Water Efficiency Watch - January 2020

In this issue of Water Efficiency Watch...

  • AWE Launches Drought Restrictions Study
  • House Democrats Release New Infrastructure Framework that includes Water Efficiency
  • The Latest with President Trump and Water Efficient Fixtures
  • New Rebate Membership Offering – WaterWays
  • Thank you to our Holiday Giving Campaign donors – Donations Appreciated
  • Practical Plumbing Handbook
  • USBR WaterSMART Program Funding Opportunities
  • California Releases Draft Water Resiliency Portfolio
  • Save the Date for World Water Day and Fix a Leak Week
  • Member Interview: Kelly Kopp, USU
  • Member Updates
  • News Briefs/Web Links

AWE Launches Drought Restrictions Study

On January 23, the Alliance for Water Efficiency released a major research study on municipal drought response and water demand. The Use and Effectiveness of Municipal Irrigation Restrictions During Drought is the latest report from AWE’s Outdoor Water Savings Research Initiative, which also produced a Phase 1 Review of Existing Research (2014), a Peak Demand Reduction Study (2017), and a Landscape Transformation Study (2019).

Key findings from the new study include:

Case study participants in California and Texas successfully reduced annual demand by 18-30 percent and peak monthly demand by 20-42 percent through a combination of mandatory demand management measures.

Within this study, voluntary conservation did not generate statistically significant savings (i.e., estimated savings are indistinguishable from zero).

Messaging and enforcement are viewed as best practices and essential components of a successful drought response.

Water Shortage Contingency Plans should include all of these components: messaging, enforcement, irrigation day-of-week and/or time-of-day restrictions, drought surcharges, and implementation strategies.

To be effective, Water Shortage Contingency Plans need codified rulemaking to include provisions that are enforceable on non-compliant customers.

This two-year research study was conducted by Anil Bamezai, PhD of Western Policy Research along with Lisa Maddaus and her team at Maddaus Water Management, Inc. AWE sponsored this study with financial support from the participating water utilities. Peter Mayer of Water Demand Management developed the original research concept and served as AWE’s project manager for the study. Click here to learn more and to download the Executive Summary. AWE members can also access the full study.

House Democrats Release New Infrastructure Framework that includes Water Efficiency

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Cal.) announced this week an initial framework of a new $760 billion, five-year infrastructure plan. The bulk of the plan is the outline of the long-awaited surface transportation reauthorization bill, but most details will wait for legislative text on an unknown future date. The framework would extend and increase funding for programs to protect Americans’ drinking water by investing $22.9 billion over five years in the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, and also currently contains a number of water-efficiency measures, including:

  • Codifies “Green Reserve” for Critical Energy-Efficiency, Water-Efficiency, and Green Infrastructure Projects – Formally establishes within the Clean Water Act a requirement that States utilize a minimum of 15 percent of their annual Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund capitalization grants to invest in projects that increase energy- and water-efficiency, or that utilize natural or nature-based approaches to addressing local water quality challenges.
  • Encourages Utilities to Adopt Water- and Energy-Efficient Practices – Directs utilities to study, evaluate, and to the extent practicable, implement water- and energy-efficient technologies, such as technologies that recapture and reuse energy produced from the treatment of wastewater (e.g. methane recapture).
  • Funds Alternative Water Source Projects -- Reauthorizes Federal investments in alternative water source projects to address critical water supply needs, especially in arid areas of the Nation. This $600 million in Federal investment will allow States, communities, and utilities to construct innovative projects to reuse wastewater and stormwater resources to augment existing sources of water.

There are also a number of proposals to increase funding for existing programs that bear on water quality and supply.  For the full plan click here .  

The Latest with President Trump and Water Efficient Fixtures

President Trump announced at a Business Leader Roundtable Meeting in December that he has instructed the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to investigate the efficacy of water efficiency standards for toilets, showerheads, and faucets in the United States. This directive from the President, along with subsequent comments criticizing efficient fixtures, have the water efficiency community concerned about what might happen.

AWE is ready to act if our hard-won efficiency standards become legitimately threatened. The plan of action includes forming a coalition of manufacturers, utilities, code and standards groups, and environmental organizations to present a compelling argument that any proposals to roll back federal standards will have a damaging effect on both American-based industry and the environment. In the meantime, AWE will continue to track any developments on this issue and will keep its members and the general public informed.

Click here to view a statement from AWE President and CEO Mary Ann Dickinson addressing this issue, and debunking the President’s concerns about efficiency standards. Click here  to read an Op-Ed from Julius Ballanco, President of J.B. Engineering and former head of the American Society of Plumbing Engineers, commenting on the engineering industry’s role in setting plumbing codes. Click here  for a recent Washington Post article about the efficacy of efficient toilets which features John Koeller and Bill Gauley’s work with the MaP Testing Program.

New Rebate Membership Offering – WaterWays

In July, 2018 AWE held a webinar as part of its “Exemplary Programs” series that featured the City of Scottsdale’s online Customer Rebate Platform called “WaterWays”, which was built by AWE member AIQUEOUS. This rebate platform provides an opportunity for customers to process their rebates online while also providing the water utility detailed background information on the rebates issued. Soon, AWE members will be able to access this platform at an exclusive discount!

Click here  to register for a webinar on February 13 that will provide an overview of WaterWays and demonstrate how utilities can benefit from this resource.

Thank You to Our Holiday Giving Campaign Donors – Donations Appreciated!

AWE asked members, partners, and all those concerned about our water future to make a contribution to the Alliance for Giving Tuesday, and extended the fundraising campaign throughout the holiday season. Over $5,400 was donated, and thanks to a generous, anonymous donor, every dollar of this was matched! Thank you to everyone who made a donation in support of our work toward water efficiency and conservation initiatives.

AWE still appreciates donations throughout the year. Click here to make a contribution, and to learn more about the work your donation helps make possible.

Practical Plumbing Handbook

Copies of the National Edition of the AWE/CalWEP Practical Plumbing Handbook are still available! This handbook, which provides basic information on how to perform preventative maintenance on fixtures in your home, is a great resource for utilities to hand out to customers. The California Edition has sold tens of thousands of copies. Pricing is as follows:

  • Qty 1-100: $2.70 per unit
  • Qty 101-500: $2.50 per unit
  • Qty 501 and above: $2.25 per unit

The Practical Plumbing Handbook is available to AWE members only. If you are interested in placing an order, or would like to see a free sample copy, click here to email Liam McCarthy.

USBR WaterSMART Program Funding Opportunities

The Bureau of Reclamation has published a new funding opportunity for sponsors of congressionally authorized Title XVI Water Reclamation and Reuse projects to request cost-shared funding for the planning, design, and/or construction of those projects. To learn more about this funding opportunity, click here  and search for number: BOR-DO-20-F008. Applications are due on February 19, 2020 at 5 p.m. CST.

Title XVI projects recently selected to receive funding include:

  • City of San Diego - Demonstrating Innovative Control Strategies for Reverse Osmosis Membrane Degradation and Preserving Water Quality in Potable Reuse Application with Optimized Chloramination Strategies. Reclamation funding: $155,113; Non-federal funding: $465,338.
  • The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California - Demonstration of Pathogen Removal through an Alternative Treatment Technology to Treat Non-Nitrified Secondary Effluent for Potable Reuse. Reclamation funding: $750,000; Non-federal funding: $3,237,785.
  • Padre Dam Municipal Water District (California) - East County Advanced Water Purification Facilities Preformed Chloramines Research to Ensure California Toxics Rule Compliance. Reclamation funding: $45,150; Non-federal funding: $135,453.
  • City of Norman (Oklahoma) - Lake Thunderbird Water Reuse; Field Research Project for Inland Indirect Potable Reuse. Reclamation funding: $700,109; Non-federal funding: $2,100,326.

Additionally the Bureau is offering funding for small-scale water efficiency projects, including installation of flow measurement devices and automation technology, canal lining or piping to address seepage, municipal meter upgrades, and other projects to conserve water. To learn more about this funding opportunity, click here and search for number: BOR-DO-20-F006. Applications are due by March 04, 2020, 5 p.m. CST.

California Releases Draft Water Resiliency Portfolio

Three State agencies in California have released a draft Water Resilience Portfolio  with a suite of recommended actions to help the state cope with more extreme droughts and floods, rising temperatures, declining fish populations, aging infrastructure and other challenges.  The California Natural Resources Agency, the California Environmental Protection Agency, and the California Department of Food and Agriculture developed the draft portfolio to fulfill Governor Gavin Newsom’s April 29 executive order  calling for actions to ensure the state’s long-term water resilience and ecosystem health.

To develop the portfolio, state agencies conducted an inventory and assessment of key aspects of California water, soliciting broad input from tribes, agencies, individuals, groups, and leaders across the state. An interagency working group considered the assessment and input from more than 20 public listening sessions across the state and more than 100 substantive comment letters.  Shaped by months of this valuable input from across the state, the draft outlines more than 100 integrated actionable recommendations in four broad areas to help regions build water resilience.

The three State agencies are circulating the draft for further stakeholder review. Written feedback is invited through February 7, 2020.  A final version of the Water Resilience Portfolio will be released soon after.  For more information, click here.

Save the Date for World Water Day and Fix-a-Leak Week

World Water Day, an annual United Nations day of observance that highlights the importance of freshwater, is on March 22. This year’s theme is “water and climate change” and how the two are inextricably linked. Click here  to learn more about how you can participate.

The week leading up to World Water Day, March 16-22, is Fix-a-Leak Week. This EPA WaterSense initiative encourages people to chase down household leaks, which waste 1 trillion gallons of water nationwide. From family fun runs to leak detection contests to WaterSense demonstrations, Fix-a-Leak Week events happen across the country and are all geared to teach you how to find and fix household leaks. Click here  to learn more about how you can get involved and hunt down the drips!

Member Interview: Kelly Kopp, USU

AWE’s Lacey Smith spoke with Dr. Kelly Kopp, Professor and Extension Specialist at Utah State University , about her career path and the trends she sees in the field of outdoor water research. Kelly is a founding AWE Board member and former AWE Board Chair, and currently serves as chair of AWE’s Water Efficiency Research Committee. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Tell me about your current position and your path there.

I am a professor and an Extension specialist focused on water conservation and turfgrass science at Utah State University . I’ve been here for almost 20 years—I came straight from graduate school. I was fortunate in that the position was created just as I was finishing my PhD at the University of Connecticut. My educational background includes soil science, hydrology, and agronomy.

My graduate work focused on water quality, but the position here in Utah changed my focus to water quantity. This came with a bit of a learning curve, early on, but it helped that I grew up in Texas where water issues were a constant part of life. I’m still able to incorporate water quality into what I do, but the emphasis is definitely on water quantity. My position is focused on research, public education, and outreach. I occasionally do some teaching on campus but it’s not my main role.

Do you have any professional successes or wins that you would point to in your career?

As a faculty member, one of my primary successes is getting tenure. When you start out in an academic position, the first 5-7 years is really considered probationary. Once you get through that and receive tenure, you have more job security than any other type of work that I’m aware of. Several years after that I was also promoted to full professor, which provided even more job security and freedom to work on topics that are important to me.

Another of my big successes was being appointed to the inaugural board of the Alliance for Water Efficiency. I decided to pursue it almost on a whim: I’d been frustrated with what I’d seen in the water conservation community at the time, and it seemed to me like AWE was filling a niche that needed to be filled. When the call came out requesting CVs for potential board members I decided to throw my hat in the ring, not expecting anything to come of it. I was chosen for the inaugural board and spent many years, both as secretary and as board chair for a few years before I rotated off. For me, that was a big success and really important in terms of networking and meeting the movers and shakers in water.

Originally, my position was funded because my department received state line item funding from the legislature to create the Center for Water Efficient Landscaping , and we were fortunate that the state agreed to do that in 1999. In 2016, we secured additional, significant ongoing funding from the state legislature which has allowed us to expand our research and outreach efforts. That was a big success, after working for a solid year to explain our work to various county commissions, legislators, and other government officials around the state. And, as of January 1, I became the director of the Center.

Are there any trends you see in your field or ways that your research focus has changed over time?

My university is putting on some speaking events this year related to our institutional research as a whole, and I’ve been asked to participate in that effort. Preparing for that has given me a chance to think about my research direction in depth. Up to now, my work has focused on the latest and greatest irrigation technology: does it actually save water? What are the impacts on plant physiology? I still work on those things, but my work is now moving towards evaluating and quantifying the ecosystem services we receive from ornamental urban and suburban landscapes; for example, to what extent can we expect carbon sequestration, cooling, or water filtration and cleaning in those landscapes? I’ve changed my perspective from focusing on landscapes as resource sinks to thinking of them as resource-positive contributors to the environment. This requires quantifying all of their inputs, outputs, and storage. I’m hoping this becomes more of a trend, and I know I have some colleagues nationally who are looking at aspects of that concept. I hope this shift can get people to think about what their landscapes are doing for them as opposed to what their landscapes are taking from them.

In terms of other trends and issues, I’ve done a lot of work in turfgrass science. There’s so much new plant material out there that can help us achieve resource-positivity in the landscape. I do a lot of trialing with different experimental turfgrass varieties developed by seed producers with the goal of minimizing resource inputs, particularly water, and there are a lot of new varieties coming out that don’t require supplemental irrigation.

What are some of your hobbies and favorite activities outside of work?

I have three teenagers, a husband, and a dog, so we’re a pretty busy family. We live in Utah, one of the most beautiful states that I’ve ever visited or lived in, and we enjoy the many outdoor recreation opportunities available to us here. We’re big into camping, backpacking, mountain biking, skiing, cross-country skiing, and anything else we can do to enjoy our surroundings. We’re also regular visitors to the national parks: there are 5 here in Utah and another 3 close by. We’re an outdoorsy group!

Do you have any pieces of advice for new (or seasoned!) water conservation professionals?

Pursuing positions in professional organizations, whether voluntary or appointed, has been pivotal for me because of the resulting networking opportunities. Networking is critical, not only because of the professional connections, but because of the knowledge that you can gain from those interactions. My area of expertise is outdoor water use, but I’ve learned a lot about indoor water conservation because of my connections on the AWE board and getting associated with WaterSense, for example . Joining organizations and then actively participating is a great way to expand both your professional network and your professional knowledge.

Member Updates

  • Lane Community College in Oregon offers classes in water conservation. In this radio interview, staff at the college discuss what these classes have to offer. Learn more here .
  • The City of Dallas plans to not only expand and re-market conservation-focused consumer programs, but also incentivize businesses to become more efficient with rebates for water system renovations. Learn more here .
  • Austin Water has worked with customers to achieve significant water savings through a comprehensive suite of water conservation programs and measures. The result? Water use per capita in 2019 dropped to the lowest point since records have been kept. Learn more here .
  • The City of Flagstaff may postpone the need for a new water source until 2048, thanks to recent updates to the city's water conservation plan. Learn more here .
  • Rezatec and MeterSYS partner to provide cutting edge technology to US water utilities to enhance asset management performance. Learn more here .

News Briefs/Web Links

  • Recent Australian droughts may be the worst in 800 years. Click here  to read more about their drought.  Wildfires are also raging outside every major city in Australia. This article includes a map depicting the location of the many bushfires across the continent. Click here to learn more .
  • Arizona, Nevada and Mexico will start taking less water from the Colorado River under a drought contingency agreement signed in May. However, officials in Arizona and Nevada say conservation measures ranging from replacing lawns with desert landscaping to treating and reusing water that runs down drains mean the cutbacks may not be widely felt. Click here for more information .
  • Water conservation goals were established for nine regions around Utah for municipal and industrial use, which includes residential, commercial and institutional water use. Click here to learn more .
  • Climate change might increase precipitation levels in parts of the U.S. and Europe, but in a hotter future, plants will consume more water than they do today, which means a drier future. Click here to read more .