Water Efficiency Watch - February 2019

In this issue of Water Efficiency Watch...

  • AWE Outdoor Water Savings Research Initiative – Project 2 Released - Landscape Transformation – Impacts and Attitudes  
  • WaterSense to Review Five Major Product Specifications  
  • WaterSense Issues Notice to Label Swimming Pool Covers 
  • Historic Colorado River Agreement Close but Not Done, Feds May Step In, AZ Tab Could Hit $280 million, Imperial Stumps for Salton Sea Funds  
  • In-Depth Scorecard for the Colorado River Basin States Now Available  
  • Nevada Looks at AWE Scorecard to Improve State Efficiency Laws  
  • AWWA Elects Melissa Elliott as President 
  • AWE Member News   
  • News Briefs and Web Links  
  • How to Submit Content for Water Efficiency Watch   

AWE Outdoor Water Savings Research Initiative – Project 2 Released

Landscape Transformation – Impacts and Attitudes 

The Alliance for Water Efficiency has released a new national research study on landscape transformation, water use, and customer attitudes, and the results show that water savings are possible in all regions and that homeowners are ready for a new ideal.

The AWE Landscape Transformation Study was conducted by a team lead by Thomas Chesnutt of A&N Technical Services over a two-year period and represents the most expansive and diverse assessment of outdoor water efficiency programs to date.

Findings from this important study are summarized below. Get more information about how the study was conducted and download here. 

Impact Analysis: Key Findings 

Landscape Transformation programs analyzed in diverse geographies and climates all produced water savings. 

This study reviewed utilities that vary in geography, population, and climate, but all offer landscape transformation programs that get results.

Across programs analyzed, the average participant savings for single-family customers ranged from a 6% reduction in water use up to 38%.

Savings for a specific program or type of program varied widely based on pre-program participant use, weather characteristics such as precipitation and evapotranspiration, incentive levels, customer support, and rules and requirements.

Landscape Transformation programs of all kinds achieved water savings. 

From financial incentives for removing turf, to rebates on efficient irrigation fixtures, to individualized site consultations, to free provision of mulch, all programs were effective at reducing landscape water use.

According to the EPA, upgrading to a WaterSense labeled smart irrigation controller can reduce irrigation water use by 15%, saving nearly 8,800 gallons per year.

Landscape Transformation programs reduced peak demand in participating utilities.  

Reducing peak demand eases the burden on the water system, requiring less system capacity to fulfill the water need at peak times. This ultimately helps delay or avoid investments in additional water infrastructure, keeping costs down for customers.

The water savings achieved not only persisted after the first year; they increased with time.

Persistence and growth of water savings observed amongst programs with sufficient data for analysis indicates that program implementation costs will be recouped with time.

The Southern Nevada Water Authority’s long-running program produced average savings of 71 gallons per square foot in the first year, climbing to 81 gallons per square foot after 10 or more years.

Process Evaluation: Key Findings 

Homeowners are Ready for a New Type of Landscape Ideal 

  • Most homeowners are ready for change and different landscape approaches. 79% of customers were dissatisfied or only somewhat satisfied with their current landscaping, and half (50%) believe their lawns are unhealthy or only partially healthy, indicating an opportunity to spur action. 69% have considered changing their landscapes to reduce water use, with only 15% stating they prefer to make no changes.
  • More than half of the respondents (55%) indicated they would prefer to remove part or all of their lawn, and 17% would install a more efficient irrigation system.
  • Consumers want beautiful and low-maintenance landscapes. More than half (55%) of respondents identified beauty and appearance as one of the three most important aspects of their landscape, and nearly half (48%) identified easy care as a priority.
  • They are also interested in water-efficient landscapes, indicating increased awareness of water scarcity issues. 42% of respondents selected “low water use” as one of the three most important attributes of their landscape.
  • Although beauty was the most commonly selected aspect, a beautiful outdoor space contains a variety of features. More respondents of this question selected trees and shrubs (87%), flowers (79%), and an entertaining space (73%), then lawn (69%) for their ideal landscape.
  • Water customers are also becoming more aware of the existence of water-efficient landscape options and more open to change. 60% knew a neighbor or friend that had put in alternative landscaping, and 85% like the new look or feel neutral about it. 

Homeowners Need Help to Transform their Landscapes – and When They Do, They’re Pleased with Them! 

  • The large majority (78%) of respondents take care of their own lawn.  85% believe they would need moderate to full assistance to change out their landscape. They predominantly need help with landscape design (39%) followed by actual implementation, such as removing the lawn (24%) and installing irrigation (10%).
  • For more than half of respondents (52%), the cost of changing out some or all of their lawn is a concern. Nearly half (45%) indicated they would need a monetary incentive to replace their lawn.
  • Other important concerns included the final look (selected by 30%) and the difficulty of making changes (selected by 21%). 20% of consumers indicated help with plant selection and layout would persuade them to undertake a project.
  • Those who participated in a Landscape Transformation program were pleased with their results. 91% were satisfied or very satisfied with their new landscape, 63% would not do anything differently, and 85% thought the conversion was worth the investment.

The project collaborators and participants included Austin Water, TX; Guelph, Ontario,  Canada; Fort Collins, CO; Metropolitan Water District of Southern California; North Marin MWD, CA; Region of Peel, Ontario, Canada; Petaluma, CA; San Diego, CA; Santa Rosa, CA; Southern Nevada Water Authority, NV; Sonoma County Water Agency, CA; City of Sacramento, CA; City of Seattle; California American Water; and Scotts Miracle Gro.

The project team included A&N Technical Services, Inc., Maureen Erbeznik & Associates, and Sligo Creek Resources. The project was managed by Peter Mayer, AWE Senior Technical Advisor and Principal, WaterDM.

The Alliance for Water Efficiency launched its Outdoor Water Savings Research Initiative in 2015 to identify and clarify what programs, practices, and irrigation technologies can support effective utility-driven outdoor water efficiency programs. 

WaterSense to Review Five Major Product Specifications 

The EPA WaterSense program will spend much of 2019 reviewing and updating the product specifications that make up the backbone of its program – tank-type toilets, faucets, showerheads, flushing urinals, and weather-based irrigation controllers. AWE will be following the process closely. As required by its new authorizing legislation, WaterSense® has issued a Notice of Specification Review to inform the public that it is undertaking a review of several product specifications to determine if there is a need for revision and to invite stakeholders to provide feedback.

The America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018, signed on October 24, formally authorized the WaterSense program.  This new law requires that, not later than December 31, 2019, the EPA “consider for review and revise, if necessary, any WaterSense performance criteria adopted before January 1, 2012.” As a result, EPA is reviewing several WaterSense specifications, including specifications for tank-type toilets, lavatory faucets and faucet accessories, showerheads, flushing urinals, and weather-based irrigation controllers.

The Notice of Specification Review provides the general criteria WaterSense will use to review the specifications, summarizes the current specifications and market for each product category, and offers general questions for stakeholders to consider when providing feedback. It also discusses the revision process and tentative timeline for EPA’s activities. Learn more here. 

WaterSense Issues Notice to Label Swimming Pool Covers 

Reducing water lost to evaporation from outdoor pools has long been a goal in the urban water sector and using a pool cover can help owners reduce that waste significantly.. In September 2018, EPA issued a Notice of Intent (NOI) to develop a WaterSense® specification for pool covers to help reduce water waste in swimming pools.

EPA’s analysis found that when applied consistently and appropriately, pool covers can both reduce pool water evaporation and help the pool water retain heat, which together contribute to water, energy, and cost savings for pool owners. WaterSense estimates that, depending where it is located within the United States, a typical uncovered pool can lose between 12,000 and 31,000 gallons of pool water to evaporation every year.

AWE submitted comments on the NOI in January noting that while AWE supports the broader intentions of the effort, AWE is skeptical that labeling this product alone will achieve meaningful water savings. Swimming pools remind us a lot of irrigation systems in that they are frequently complex systems involving many parts, including filters, pumps, fountains, chemicals, and more. When WaterSense chose to address irrigation systems, it understood the complexity inherent in them and paired product labeling with certification of irrigation professionals to raise the bar of knowledge and understanding in the industry.”

AWE believes a similar systems approach will be required to make real progress on swimming pool water efficiency, an approach that includes maintenance professionals along with labeled products. AWE would like to see WaterSense develop a strategy to fully address swimming pool management from a water efficiency perspective, and in that approach applying the label to pool covers will be an important component.

The EPA invites interested parties to provide written comments or materials relevant to WaterSense’s NOI to label pool covers. Please submit comments and suggestions here.

Historic Colorado River Agreement Close but Not Done, Feds May Step In, AZ Tab Could Hit $280 million, Imperial Stumps for Salton Sea Funds 

Even as Arizona lawmakers rushed to approve their Colorado River Drought Contingency Plans (DCP) just ahead of the January 31 deadline, final approval across all seven basin states proved elusive. A series of complex DCPs are required to move forward with withdrawal reductions in the lower basin and demand management in the upper basin in the hopes of maintaining storage levels in Lake Mead and Lake Powell, thus staving off a crisis for now.

Despite obvious progress, the US Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) indicated it is not satisfied with the progress, noting that “close is not done”, and has published a notice in the Federal Register seeking comments on water apportionment from the Governor of each state starting on March 4. If final agreement is reached by the seven states before March 4, the notice will be withdrawn.

“Nobody questions the growing risk and urgent need for action along the Colorado River,” said BOR Commissioner Burman. “Completion of drought contingency plans is long overdue. Action is needed now. In the absence of consensus plans from the Basin states, the federal government must take action to protect the river and all who depend on it — farmers and cities across seven states.”

In Arizona the DCP will hit taxpayers hard, with a potential tab of up to $280 million, based on reporting in the Arizona Star. Tens of millions of dollars will be spent to compensate river water users who will be losing supplies due to the drought plan. Millions more will be spent by CAP, the state, possibly by the feds and by irrigation districts on new wells to help farmers go back on the pumps when their CAP supplies run out in a few years.  Significant funding of $97 million is not slated to fund water conservation programs but rather will be used in a complex agreement to buy water and recharge it in the ground to compensate for new pumping for future suburban growth and sprawl. 

An 11th hour challenge to the DCP comes from the Imperial Irrigation District, a water utility that serves the Imperial Valley in southeastern California. Imperial has substantial Colorado River water rights and has not signed California’s plan because it wants $200 million to restore the vanishing Salton Sea, the state’s largest lake.

Climate change has reduced flows, and overuse has depleted the combined storage in Lake Powell and Lake Mead to 41% of capacity in October 2018. The stakes could not be much higher with an estimated 40 million people dependent on the Colorado River for their water supply and even more on the food produced by river-fed agriculture.

In-Depth Scorecard for the Colorado River Basin States Now Available 

The Alliance for Water Efficiency has released a scorecard supplement for the Colorado River Basin States. State-Level Water Efficiency and Conservation Laws in the Colorado River Basin takes a closer look at the Water Efficiency and Conservation State Scorecard project results for the seven Colorado River Basin states of Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming.

The report note successes and identifies opportunities where laws can be strengthened to advance the sustainable use of water in the Colorado River Basin.

Nevada Looks at AWE Scorecard to Improve State Efficiency Laws 

The Alliance for Water Efficiency’s state scorecard of efficiency programs is getting high profile attention in Nevada. Newly-elected Nevada District 15 Assemblyman Howard Watts is planning legislation in response to Nevada’s performance on the scorecard.

“I'm writing to let you know that I've put forward a bill to improve water efficiency in the state, after reading the Alliance's state scorecard,” Watts wrote in a recent email to AWE. “I noticed areas where Nevada could improve and am looking at improving fixture standards and adding more details on utility leak detection and correction. It is BDR (Bill Draft Request 798) and I would welcome any additional support or resources you may be able to provide.”

Yes indeed Rep. Watts, the Alliance for Water Efficiency will be delighted to help you in this effort. That is what we do. 

AWWA Elects Melissa Elliott as President 

Melissa Elliott, a 15-year member of the American Water Works Association (AWWA) is the Association’s next president-elect. Elliott is currently a consultant with Raftelis, but once upon a time was the Water Conservation Manager at the City of Aurora, Colorado before she joined Denver Water as the Manager of Public Affairs.

Elliott was among six new officers elected by AWWA’s Board of Directors at its annual winter meeting Jan. 26 in Vancouver, B.C. She is believed to be the first former water conservation manager to be elected AWWA President.

“Telling our value of water story is more important than ever,” Elliott said. “I will focus on elevating the conversation about water to reflect the commitment, service and value our members bring to their communities every day.”

Welcome, Melissa Elliott! 

AWE Member News

Check this section for the latest news from AWE’s network! Interested in seeing your news here? Email Gursharan at AWE.

  • Green Builder Coalition partners with Built Green Canada to bring the Water Efficiency Rating Score to Canada. Learn more here.
  • Efficient Water Management’s Quiet Hero—the Water Meter inContractor by Peter Mayer, Principal at Water Demand Management.
  • San Antonio Water System launches pilot with Flume, Inc.’s leak detection sensors. Learn more here. 
  • Water use in the City of Madison drops by a billion gallons in 6 years. Read more here.  
  • American Water is named one of the 100 Most Sustainable U.S. Companies by Barron’s Magazine. Learn more here. 

News Briefs and Web Links

  • 8th Gulf Coast Conservation Symposium Set for Feb. 28 in Houston. Get info and register here. 
  • EPA may refuse to regulate a widespread drinking water contaminant. H2O Radio reports. 
  • Money for Resilient Infrastructure. Former AWE Board Member, Joyce Coffee’s new book addresses financing in a time of climate change. 
  • What is a water budget? This brief, informative video explains how the Eastern Municipal Water District, CA bills for water service. 
  • Water-related violence in Mexico and land subsidence in California. Circle of Blue reports from the front lines on water issues. 
  • The importance of water metering. Promotional video from Badger helps explain why it matters to meter. 

How to Submit Content for Water Efficiency Watch 

Water Efficiency Watch welcomes submission of articles, photos, stories, commentary, new technologies, web links, etc.  Please email your submission to Liam McCarthy.

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.