Water Efficiency Watch - May 2019

In this issue of Water Efficiency Watch...

WaterSense on the Budget Chopping Block Again 

In what feels like an annual ritual, funding for the EPA WaterSense® program is once more in peril. President Trump’s FY2020 budget proposes to eliminate the WaterSense program – yet again – by eliminating all funding for the program. WaterSense has saved billions of gallons of water since it was created in 2007.

The budget news comes on the heels of 2018’s legislative triumph, when the water community rallied to get WaterSense authorized by Congress as part of the America’s Water Infrastructure and Improvement Act. The success was short-lived, as the President’s new budget for FY2020 now proposes to eliminate WaterSense as part of larger and very substantial EPA budget cuts. WaterSense is an essential part of an effective national water efficiency strategy, so once again the Alliance for Water Efficiency is leading the effort to restore program funding, only this time the case is going directly to Congress.

AWE has sent a letter to the Chairs of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees in Congress signed by 126 water utilities, cities, organizations and businesses, but additional letters are needed.  AWE has prepared a draft letter that can be used as a template.  Additionally, AWE has prepared a fact sheet that includes a list of House and Senate Appropriations Committee members.  All supporters of WaterSense are urged to send in their own letters.

In addition to contacting elected representatives, please consider donating to help AWE mount its campaign to Congress. WaterSense will only be saved by the collective efforts of us all, and AWE needs financial help to undertake this task and to build the coalition necessary to keep WaterSense fully funded.

WaterSense New Home Specification Could Exclude California, Others 

Even as AWE works to preserve funding for WaterSense, the program moves forward and has recently released a proposed revision to the WaterSense New Homes specification. WaterSense is required to review and update its specifications every 7 years, and specifications generally require that a product be substantially more efficient than competitors on the market.

On April 18, the EPA released the WaterSense Draft Specification for Homes, Version 2.0, which aims to further promote residential water efficiency and help enable market transformation in new home construction. The specification is applicable to single-family homes and multifamily buildings. EPA will require new homes that earn the WaterSense label to be at least 30 percent more water-efficient than a comparable home of typical new construction. To confirm that new homes meet this efficiency threshold, EPA will require that the new homes be certified under a Home Certification Organization’s (HCO’s) WaterSense Approved Certification Method (WACM).

The previous EPA new home specification did not have a direct comparison with “typical new construction” and instead specified the use of WaterSense fixtures, plumbing performance, and limiting outdoor use for the given climate. The new WaterSense specification requires a 30% reduction over and above comparable new homes being built nationally.

While the new approach may seem a reasonable way to improve water efficiency, it could exclude large portions of the country. In California, Colorado, and other jurisdictions that have adopted “green” plumbing codes, homes are already required to be built with a high level of water efficiency, including WaterSense fixtures. The new WaterSense specification appears to require a 30% reduction over and above comparable new homes being built, and if those homes are already required to be highly water efficient by existing code, achieving the WaterSense label could prove challenging.

EPA is seeking comments on the draft specification. AWE will be submitting its comments, and encourages others to review the draft specification and provide input as well. Comments are due to EPA by June 3.

Imperial Irrigation District Sues to Stop Colorado River Drought Contingency Plans 

On the same day in April that it received final approval from the President, the Drought Contingency Plans (DCP) to reduce withdrawals on the Colorado River faced another hurdle, this time in the courtroom. The challenge comes from the Imperial Irrigation District (IID) in southeast California, which filed a lawsuit in April asking a state court to block DCP implementation until more analysis is done on the accord’s environmental impacts.

A few months earlier, the IID refused to sign the drought contingency plan, prompting the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California to bypass Imperial and agree to shoulder most of the delivery cuts California may have to make in the future to prevent Lake Mead from falling to dangerously low levels.

Through the lawsuit, IID hopes to put the brakes on the drought pact until someone (the federal government? California?) provides $200 million for restoration of the shrinking Salton Sea. The IID holds senior rights to the single biggest allocation of river water on the entire length of the Colorado River.

The Salton Sea, sustained largely through drainage from irrigated farms in the Coachella and Imperial valleys, has declined in size as IID and other farm districts have taken land out of production and sold water to urban providers.

“We looked into this carefully and we designed a program that does not have impacts on the Salton Sea,” said Jeffrey Kightlinger, General Manager of Metropolitan. “I don’t believe we’ve done anything that requires future environmental review.”

The Drought Contingency Plans were developed in response to the growing crisis on the Colorado River, and were approved by the seven states in the Colorado Basin, as well as numerous organizations and groups within those states. Final DCPs were approved all levels across the basin, as well as nationally including Congress, the President, and the Department of Interior. Learn more here

AWE Releases Report on State-Level Water Loss Laws in the United States 

How does your state stack up when it comes to laws and policies to reduce utility water loss? A new scorecard report from the Alliance for Water Efficiency ranks all 50 states on this important water management area.

The new report focuses exclusively on the water loss portion of the 2017 Water Efficiency and Conservation State Scorecard: An Assessment of Laws. All 50 states were ranked based on state laws promoting water loss control. These ranks are displayed in a map, indicating which states have strong water loss control laws and where there is opportunity for improvement.

The report also addresses state funding for M36-compliant technical assistance, water audit requirements, and leak detection and correction requirements. AWE has found its scorecards to be an effective way to compare progress across the US and to spur additional action and improvements.

CalWEP Hosts Peer to Peer Event at Disneyland May 15-16 

AWE’s first state chapter, the California Water Efficiency Partnership (CalWEP), will host its popular annual Peer to Peer event at Disneyland in Anaheim, California on May 15 and 16.

This year’s event features keynote speaker Bill Patzert, known as NASA JPL’s ‘Prophet of California Climate.’  Patzert is a leading scientific researcher and expert who has always been known to be outspoken on issues such as climate change, overpopulation and California water policy. The recently retired Patzert will kick off the CalWEP event by sharing his views on the future of climate and water in California.

Registration is just $250 for CalWEP/AWE members. Learn more and register here

AWE Launching Smart Irrigation Marketplace in May

Are you developing or refining your programs and campaigns to help customers use less water on their landscapes this spring and summer, or otherwise creating some buzz around Smart Irrigation Month? If so, check this out.

AWE is launching a new Smart Irrigation Marketplace, where water providers and community organizations can learn about and access marketing assets, manufacturer rebates and incentives, consulting services, program design resources and more – all provided by fellow AWE members. The majority of these resources will be free or discounted. Stay tuned to your member emails for the Marketplace opening this month.

If you are a business or other organization that has not yet contributed something to the Marketplace, there still may be an opportunity to be included. Please contact AWE ASAP to discuss your possible participation. AWE is seeking:  

  • Product donations 
  • Marketing assets 
  • Manufacturer rebates and incentives 
  • Educational resources 
  • Communications and messaging 
  • Discounted consulting services

Contact us to contribute, participate, or get more information. Not a member yet?  Would like to participate? Contact us.

Illinois a Leader in Funding Water Conservation with Energy Efficiency Funding 

In March of 2012, the Illinois Section of AWWA (ISAWWA) published a survey of water utilities that documented the energy intensity of drinking water and wastewater. The ISAWWA’s Water Efficiency Committee undertook the survey as a volunteer effort. 

This little volunteer report changed Illinois state policy. The Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC), the state regulator of energy investor-owned utilities, has now instructed those energy utilities to include water conservation program funding in their energy efficiency portfolios. They are to use the energy intensity values reported in the ISAWWA survey -- an average value of 2,571 kWh/MG for drinking water supply and 2,439 kWh/MG for wastewater treatment -- for a combined value of 5,010 kWh/MG where the water utility is both a drinking water supplier and wastewater treatment provider. The Technical Reference Manual, approved by the ICC in December 2018, is where this is documented and where the ISAWWA survey is cited as the source for the data. 

Big News: Illinois is now the first state in the country to allow -- as a matter of official state regulatory policy -- reimbursement to water utilities for the energy they save in their water conservation programs, both for hot water savings as well as for the embedded energy savings in drinking water and wastewater. Energy utilities will receive portfolio credit according to the energy intensity values listed in the ISAWWA report. ComEd, the electric utility provider in the greater Chicago area, is already starting to look at how it can help water utilities save water, both with customer retrofits and also with leak repair. 

This is an extraordinary policy development that AWE hopes will spread across the country.

AWWA Creates Water Science Online Journal 

The American Water Works Association has launched a new peer-reviewed on-line journal – AWWA Water Science – to replace the peer-reviewed section of the Journal of the AWWA, which has been gradually phased out. The first two issues of the new bi-monthly publication have been released.

AWWA Water Science (AWS) was created to be a new interdisciplinary journal that publishes original, refereed (peer-reviewed) research on the science, engineering, and social aspects of water. The topics of water conservation and drought response are specifically noted for inclusion.

AWS plans to publish research exploring theoretical, experimental, and practical approaches that advance fundamental understanding and application of all aspects of water works and any source water that could conceivably become a potable water supply. The scope of research published in AWS also includes the application of fundamental science, engineering, and social principles to managerial, policy, and public health issues that affect and are affected by water.

Southern Nevada Water Authority Launches Smart Leak Detection Rebate Program 

Corresponding with consumer movement toward smart devices which allow for more convenient control of homes, companies in the water industry have developed a range of products to provide the same level of insight over water use. Recognizing the potential for products in this space to take its efficiency programs further, Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) launched a Smart Leak Detector Rebate program in March.

Over the years, the SNWA conservation team has implemented a robust and diverse range of efficiency programs, and has been involved in various efforts beyond consumer-focused conservation programs. These combined efforts have led to major progress in water efficiency, reducing per capita water use to 124 GPCD in 2018, down by nearly 38 percent since 2002. SNWA is now pursuing the even more ambitious goal of reducing water use to 116 GPCD by 2035. One method to increase efficiency is to target residential water leaks through leak detection technologies. 

In the Residential End Uses of Water, Version 2 (REU2016) study, the Water Research Foundation found 12 percent of water use inside the home can be attributed to leaks. This percentage is only behind main indoor household water uses—toilet (24 percent), shower (20 percent), faucet (19 percent), and clothes washer (17 percent). Although the study indicates that daily water used by leaks did decrease from 21.9 gallons per day in REU1999 to 17.0 gallons per day in REU2016, a more targeted approach, such as SNWA’s new rebate program, may prove effective in bringing the percentage down further. 

The SNWA rebate allows the customer to choose between five smart leak detection devices, including several offered by AWE members, and provides up to $200 off the purchase. SNWA has taken this initiative a step further by conducting a 60-month study on the leak detection devices to evaluate device accuracy and outcomes of device use. “We believe these devices have potential to save water two ways: by reducing losses to leaks and by helping people understand where they’re investing their water,” said Doug Bennett, SNWA Conservation Manager. “By studying outcomes, we can determine the benefits and assign a dollar value for incentive programs.”

This program may prove beneficial in multiple ways—by conserving water through leak detection, giving people the insight needed to change their water use behavior, and reducing the potential for major leaks to damage the home. "We obviously want water that is otherwise being leaked to be conserved, but we also want people to gain improved understanding of their water use,” said Bennett. 

To learn more about Southern Nevada Water Authority’s smart leak detection rebate program, click here.

To learn more about these technologies and the role of leak detection in water efficiency, join AWE’s upcoming webinar, Smart, Connected Plumbing: Innovations Targeting Leaks in the Home and System on May 9 at 11 am Central.

Quebec Renews Water Efficiency Strategy on World Water Day 

On World Water Day, March 22, 2019, the provincial government of Quebec, Canada renewed its updated Water Efficiency Strategy for the years 2019 through 2025.  The three objectives of the Water Efficiency Strategy are to:

  • Reduce the average volume of water distributed per person in 2015 by at least 20%;
  • Reduce water losses to achieve an Infrastructure Leakage Index of 4;
  • Increase investments to maintain water assets and gradually eliminate the accumulated backlog.

To learn more about the Quebec Water Efficiency Strategy, click here. *The webpage is in French, but your browser likely supports translation.

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