Water Efficiency Watch - May 2020

In this issue of Water Efficiency Watch...

  • WaterSense Needs Your Help!
  • Learning Landscapes Grant Program
  • #GivingTuesdayNow
  • Water Sector Vigilance in response to COVID-19
  • 84% of Americans Want Increased Investment in Water
  • CalWEP Tools and Tips for Working at Home
  • Register for the next Innovations in Efficiency Webinar
  • Member Interview with Jennifer Walker
  • Conferences Rescheduled

WaterSense Needs Your Help! 

AWE is rallying the national water efficiency network to help strongly support the WaterSense® program.  Yes, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced in a Federal Register notice that it is not making any changes at this time in WaterSense® efficiency specifications for toilets, showerheads and faucets.  While that appears to be innocuous, the notice goes on to state that EPA is also seeking public comment and information on consumer satisfaction with the WaterSense® program and its labeled products. This notice, published in the Federal Register on Friday, April 10, 2020, requires that public comments be filed by June 9, 2020.

This does not bode well.  EPA is following up on President Trump’s frequent complaints that efficient toilets, faucets and showerheads don’t work. “People are flushing toilets 10 times, 15 times, as opposed to once,” the President said in December, adding that he had asked EPA to look into the federal efficiency standards and WaterSense® product specifications.

It is vital that everyone concerned with efficient and sustainable water supplies tell the EPA that WaterSense® products do work—and that the American public is not interested in changing products that have saved more than 3.4 TRILLION gallons of water and more than $84.2 billion in water and energy bills. (Statistics are as of 2018, according to EPA.)

AWE has put together a collection of resources to help you contribute positive comments on WaterSense, and we are also inviting any interested organizations to sign on to our own comment letter of support. Click here to learn more about how you can provide positive feedback on WaterSense.  At this web page you will find:

  1. Call to Action
  2. Factsheet
  3. AWE’s Comment Letter
  4. Memo from Peter Mayer documenting the lack of changes in toilet flushing since 1999
  5. Draft Press Release

Sign on to our letter or write one of your own with the information that we have provided.  We hope you'll join our efforts to preserve this indispensable program!

Learning Landscapes Grant Program

AWE is happy to announce the launch of our Learning Landscapes Grant Program. This initiative, made possible by generous support from the Scotts Miracle-Gro Foundation, will support building or improving educational outdoor spaces that allow school-age children to experience hands-on, applied learning about the water our landscapes consume. Eligible projects include outdoor landscapes at schools, on public/government property, at botanical gardens, and other community locations as appropriate.

The application period is open until June 30, 2020.

In addition to the grant application, AWE is releasing its Learning Landscape Lessons. This includes three school lessons focused on outdoor water efficiency that align with Next Generation Science Standards for grades 3-8.

Those interested can request the Learning Landscapes Grant application packet. Grant awardees are required to use at least one of the AWE Learning Landscapes Lessons. Learn more here.


May 5, 2020 is #GivingTuesdayNow, a new global day of giving and unity that will take place in addition to the regularly scheduled December 1, 2020 #GivingTuesday. Click here to learn more.  Like most non-profits, AWE has been forced to adapt to the new reality of working remotely to help slow the spread of COVID-19. However, we are determined to persevere through these challenging times, and AWE staff is more committed than ever to our mission of creating a sustainable water future.

We greatly appreciate support from anyone who is able to make a donation to the Alliance for Water Efficiency! Your contribution will help to strengthen our advocacy efforts on behalf of EPA WaterSense, to continue delivering the tools and resources that help water suppliers do their job, and to grow our network of stakeholders committed to the efficient use of water.

Click here to learn more and to make a donation!

Water Sector Vigilance in response to COVID-19

Water suppliers in both the United States and Canada are continuing their hard work to provide customers with a safe, reliable flow of water to their taps, which is more important than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic. While it is a good idea to have some water in your home emergency kit, thankfully, there is no need to stockpile water in fear of a shutdown.

All Canadian municipalities follow the Canadian Drinking Water Guidelines for water treatment as established by Health Canada. Health Canada and the World Health Organization have confirmed that the COVID-19 outbreak is NOT considered a waterborne outbreak and that current methods of water treatment kill viruses, including coronaviruses. They confirm that no extra measures are required to ensure safe drinking water. Click here to see posts and resources from the Canadian Water and Wastewater Association (CWWA).

According to the American Water Works Association (AWWA), the water sector’s emphasis on preparedness for emergencies and risk will be especially useful as the COVID-19 outbreak continues to escalate. The AWWA urges utilities to communicate with their community about the actions they are taking to sustain operations. Click here to learn more about the water sector’s preparation for these challenging times.

84% of Americans Want Increased Investment in Water

A new poll by the Value of Water Campaign shows that 84 percent of American voters want state and federal leaders to invest in water infrastructure. The poll, which surveyed over 1,000 American voters, asked how the nation should solve infrastructural issues and which priorities it should meet. Here are some of the poll’s key findings:

84 percent of Americans support (with 47 percent strongly supporting) increasing federal investment to rebuild the nation's water infrastructure.

80 percent say rebuilding America's infrastructure is extremely or very important. Americans support rebuilding the nation's infrastructure more than most other issues today, including reforming the healthcare system, expanding early childhood education, and ending the opioid crisis. It ranked similarly to strengthening the economy.

73 percent of Americans support investing in water infrastructure to increase resilience to climate change, even when told it could cost $1.27 trillion.

Seventy percent of Americans want the president and congress to develop a plan to rebuild water infrastructure.

More than three in four democrats (94 percent), republicans (77 percent), and independents (76 percent) broadly support increasing federal investment. Support also cuts across gender, age group and income.

Click here to view the full poll results.

CalWEP Tools and Tips for Working at Home

In response to so many people being forced to work from home, the Alliance for Water Efficiency teamed up with the California Water Efficiency Partnership and Maddaus Water Management (a fully remote company) to produce a webinar series titled, “Tips and Tricks for Working Remotely.” The three-part series provided attendees with advice on how to maintain productivity while away from the office, suggestions for staying in communication with colleagues and supervisors, and tips for keeping conservation programs running during this unprecedented time. Click here to access all three webinar recordings, as well as other valuable resources to help you navigate this situation.

Register for the next Innovations in Efficiency Webinar

The next installment of AWE’s Innovations in Efficiency webinar series will be held May 20, 2020 at 1 p.m. CDT. This edition will showcase the cutting-edge software solutions of two AWE partners:

  • WaterWorth is a web-based platform that enables you to optimize water rates and save for infrastructure upgrades, so that you can achieve financially sustainable water and wastewater systems. Plus, it’s backed by professional support for when you need it.
  • The Open Channel System from Radian Developers combines demand analytics with water audit and communications tools to comprehensively manage finished water.

Click here to learn more and to register for this not-to-be-missed webinar.  

Member Interview with Jennifer Walker

Jennifer is the Deputy Director for Texas Water Programs at the National Wildlife Federation. She also serves as secretary of AWE’s Board of Directors.

How long have you worked in water, and what brought you here?

I have worked in water resources management in Texas for 18 years. I started my career at the Sierra Club, and while my background is environmental science, with a degree in biology, I studied a lot of water-related topics. I focused on riparian habitat management and riverine systems, so when a new opportunity called the Texas Living Waters Project started up, it was a great fit for my interests and my skill set. I am pleased to report that I still work on that project even though I am currently employed at the National Wildlife Federation. The Texas Living Waters Project originated with a focus on the new state water planning process: our goal was and still is to make sure we have enough water in our rivers, bays, and estuaries to support fish and wildlife habitat. We want to make sure we are planning with the goal of providing water for both people and the environment. That’s our driving force and we have a lot of strategies that we use to achieve those goals.

In working on those larger goals, I focus on urban water use and efficiency. If we don’t use water efficiently in our cities, we’ll never achieve our goals of ensuring sufficient water for fish and wildlife habitat. That’s one of many reasons to focus on efficiency—to maintain a strong and healthy environment. Another reason is to ensure that our communities are resilience in the face of droughts and climate change.

What is one of your biggest professional successes or “wins”?

I’m a lifelong Austinite and I have been fortunate enough to be involved in helping to set the city’s path forward for water supply. Austin experienced a terrible drought from 2011 to 2015. Our water supply reservoir was down to 33 percent full. That was a scary time. The city council put together a task force of citizens in the community to work with Austin Water to recommend emergency water supply measures. We did that, but we also recommended that Austin embark on an integrated water resource planning exercise. Austin has planned well, and has senior water rights on the Colorado River and a large water supply contract with the Lower Colorado River Authority. However, the drought showed us that, while we look good on paper, Austin needed an integrated water supply plan to look at all our different water sources in a holistic and comprehensive manner. I was part of a Task Force that worked with Austin Water, Watershed Protection, Department of Sustainability and other departments to put together a 100-year integrated water resources plan for Austin called Water Forward. I’m proud of that plan because what we have decided to do as a community is rely on locally available water supplies. We want to live within our water footprint and to maximize all the different sources of water in our community to meet our future water needs. We don’t want to import water from other communities, we want to take care of the environment, and we want water supply decisions that don’t adversely impact our citizens…we set all these as goals. I’m really proud that Austin has a 100-year water plan where we incorporate climate change and where we rely on local water supplies. It makes me feel good about the future.

What emerging water efficiency trends or issues interest you?

I think that we’ll continue to focus on what we focus on now, but we’ll improve. For example, landscape irrigation will continue to happen, but we’ll get better at providing water users information on how to irrigate most efficiently. The work that AWE has done on landscape transformation has been helpful, especially the research that looks at behavioral factors and what motivates customers to undertake landscape redesigns and make positive watering changes. I also see many cities putting in advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) —it will be interesting to see how those real-ptime data are used to help manage water supplies.

What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re not at work?

Since I’ve been quarantined in my house, I’d like to be doing just about anything! We’re so lucky here in Central Texas—my perfect day out would be to go swim in the Pedernales or Blanco Rivers or visit some of our springs. I love to travel and go to national parks. I also have a large family and love spending time with them. While we’re staying home to stay safe during the coronavirus outbreak, my favorite thing to do is just go for walks in my neighborhood and discover all the things I haven’t had the time to notice.

What’s your number one piece of advice for other water conservation professionals?

Stay curious and keep learning. Find people and organizations that are doing things you’re interested in and get involved. Building networks and collaborating with people who are doing things you like can lead to so much. People who are doing this work really care about it and want to bring other people in—I know I do. If someone reads this and wants to talk about water, reach out and we can talk.

To mark the recent 50th anniversary of Earth Day, Jennifer was interviewed on the Texas Standard, a public radio news show covering the entire state of Texas. You can listen to her great interview here. Thanks, Jennifer!

Conferences Rescheduled

AWE will notify the water efficiency community as we hear about the rescheduling of conferences postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The co-conveners of the 2020 Emerging Water Technology Symposium (EWTS), which was scheduled for May 12-13 in San Antonio, have postponed the event and tentatively rescheduled it for next year, May 11-12, 2021. Learn more here.

AWWA cancelled the 2020 Sustainable Water Management Conference in Minneapolis, but save the date for the 2021 conference, March 7-10 in Charlotte, NC. Abstract submissions are due June 26, 2020. Learn more here.

News Briefs/Member Updates

The International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO) provides great resources for the plumbing industry to stay safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more here

Water Contamination Risks Lurk in Plumbing of Idle Buildings. Read more here.

El Paso Water rolls out “Water Smarter” campaign. Read more here.

EPA Encourages Americans to Only Flush Toilet Paper. Read more here.

Funding opportunity available to build drought resiliency through WaterSMART. Read more here.

America’s two largest reservoirs — Lake Mead and Lake Powell on the Colorado River — could both run of out water in just five years. Read more here

Let's Refill Lake Mead and Lake Powell Now. Read more here.