Water Efficiency Watch

News from the Alliance for Water Efficiency


Water Efficiency Watch is the online newsletter of the Alliance for Water Efficiency, edited by Peter Mayer.  Like and follow AWE on Facebook and Twitter for a chance to win an iPod Touch!

In this issue of Water Efficiency Watch...

Happy Holidays from the Alliance for Water Efficiency

holiday_drinkThe Alliance for Water Efficiency wishes you and yours a safe and happy holiday season and New Year.  We hope 2012 will be a year to remember filled with good fortune, friends, family, and of course – water efficiency!  We hope to see you in the New Year.

Warm regards,

Mary Ann Dickinson, Bill Christiansen, Alice Darilek, Molly Garcia, Jeffrey Hughes, Ashley Kime, John Koeller, Peter Mayer, and Thomas Pape

Congressional Panels Discuss Water Infrastructure

Congress_clipHouse and Senate panels are meeting in December to examine the critical needs of the nation's aging and outdated drinking water and sewer treatment systems and pipelines, which EPA estimates need more than $635 billion in improvements.

The Senate Environment and Public Works subcommittee on water, which is chaired by Maryland Democrat Ben Cardin, held a hearing on the "challenges and opportunities" for the nation's water infrastructure.  While the House Transportation and Infrastructure's Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio), plans to focus on EPA's effort to give cities greater "flexibility" in meeting the often multibillion-dollar burdens of bringing outdated sewer systems into compliance with the Clean Water Act.

Experts are sounding alarms that the nation's water infrastructure is in terrible shape. The U.S. Geological Survey estimated that leaky pipes lose 1.7 trillion billion gallons of treated water each year. The American Society of Civil Engineers in 2009 graded U.S. water a D-minus. 

In recent years, EPA and the Department of Justice have cracked down on more than 30 cities who have outgrown their sewer systems, forcing them into binding legal agreements to make what often amount to multibillion-dollar repairs and upgrades under specified timelines.  As a result, sewer rates are rising fast across much of the United States.

Improving Colorado River Basin Flows Through Conservation Tackled in New Report

Report CoverThe Colorado River basin presents the greatest water management challenges of any river basin in the nation, with ever-expanding demands for multiple water uses, water demand exceeding supply, valued but fragile ecosystems, and support for nearly every type of water-relevant interest.  The importance of instream flows – the amount of water flowing in a stream or river – is more pressing than ever, but in many parts of the basin, all water is spoken for.

The  Alliance for Water Efficiency American Rivers and the Environmental Law Institute partnered on a project funded by The Walton Family Foundation to outline the practical possibilities for linking water efficiency efforts and healthier instream flows in the Colorado River basin.  If a stretch of water is identified as needing improved instream flow, and a realistic opportunity for improving water efficiency exists, willing partners generally can build the bridges necessary to overcome other challenges.  That is the principal finding of the report completed and released on November 14, 2011 by the three organizations.

“We see an opportunity here for communities to do double duty with water efficiency:  meet their water needs and benefit the environment at the same time,” said Mary Ann Dickinson of the Alliance for Water Efficiency.  “We wanted in this project to document what the barriers and issues might be in moving this concept forward.”  Learn more and download a free copy of this report here.

California Rainwater Capture Bill Vetoed…Again

rain-barrelGov. Jerry Brown recently vetoed AB 275, the proposed Rainwater Capture Act of 2011.

AB 275 would have authorized a landowner to install and operate a rainwater capture system for (1) outdoor nonpotable use or infiltration into groundwater or (2) subsequent indoor nonpotable use.

In his veto message, Gov. Brown stated his preference for adopting a rainwater capture standard through the state’s Building Standards Commission process.

The International Code Council (ICC), which opposed AB 275, had earlier pointed out that California law requires that building codes be adopted by the commission. ICC also noted that the 2010 Green Plumbing and Mechanical Code Supplement, which AB 275 referenced, is not a code, nor had the commission adopted it.

This is the second year in a row that a California governor has vetoed a rainwater capture bill. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed a similar bill last year for different reasons.  Learn more here.

Texas Approves Bonds for Water Conservation

texasTexas voters have approved a proposition to promote water conservation.  Proposition 2 will let the state create a revolving $6 billion bond package to finance water conservation and sewage and flood control projects.

Supporters, including The Nature Conservancy and some in the energy industry, said more bonding authority for the Texas Water Development Board is needed to update water utilities and to pay for the state water plan.

"The availability of water is an issue that cuts across every district and impacts every citizen," Texas House Speaker Joe Straus said.

But critics argued that Proposition 2, along with the other bonding plans -- Propositions 3, 4 and 7 -- would increase government spending by granting permanent permission for various entities to issue more bond debt.   Voters rejected Proposition 8 that would have given tax breaks to landowners who take measures to conserve water and preserve water quality.

Meanwhile, state officials prepared for continued severe drought conditions across Texas.  Read more about the recent Texas election here.

WaterSense Labels First Outdoor Irrigation Product: Weather-Based Irrigation Controllers 

WaterSense LogoThe U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) WaterSense program has released a final specification for irrigation controllers, making them the first outdoor product category eligible to earn the WaterSense label. Manufacturers of these products may become a WaterSense partner and begin the certification process to earn the WaterSense label. EPA expects that WaterSense labeled controllers could be available by the spring of next year.

Weather-based irrigation controllers (WBIC) use local weather data to tailor irrigation schedules to actual site conditions. WaterSense labeled models will be independently certified to meet EPA’s water-efficiency and performance criteria, ensuring that they are able to meet the water needs of the plants without overwatering.

The performance record of WBICs is somewhat mixed.  Some models have performed well in laboratory-like test settings.  The largest field study of WBICs to date, conducted in California (Aquacraft, 1999), found they reduced irrigation application rates by an average of 6%.

For more information about the WaterSense Specification for Weather-Based Irrigation Controllers, visit the WaterSense website, or contact the WaterSense helpline at (866) WTR-SENS.

New British Study on Showering Finds Similar Usage Patterns to North America

ShowerheadA 2011British study on showering found similar showering patterns to the 1999 North American Residential End uses of Water study conducted by Aquacraft.   The British survey was carried out by producer Unilever, which wanted to find out how people were using their products.  Here is a quick comparison of the results:

  • British average: 8 minute duration, 16.4 gallons per shower.
  • North American average: 8.2 minute duration, 17.2 gallons per shower

The North American data is from 1999 and the British data is from 2011. The studies used different data collection techniques.

California Law Requires Water Conserving Fixture Disclosure

CaliforniaOlder California homes should get more water efficient in 2012 and beyond. A new law, effective January 1, 2012, revises the California real estate Transfer Disclosure Statement (TDS) to include a checkbox for the seller to disclose whether the property has water-conserving plumbing fixtures.

By January 1, 2017, a single-family residence built on or before January 1, 1994 must generally be equipped with water-conserving plumbing fixtures. Water-conserving plumbing fixtures are: low-flow toilets, shower heads, and faucets under section 1101.3 of the California Civil Code.

New Report Tackles Energy-Water Nexus in Great Lakes Region

A new report from the Great Lakes Commission examines the future of power generation in the Great Lakes region and the water required to produce that energy.  The report is titled, “Integrating Energy and Water Resources - Decision Making in the Great Lakes Basin An Examination of Future Power Generation Scenarios and Water Resource Impacts  A Report of the Great Lakes Energy-Water Nexus Team”.

  Download a free PDF of this new report here.

Mortgage Underwriting Could Take Efficiency into Consideration

Outside HouseAn energy efficient home could mean a better mortgage for the borrower. The Sensible Accounting to Value Energy Act of 2011 (S.1737), introduced on October 19 by Senator Michael Bennet, Democrat of Colorado and Senator Johnny Isakson, Republican of Georgia would require that home energy costs be factored into the formula for determining a home’s overall value and the prospective homebuyer’s eligibility for a loan. 

The preferred tool for estimating energy costs is Residential Energy Service Network’s Home Energy Rating System, although the law would allow other suitable third-party methods to be used .  Learn more here.  If this bill is a success, perhaps water efficiency could be considered in the future.

Drainline Carry Study Needs Final Funding Increment to Proceed

An important study on the potential for building drainline blockages with water efficiency plumbing fixtures is just short of funding it needs to move forward.  Researchers are seeking an additional $50,000 needed to move this project forward.

Water-efficient fixtures lead to reduced water consumption, and can result in lower drainline and sewer line water flows. This provokes important questions: Do these reduced flows lead, in turn, to stoppages of waste in building drains? How low can flows can be reduced without causing solids to clog the drainline? Does the installation of certain high-efficiency plumbing fixtures contribute to stoppages? If so, are remedies available that can mitigate or prevent drainline stoppages?

Work on this important research can begin in January 2012 thanks to generous contributions from water utilities and others and a kind offer from American Standard Brands to allow the use of its test apparatus.  However, an additional $50,000.00 in funding is necessary to get this important research started.

If you wish to support this research, please contact Mary Ann Dickinson at the Alliance for Water Efficiency as soon as possible.  Contributions are tax deductible.  Learn more about the proposed research here.  

From the AWE Store…

  • Blueprint Cover SmA Blueprint for Action and Policy Agenda  by AWE and ACEEE is now available in hardcopy format and can be ordered on the AWE website. The price for AWE members is $3.50 each for 1-10 copies and $3.00 each for orders of 11 or more. The price for nonmembers is $5.00 each regardless of quantity. These prices do not include applicable sales tax or shipping and handling costs. Click here to order.
  • DVD CoverClimate Change: The Cold Hard Facts  an honest and factual video on our climate future can be ordered on the AWE website. This DVD is a visually descriptive and easy to follow educational tool for schools, businesses, government, and the community. The DVD is only $2.00 for AWE members and $10.00 for non-members. Click here to order .

International Green Construction Code Finalized

The International Code Council has finalized its International Green Construction Code and is readying it for publication by Spring of 2012. The code includes many water and energy saving features that will be familiar with anyone who has followed other green codes, standards and programs. It also has provisions intended to make the code simple to follow without performing calculations.

Thomas Pape, representing the Alliance for Water Efficiency, got one alteration on the table for remote water closets that may be on the end of a drain line in a commercial building. Those can be 1.6-GPF water closets if they are, “… located not less than 30-ft. upstream of other drain line connections or fixtures and … located where less than 1.5 drainage fixture units are upstream of the drain line connection.”

Learn more about the new International Green Construction Code here.

New Pacific Institute Study Examines Water Needs for Energy in the Western US

Colorado colorThe production of electricity, from fuel extraction to generation, has growing impacts on both water availability and quality. A new analysis from the Pacific Institute evaluates future water needs for different energy futures and identifies a growing risk of conflicts between electricity production and water availability in the U.S. Intermountain West. The new report also identifies strategies to ensure the long-term sustainable use of both resources.

The study, Water for Energy: Future Water Needs for Electricity in the Intermountain West, examines the water requirements for current and projected electricity generation within the Intermountain West, which is the area bound by the Rocky Mountains in the East and the Sierra Nevada and Cascade Mountains in the West. While water and energy conflicts are increasing across the United States, the Intermountain West is of particular interest for this study because it has a growing population (and growing demand for energy and water), a diverse fuel mix for power generation, and existing water constraints and limitations that are expected to worsen.

Australian Research Finds Watering Restrictions Work as Well (or Better) than Price Incentives During Drought

Australia experienced a serious drought over the last decade and as a consequence most municipalities had to introduce policies to reduce the water usage in their urban areas. The demand-management tools employed included, raising water prices, mandatory restrictions on certain types of water use, and approaches aimed at inducing a voluntary behavior change.

Researchers tested the effectiveness of the various policy tools empirically using daily water use data for a single municipality over the period of 4 ½ years. They observed large and significant effects from increasing restrictions on water use, and also economically and statistically significant effects which can be attributed to information campaigns and ‘altruistic' behavior. Perhaps surprisingly, they were unable to identify a significant price effect once they controlled for the level of use restrictions.

The authors concluded that at times of extreme water shortage, formal restrictions and encouragement of voluntary consumption reductions are at least as effective as price instruments.  Download a free report summary here.

Southern Nevada Water Authority Questions Pacific Institute Findings

vegasIn response to criticism of the Las Vegas Valley’s ongoing water conservation efforts, an attorney for the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) questioned a report by the Pacific Institute that criticized Southern Nevada’s efforts to reduce water use - initiatives that SNWA says have already have yielded a 30 percent reduction in per capita water use.

Following direct testimony by Pacific Institute President Peter Gleick, in which he claimed Southern Nevada’s conservation efforts were “weak and inadequate,” SNWA attorney Steve Sims identified numerous areas in which the institute’s report, “Hidden Oasis: Water Conservation and Efficiency in Las Vegas” grossly overstated additional potential water resources that may be gleaned through additional conservation.

The report was prepared by the advocacy organization at the request of an activist group opposing the SNWA’s applications for renewable, unused groundwater in east-central Nevada.  Read more about SNWA’s critique here.

Rainbird Offers Grants for Outdoor Conservation Projects

The fifth annual Intelligent Use of Water Awards program was recently announced by Rain Bird. This interactive grant contest allows people to submit water conservation projects for public voting. At the end of the program, the top-rated projects will win more than $50,000 in grants.  Learn more here.

California Irrigation Institute Annual Conference Set for January

CAII Conference Logo 2012The California Irrigation Institute is holding its 50th Annual Conference in Sacramento, CA on January 30-31, 2012. This conference is honoring 50 years of achievement in California water, as well as focusing on the next 50 years of needed efficiency. Learn more and register here.

WaterSmart Innovations 2012 Seeks Abstract Submissions

The 5th Annual WaterSmart Innovations Conference and Exposition is seeking abstracts for professional presentations at the event, October 3-5, 2012, in Las Vegas, Nevada.  A complete list of potential topics is available on the WSI 2012 website .

  Presenters must pay their own travel expenses. Complimentary conference registration will be provided to all accepted participants for the day of their presentation only.   Abstracts may be submitted on-line at www.WaterSmartInnovations.com no later than Friday, January 20, 2012.

AWWA Sustainable Water Management Conference Open for Registration

The 2012 Sustainable Water Management Conference will be held at the Marriott Portland Waterfront Hotel in Portland, Oregon, March 18 - 21, 2012. This event will focus on multi-dimensional sustainability plans for utilities and their stakeholder communities. The early bird registration (by Feb. 17) price for AWWA members is $595.  Register here.

UK Water Industry Research Publishes Updated Managing Leakage 2011  

UK Water Industry Research (UKWIR) has published the 2011 edition of Managing Leakage.   The original Managing Leakage was published in 1994. It fast became the definitive reference document for water loss control , not just in the UK but throughout the world, with the methodologies recommended in the document identified as best practice. Since then, research and practice in water loss management has continued to develop with over thirty reports published by UKWIR alone on the subject and related topics. Although much of the original document is still relevant, more recent research has added to the knowledge in some areas, such as leakage economics, pressure management, asset management and leakage location technology. Managing Leakage 2011 includes those parts of the original document which are still relevant but also more recent studies and developments with over 100 documents referred to and listed.   Managing Leakage 2011 is available for sale from UKWIR.

News Briefs and Web Links

  • Water Bills Introduced in Congress – The budget climate will make passage difficult, but several water bills have been introduced over the past weeks including one that would provide grants for climate change adaptation (including efficiency and conservation).  Learn more here and get additional information from AWE’s Legislative Watch page. 
  • Survey Compares Water and Sewer Rates of Top 50 Utilities – This useful survey by Black and Veatch compares water and wastewater bills for typical residential and commercial customers in 50 cities.  Download the PDF for free here.
  • Summary Report from International Water Forum at the UN Available – AWE’s Mary Ann Dickinson and Carole Baker were participants in this event.  Download the free report here.
  • The Life of a Plastic BagCheck out this terrific video.
  • 12 Scary Facts About the Chinese Water Crisis – AWE may need a branch office in Beijing.  Learn more here.
  • NASA Satellites find Texas Groundwater at Record Low – The unprecedented Texas drought is sapping both surface and groundwater supplies with no end in sight.
  • Rainfall Eases Water Shortage in South Florida – The South Florida Water Management District has rescinded emergency water restrictions and has adopted a water shortage warning as South Florida heads into the dry season.  Learn more here.
  • Sonoma County Considers New Water/Wastewater Rates – Under the proposal, 70% of the bill would be fixed charges and 30% would be volume based.  Learn more here. 
  • Rural Community Assistance Partnership Offers New Utility Financial and Rate Guides - The Basics of Financial Management for Small-community Utilities and Formulate Great Rates: The Guide to Conducting a Rate Study for a Water System. Learn more here.
  • For 1st Time, EPA Implicates Fracking in Groundwater Contamination – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for the first time has implicated fracking -- a controversial method of improving the productivity of oil and gas wells -- for causing groundwater pollution.  Read more here.
  • Denver Water Relates Cooling Tower Efficiency Success Stories – Learn more here.
  • Nebraskans Balk at Privatizing Wastewater Treament - The idea of privatizing Grand Island's wastewater treatment plant to a multinational corporation didn't set well with nearly 50 people attending an informational meeting.  
  • Sonoma County Study Examines Savings from Direct Installation of HETs – A new study from Koeller and Company examines water savings from high-efficiency toilets.  Download the report here
  • Over 2,000 Toilets Have Been MaP Tested – Maximum Performance Testing of tank –type toilets has now been completed on more than 2,000 makes and models. Find the MaP tested toilet that’s right for you here
  • New Study Examines the Green Performance of Buildings – Conducted by the Pacific Northwest Labs (PNL) the study examines building performance at a number of sites including the new federal courthouse in Seattle.  Download the study here.
  • MAD on VOA – AWE CEO and President Mary Ann Dickinson was the featured guest on Voice of America’s Go Green Radio.  You can listen to the interview online here.
  • California City Reconsiders Artificial TurfSimi Valley is reconsidering a rule that effectively bans artificial turf.
  • Jordan Valley Water, Utah Tries Customer Feedback to Improve Efficiency – Price and non-price approaches to incenting efficiency are discussed in this AWWA Opflow article.
  • 2011 Green Plumber of the Year Awards AnnouncedCheck out the winners here.
  • Australian 2011 savewater! awards – Every year, the Australia savewater! Alliance presents awards to water efficiency leaders from across the land of Oz.  This year they have created an electronic book to commemorate the event and celebrate the winners. 
  • Australia Releases National Water Account - This is Australia's first National Water Account and is a new style of water reporting. Eight regions are included in the National Water Account 2010: Adelaide, Canberra, Melbourne, Murray–Darling Basin, Ord, Perth, South East Queensland and Sydney.  Download a copy here.
  • Canadian Polis Sustainability Project Releases Fall Newsletter
  • UK Waterwise December Newsletter Now Available – The December issue includes articles on prepping for winter, 2012 conferences, and school conservation.  Check it out here.
  • Huffington Post Starts Water News Section – Water is a hot topic these days.  Check out the new Huff Post water section here.
  • Water Collective Site Maps Water News – This water news aggregating site links Google Earth images to water related news. 
  • Occupy LA Could Help City Switch to Xeriscape Says Blogger – Some see a water efficient upside to downtown LA’s trampled turf.
  • Levi-Straus Dives Into Water Efficiency – Interested in stone-washed jeans minus the water use?  Levi-Straus is trying to reduce the amount of water it takes to create a pair of pants.
  • Call for Paper for UK’s Urban Water 2012 Now Open – The conference will be held April 25-27, 2012 in New Forest, UK. Learn more here.

How to Submit Content for Water Efficiency Watch

Water Efficiency Watch welcomes submission of articles, photos, stories, commentary, new technologies, web links, etc.  Please e-mail your submission to Peter Mayer – mayer@aquacraft.com.

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

DISCLAIMER: The Alliance for Water Efficiency reports on research and information as a service. This should not be considered an explicit or implicit endorsement of any product, service, research effort, analysis, etc. unless specifically so indicated.