, his agency's budget would be about $1 million short, and that could mean cutting his 40-person staff by five to 10 --- along with the programs they run.

Meanwhile United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) confirmed in August that Utah is in a drought of a severity that hasn't been seen for years and is offering programs to help farmers and ranchers.

 Learn more about Utah’s proposed water fees here. 

AWE Book Sale Rolls On  

CII Book CoverAWE is offering some water classics at steeply reduced prices including the classic Handbook of Water Use and Water Conservation by Amy Vickers for just $65.  Other sale books include, A Practical Approach to Water Conservation for Commercial Industrial Facilities, by Mohan Seneviratne, and Dry Run by Jerry Yudelson.  Get your copies of these and other water classics at a great price here.

News Briefs and Web Links 

  • New Mexico is Driest of 2013 Drought Stricken States – About 87% of the region is in drought, but New Mexico is the driest according to this report.
  • 20 Cities that Could Run Out of Water in the Future - The University of Florida rated water availability and vulnerability for 225 urban areas nationwide.  Find out which 20 cities were rated as most vulnerable to shortages here. 
  • Water is the #1 Problem Facing Norman, Oklahoma - Every candidate running for Norman City Council and mayor in the last election identified water as the No. 1 problem facing Norman in the future.
  • Indiana Seeks Statewide Water Management Strategy – Indiana is blessed with “one of the best” water supplies in the nation, but lacks a coordinated management strategy say state officials.  Learn more here.  
  • Wichita Water Use Down in 2013 as Conservation Kicks In – “Citizens have taken the water conservation thing seriously,” said City Manager Robert Layton.  Learn more here. 
  • Texas Drought Pushes New Braunfels to Stage 3 Declaration - The Edwards Aquifer has continued to drop over the past several weeks and it has now fallen below the trigger level for Stage 3 watering restrictions in New Braunfels.  Watering is now only permitted one day per week every other week.
  • AWWA Webinar Presents Leak Detection Technologies- This October 23 webinar will present an overview of leak detection, the results of a recent WaterRF study, and two innovative leak detection technologies.  Registration is $75 for AWWA members. 
  •  Lighted Showerhead Illuminates Water Waste – A new showerhead designed by students at Tufts University changes color as the duration of a shower increases thus providing a visual reminder to take shorter showers.  Learn more here. 
  • Historic Colorado Water Conflicts Profiled – Read a brief history of the battle for water in Colorado and the Western US here. 
  • CEO Argues that Water, Not Oil is Most Strategic Resource for Business – Corporations view water availability as a critical decision point.  Learn more here. 
  • Record Arctic Ice Melt Measured - The Arctic lost record amounts of sea ice in 2012 and is changing at an unprecedented pace due to climate change, a landmark climate study found.  2012 was among the 10 warmest years on record – ranking eighth or ninth depending on the data set, according to a report led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
  • Jordan to Swap Desal Water with Israel – In one of the world’s most water scarce regions, an innovative international water trade is in the works.  Learn more here. 
  • Home Water Works Offers Consumer Efficiency Information – AWE’s Home Water Works web site – www.home-water-works.org – offers useful information on how to easily save water in your home or apartment and a Water Calculator to estimate how water is used.  Try the new mobile-ready Water Calculator 2.0 at Home Water Works.org. 

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.