Municipalities throughout North America face an ongoing challenge: meeting demand without resorting to developing new resources.
By Carol Brzozowski
For many, a supply side approach is not much of an option. Rather, they are instituting demand side reduction programs—and in such sectors as agriculture, demand response programs—in an effort to achieve water efficiencies.
“I believe that the water crisis that’s unfolding before us—faster in some areas than others—will be very most likely solved through demand side management practices,” notes Trevor Hill, president and CEO of Global Water Resources.
Some technology is expensive and “tends to drive up the price of water, which in and of itself creates a very strong price signal, which has the real effect of driving down consumption,” adds Hill. “Sometimes it’s easier to start with price signals, which is the demand side management tool. The water crisis such as it is will be solved on the demand side with real-time data, price signals, and peer pressure with customers in how they rank against others in the same vicinity.”
Toro’s Precision Series Spray Nozzles and Precision Series Rotating Nozzles are commonly
used in the West and Southwest.
That real-time data comes through technology that helps customers—as well as utilities—effectively manage their own behavior, Hill says. Such technology is so precise that it can help property owners know just how much water a lawn or plant needs.
Long Beach, CA, focuses on three factors in working to achieve demand management in irrigation: transforming grass lawns to water efficient landscapes, providing rebates and instituting water restrictions. The city’s largest effort, the lawn conversion program, is a long-term strategic measure intended to change the landscape norm from grass lawns to landscape that thrives in the semi-arid climate, says Matthew Veeh, director of government and public affairs for the City of Long Beach. The “Lawn-to-Garden” program provides $2.50 per square foot for turf that is replaced with draught-tolerant landscape appropriate to the climate.
Water restrictions prohibit against irrigating to the point of excess runoff and irrigating mid-day due to evaporation. Property owners must fix broken irrigation equipment such as line leaks or missing sprinkler heads. On the other hand, rebates are provided for technology such as weather-based irrigation controllers, rotating nozzles, and stream rotators.
“We will install, for a nominal fee, weather-based irrigation controllers at properties that have a lot of landscape; it’s cost-effective for us if they have a lot of landscape,” says Veeh.
In the use of the latest technology to achieve water efficiency, Veeh points out that it is particular to each property owner and the landscape size, financial considerations, and the extent to which they are willing to invest the effort.
Veeh is a fan of the Web-based irrigation controllers.
“I have five of them under my control, and I love these things,” he says. “They adjust themselves automatically based on weather in my city. I can adjust them up and down as I please.”
Long Beach installed 70 controllers throughout the local school district.
“For the first time in history, the guy in charge of the irrigation system knows what’s happening at every site,” says Veeh. “If anybody messes with his controllers, it sends him an e-mail. He has been able to dial down on a percentage basis so that the grass still looks decent, but it’s not lush. He’s been able to maintain the landscape being able to apply the minimal amount of water necessary, saving the school district a tremendous amount of money in the process—schools in California are under tremendous fiscal pressure. To me, that’s a really exciting technology.”
Long Beach also conducts indoor and outdoor landscape audits.
The city also maintains a website, which has been completely redesigned based on the results of a survey of water customers. It includes tips such as how to create an inexpensive draught-tolerant landscape, featuring photographs of attractive draught-tolerant landscapes.
“People tell us that the photographs are one of the most helpful things for them, in terms of having the confidence that they can do it and finding the kind of landscape that they would like for their yard,” says Veeh.
Long Beach offers 22 free landscape classes at a city site each year, plus a free online landscape class. For a nominal fee, a resident can request one of several local designers the city has on retainer for a consultation on visualizing alternatives to their grass lawn.
“It’s one of the most difficult things about getting rid of the grass,” says Veeh. “There’s nothing to design a grass lawn—you just put down sod or seed. To do something different, the options are infinite: big plants, little plants, different kinds of hardscape, different kinds of permeable material. A lot of people get so overwhelmed by the options.”
Direct mail is another aspect of Long Beach’s public outreach. Bill inserts are the most effective form of advertising and augment billboards, bus stop posters, and announcements in local cable TV and newspaper outlets. While Long Beach had started restricting watering days in 2007 because it was clear the city was on the verse of a water shortage, the restrictions were eventually revoked. Per capita water use dropped about 17%, and even though the water shortage is over, Long Beach has maintained a 16% per capita water use reduction.
“People realized they could dramatically cut back their water use, and their lawn didn’t die,” notes Veeh, adding that he hopes with a continuation of the city’s programs and public affairs, the water use reduction will be maintained.
Having the backing of the city’s board of water commissioners underscores the program’s success, Veeh points out.
“Our general manager reports to the board, which approves the budget, and hires and fires the general manager; so it’s not just an advisory board—it’s a real board—and they are enthusiastic supporters of conservation,” says Veeh. “That clears the path for us in our department. Our city council believes in doing what’s feasible in protecting our environment and to use our resources wisely.”
Veeh says he believes it’s important not to get heavy-handed in the approach to water efficiency.
“We believe that most people of Long Beach, if you just give them the facts, will come to the same conclusion that we have; so our extraordinary conservation education and messaging has really paid off,” he says.
|Photo: City of San Diego Water Department
San Diego’s public outreach also includes a focused media campaign that includes
Facebook sites, Twitter posts, bus and trolley wraps, light pole flags, bumper stickers
on all city vehicles, a monthly e-newsletter, a poster contest, and a video contest.
If Veeh could change anything, it would be to see the landscape norm change at a faster pace.
“I understand people have lived decades thinking about nothing but grass lawns, and it’s hard to conceptualize something else,” he says. “There is a lot of work involved, a lot of cost, and people have busy lives. It’s a professional frustration to realize there are real-world constraints, but, nevertheless, you’re anxious to see bigger change than maybe is practical.”
That same program has yielded what Veeh considers the greatest success in Long Beach’s approaches.
“What surprised me the most is a lot of the customers who have joined our lawn and garden program have been incredibly enthusiastic. Last spring, we wanted to have a spring garden tour as another way of helping customers make the decision to go draught-tolerant and for them to get ideas and talk to people who have actually done it,” he says.
The city approached about 33 people who had completed their landscapes, hoping to get some of them to agree to host their site on the garden tour.
“All of them agreed to it, and some of them went out of their way to create a really pleasant environment for the tourists,” says Veeh. “They spent the whole day in their front yards talking to people, distributing literature, and showing people their landscapes and explaining the whole process to them—the cost, the labor, where they got plants, how to maintain it, how they killed their grass. I was very pleasantly surprised by the tremendous enthusiasm that a lot of these people have for what we’re trying to do.”
For its CII (commercial, industrial, and institutional) customers, Long Beach works with the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which offers a generic rebate program to regional water agencies.
“We add money to whatever the Metropolitan Water District is willing to put into a rebate, so we’ll add another $1 to the $3 offered for the rotating nozzles, for example,” says Veeh. “Met has a suite of about 12 different items for the CII customers.”
Since CII customers use water differently from residential customers, “rather than rebate everything possible, they do a proven water savings program where they can work with a customer and identify means of saving water.”
Then the customer can implement the program, prove that the water’s been saved, and they get a payment—a rebate—over that proven water savings.
“Long Beach has had its own proven water savings program for seven years, and now that Met has implemented its program, we are going to piggyback on that just like its normal rebate program,” says Veeh. “Met offers a certain amount of water savings through their program, and we’re going to add on top of that, so Long Beach CII customers will get an extra amount.”
When it comes to the energy water nexus, Veeh says while Long Beach doesn’t make energy conservation a big focus of the water conversation, “we definitely try to make people aware of it,” he says, adding that the topic is introduced through forums for CII customers, for example.
Veeh says he believes if a water agency isn’t charging a price where it is able to maintain its own infrastructure, then it is not charging the right price.
“In Long Beach, we certainly do that,” he says. “I think it’s a real frustration to the environmentalists, because they see environmental degradation in the source water in those watersheds, and they would like to see more money spent in those watersheds.
“We don’t have a pipeline to a watershed outside of our region,” he adds. “We buy water that’s imported by the
Metropolitan Water District. We can’t pay Met more than it charges, and we can’t charge our customers more than the cost of doing business. I’m really sympathetic to the idea that water is basically really inexpensive. We sell about four gallons for a penny, and with the economic downturn we believe that had some reduction in the per capita water use. We’d like to think that people are conserving because it’s the right thing to do as well, so people are sensitive to price and the pocketbooks.”
San Diego, CA, relies on imported water for more than 80% of its water supply.
“In recent years, we have experienced climatic and regulatory droughts,” notes JoEllen Jacoby, supervising landscape conservation designer for San Diego’s Water Conservation Program, an arm of the public utilities department.
One such drought extended from 2009 and 2011.
“In addition, competing forces for a limited supply means we cannot continue to expect an increasing supply of water for a growing population,” she adds.
|Photo: City of San Diego Water Department
The City of San Diego utilizes
smart irrigation technology
as part of their demand
The city also has passed a more restrictive ordinance against water waste that restricts watering times and runoff, says Jacoby.
Essentially, San Diego has had a water conservation program in place for more than 20 years.
The city offers programs and outreach that continuously affirms the need to conserve water. The city also offers surveys at no cost to residential and large irrigation customers providing feedback on their water use, items that need repair, and adjustments to their irrigation schedules. Additionally, rebates and incentives are offered through local and regional programs. Another feature of the program is a website, featuring a “watering calculator” and links to information on plant material and low water use landscape design.
“We participate in a regional landscape contest, offer classes on landscape topics, and participate in more than 60 public events where we promote water conservation in the landscape,” says Jacoby.
San Diego’s public outreach also includes a focused media campaign that includes Facebook sites, Twitter posts, bus and trolley wraps, light pole flags, bumper stickers on all city vehicles, a monthly e-newsletter, a poster contest, and a video contest.
“During our Level 2 restrictions, we had media spots on TV and radio, and a banner pulled behind a plane during heavy beach days,” says Jacoby.
The Level 2 campaign slogan was “No Time to Waste, No Water to Waste.” With the Level 2 campaign over, the current slogan is: “San Diegans Waste No Water.”
San Diego is a contributing member to the Water Conservation Garden that demonstrates appropriate irrigation and the use of low water plant material. The city also offers rebates for smart controllers, rotator nozzles, micro irrigation, turf conversion, and rain barrels. The city also has a discount coupon for low water use plants at nurseries. As a result of the city’s efforts, “our overall water use has gone down and our irrigation meter customers have been the leaders in water use reduction, indicating that water is being saved in the landscape,” says Jacoby.
“You can see a change in the plant palate as you drive around town. People are much more interested in changing their landscape.”
Irrigation technology used in San Diego to meet demand management goals includes smart controllers, rotator nozzles, drip irrigation, and in-line emitters. City parks—as well as public schools and universities—are incrementally being retrofitted to central control systems.
The energy/water nexus is a significant factor in irrigation demand management and is increasingly becoming part of municipal water conservation efforts, such as in San Diego.
“We always teach people that there is a water energy nexus, and the local power utility, San Diego Gas & Electric [SDG&E], has collaborated with us on several programs, including an irrigation water management program,” notes Jacoby.
“SDG&E has built a demonstration center for energy-efficient fixtures, and it showcases low-water use plants and micro-irrigation,” she adds. “Being at the end of the imported pipeline from the Bay-Delta and the Colorado River, it takes more energy to deliver water to San Diego, and thus, more energy is saved through water wise consumption.”
One of the challenges in implementing San Diego’s approach is “maintaining a continuing presence in the minds of our customers and changing the image of San Diego to a more climate-appropriate and less tropical landscape,” says Jacoby.
“Our current outreach campaign, San Diegans Waste No Water, reinforces this ethic and shows that the community is behind it, overcoming ideas that micro-irrigation is doomed to fail and that low water use means drab and ugly,” she says.
Part of demand management irrigation entails creating an environment that demands less in the first place. The Maximum Applied Water Allowance (MAWA), is a landscape water budget that provides 70% of the water necessary for high water use plants with a highly efficient irrigation system, says Jacoby. The MAWA can be achieved by a mixture of high and low water use plants and a mixture of irrigation delivery types or by a landscape that is completely moderate water use plants with a low-volume spray system, such as rotator nozzles. The budget varies based on the local climate as measured by the evapotranspiration (ETo).
“Based on the requirements of State of California law AB 1881, all new landscapes cannot exceed a Maximum Applied Water Amount of 0.7 x ETo x 0.62 x landscape area,” says Jacoby. “Grass is limited to 10% of the site for commercial sites. No grass in areas less than eight feet wide unless watered below grade. Additional requirements for separate irrigation meters have been imposed.”
Retrofits are not regulated but are encouraged through San Diego’s incentive programs, which are focused on the retrofit market, says Jacoby.
Cary, NC, has a comprehensive water conservation program that includes educational outreach initiatives, financial incentives, and regulations.
“The main incentive for customers to manage their demand is our increased block rate, or tiered rate structure, under which excessive irrigation will result in much higher unit water rates,” says Marie Cefalo, conservation program supervisor for Cary.
Cary’s focus is on residential customers, who comprise 70% of the demographics and volume of water used. Outreach is done through a comprehensive website, the “Beat the Peak” campaign, a fix-a-leak week campaign, free water audits, and grassroots outreach with block leaders. Since 1998, the town has held a multimedia “Beat the Peak” campaign to educate and remind customers about WaterWise irrigation practices as well as the ordinances—lawn enthusiasts play a game on the city’s website to save ladybugs from a leaky hose to win water-saving tools such as shut-off nozzles, hose timers, rain gauges, and soil probes as supplies last.
The driving factor for the programs was short-term capacity issues in 1996, but is now rooted in long-term water resource management. That long-term commitment to water efficiency as the best management practice as opposed to conservation as an immediate drought response has been an obstacle, Cefalo says. Nonetheless, there have been successes. Case in point: the average residential gallon per day/capita, adjusted for weather, has been reduced from 75 in 1996 to 57 in 2011. Overall water use in 2012 was 88 gallons per capita per day.
One of the hooks that Cary uses to attract people to the program is a turf buy-back program that’s been in effect since fiscal year 2009.
“It provides a financial incentive for our customers to reduce outdoor water use by removing turf and replacing it with either a warm season grass or a natural area,” says Cefalo. “We also offer free irrigation audits and will replace one zone with free precision spray nozzles.”
The town’s primary regulatory demand management tool is its alternate day watering ordinance. Begun in 2000, the ordinance spreads and shaves peak usage by allowing all customers to water up to three days per week depending on their address.
“The water waste ordinance and rain sensor ordinance also help us manage our irrigation demand,” says Cefalo. “These ordinances are supported by two field staff who leave notice of violation for customers out of compliance.”
Cary has had year-round watering ordinances since 2000. Restrictions were temporarily instituted in 2008 as a result of the drought.
Cary has required separate irrigation meters since 2002.
“We have irrigation design specifications and require customers to submit irrigation plans,” says Cefalo. “The two has recently installed an AMI [Advanced Metering Infrastructure] system and will soon launch a Web portal for customers to view their consumption—even as fine as on an hourly basis.”
With new construction, Cefalo says she observes an increasing use of warm season grasses and fewer automated irrigation systems being installed. Those doing retrofits are taking advantage of the free precision spray nozzles offered to those customers requesting an irrigation audit. The town also offers WaterWise workshops focusing on plant selection, landscape design, and rainwater harvesting.
The droughts of 2002 and 2007 to 2008 prompted several water efficiency measures in Cary. After the latter drought, the town instituted three new programs: the turf buy-back and high efficiency toilet rebate programs and a program on building a rain barrel sold at cost. All programs have remained since.
The energy-water nexus is becoming increasingly emphasized in some community programs.
In Valparaiso, IN, the city’s utilities department sends special statements with each month’s bill that usually focuses on water conservation, notes Jim Pingatore, water conservation planner.
“Our program is one of public awareness and public education,” he says.
A recent statement promoted the water-energy nexus by encouraging WaterSense showerheads, pointing out that showering accounts for nearly 17% of indoor residential water use or about 30 gallons per household per day.
“The last sentence of the message says that with less energy required to heat the shower water, you also save on electricity which equates to saving $70 a year on your utility bills,” says Pingatore.
Odd/even watering days is the most popular way to institute demand management programs, says Brian Vinchesi, president of Irrigation Consulting in Pepperell, MA, and the 2009 EPA WaterSense Irrigation Partner of the Year.
“The problem is when you tell somebody who’s used to watering every day that they can water every other day they more than double their time, so they actually use up more water,” says Vinchesi. “You’ve got people who go to one day or two days a week, and most people don’t know how to manage that.”
|Photo: Global Water
Many utilities find that encouraging homeowners to replace lawn with droughtresistant
landscaping helps significantly reduce residential demand.
Vinchesi says instead of a dictated water schedule, he’d rather see municipal require the use of smart controllers.
“The smart controller decides when the best time is to water,” he says. “Just because you can water every day or every other day a week doesn’t mean you have to if you have a smart controller.
“I have a mandatory every other day schedule where I live, but the state of Massachusetts is going to go to a mandatory one day a week,” he adds. “I don’t know a soil in the whole state that can hold one inch of water in a week. There’s no science. It’s all politics or knee-jerk reaction.”
Rebates can help in community efforts to reduce water use, Vinchesi says.
“Education is huge, and, as much as I hate to say this, licensing is needed,” he says. “Anybody can be an irrigation contractor. There are no barriers to entry. There’s very little education. There’s no incentive unless it’s required. I’m a big proponent of licensing of irrigation contractors because they know water and water is very important.”
New Jersey and North Carolina have been successful with licensing programs, adds Vinchesi. Vinchesi says the United States is getting better in establishing “green codes” which require more water efficient building construction. Unless a new building is being constructed under such codes, or as a WaterSense home or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) for homes, that is usually the only time a home is built to be water efficient, he says.
“Unfortunately, on the residential side, the cheaper you can put it in the better, but cheaper may not be more water efficient,” he says.
Retrofits are helping water efficiency, Vinchesi says.
“Most systems get better because they are being retrofitted with newer technology,” he says. “If you just change a sprinkler that was made in the 1980s to a sprinkler that was made in the 2000s, you’re going to get a better sprinkler. It’s more efficient and more uniform in putting its water down.”
For water agencies, demand management often comes in the form of undertaking education or rebate programs to help customers reduce water demand, especially in peak periods such as summer. To that end, technology often helps to achieve high efficiencies.
Using smart irrigation technology aids in demand management for water agencies.
“As water supplies dwindle, cities and agencies must secure more reliable water sources,” says Chris Spain, CEO and president of HydroPoint Data Systems, manufacturer of WeatherTRAK smart irrigation controllers. “Conserving water is the lowest cost source of water for providers and their customers, particularly when compared to developing new infrastructure or purchasing water from wholesaler agencies.”
Landscape irrigation often presents the greatest conservation opportunity for communities as anywhere from 30% to 60% of local water supply is used outdoors, Spain point out.
“The EPA and other experts estimate that as much as 50% of landscape water use is wasted due to overwatering caused by inefficiencies in irrigation methods and systems,” he says. “Agencies educate both commercial and residential customers about the benefits of smart irrigation with landscape and outdoor water audits as well as rebates.
“Adding a weather-based smart irrigation controller to an existing system is a cost-effective, simple upgrade that creates immediate efficiency and water bill savings. A smart irrigation controller that offers real-time, accurate evapotranspiration [ET] weather data, an automated scheduling engine, and either SWAT [Soil and Water Assessment Tool] accreditation or the EPA WaterSense label ensures superior product performance and reliable results.”
HydroPoint has worked with cities including Santa Clarita, CA; Houston, TX; and Charleston, SC, to address the rising costs of irrigating city parks, landscape districts, and facilities, as well as community concerns over runoff and environmental damage.
After Newport Beach, CA, offered a WeatherTRAK controller program to residents of the Buck Gully area in 2007, the city achieved a 20% reduction in runoff to protect ocean coastline in the area. HydroPoint’s Smart Yard program now offers homeowners in Riverside, Petaluma, and St. Helena, CA; and Salem City, UT, a turnkey installation of a WeatherTRAK controller that is financed by water utilities with a low-cost program fee on the customer’s monthly water bill.
Spain says people are starting to understand the role water has on energy.
“Virtually everything has water embedded somewhere in the supply chain and manufacturing process,” he says. “Landscapes typically contribute 20% of a property’s value and on average account for 58% of all urban water usage.”
Landscapes are routinely over-watered by 30 to 300%, presenting a high-value target for agencies’ demand management programs, says Spain.
“In addition to water, energy, and cost savings, any reduction in landscape over-watering also lowers the damaging environmental effects of runoff, which transports landscape chemicals and other contaminants into the local water supply,” he points out.
“Weather-based smart irrigation controllers apply the right amount of water at the right time, protecting communities from plant loss, slope erosion, hardscape damage, mold and mildew risk for buildings, and the mass loading of pollutants in water supply as a result of runoff,” adds Spain.
He also points out that EPA links water and energy savings, equating 1 gallon of water use with 4 watt-hours of power, creating a direct correlation between energy and water use.
“The California Energy Commission estimates that almost 20% of the state’s electrical response use and more than 30% of non-power plant natural gas use is related to the transportation and treatment of water and wastewater,” he says.
Spain points out that there is now legislation influencing the use of smart irrigation technologies by local water agencies and cities. Case in point: California Assembly Bill AB 1881 required local agencies, counties, and cities to implement water efficient landscape ordinances by 2010, spurring adoption of smart controller technology and requiring water budget allocations for large-scale landscapes.
Recent updates to California’s building code now require the installation of smart irrigation controllers on both residential and commercial new construction. California water agencies are also required by SBX7-7 and AB1420 to actively promote water conservation initiatives, with the goal of achieving 20% reductions in water use by 2020.
“We see similar legislation being discussed in Florida, Georgia, Texas, and other regions where water supply is pressured by increased demand, drought or changing weather patterns,” says Spain.
Toro’s Precision Series Spray Nozzles and Precision Series Rotating Nozzles are commonly used in the West and Southwest, usually promoted through rebate programs or educational efforts as part of a larger water efficiency management plan, says Mike Baron, the company’s National Specifications Manager for Water Management Products.
“The technology that has typically been used has had a high flow rate and high precipitation rate—anywhere from 1.6 inches per hour to two inches per hour,” notes Baron. “Using these higher efficiency nozzles, the flow rate is lowered, and uniformity is enhanced such that the amount of water being discharged in a given time by a sprinkler system is lower even to about 50%.”
A second area that’s taking hold is the encouragement of homeowners to replace sections of lawn with drought-tolerant plant material irrigated with drip products, says Baron.
“Another way to affect demand management is lowering flow rates significantly down to the gallons per hour rate and changing the plant material that’s being installed or upgraded in a landscape,” he points out. “Drip irrigation is a super low-flow technology. Instead of gallons per minute, we’re talking about gallons per hour, and the water is delivered directly at or near the root zone of the plant material.”
Another popular technology: soil moisture sensors, a wireless device that allows a property owner to communicate back to a receiver that interfaces with an irrigation controller.
“After the rain has occurred and the soil is saturated with water, you might get seven to 10 days before that reservoir of moisture in the soil needs replenishment,” says Baron. “A soil moisture sensor allows you to extend the number of days that a system is off, especially after a rain event.
“Moisture sensing systems impact the demand for water by making sure property owners don’t water unnecessarily because there’s sufficient moisture in the soil,” he adds. “You also have smart controllers that make an assessment of the weather, calculate what the irrigation schedule should be based on weather information and adjust the irrigation timers accordingly.”
|Residential demand management begins
with the right tools installed onsite.
Those key technologies are made available because of the higher cost of water, but also because manufacturers understand there is a return on investment calculation that people are starting to make, says Baron. Another factor in demand management is the implementation of tiered rates, which charges more per unit of water as the property owner’s consumption increases, Baron says.
“I might pay $1 per unit at my base level, but I might be paying $6 per unit at my top tier level,” he says. “That is a clear message to reduce water consumption to the property owner, and that is consistent with the movement within the water agency community to recover the full cost of the high quality water 24/7 to the end customer.”
Tiered rates, as well as the adoption of new technologies such as high-efficiency nozzles, serve to recover the full cost of water, Baron points out.
“It’s finally getting to the point where it’s more expensive to waste the water than to pay a professional to correct an irrigation system deficiency or fix a problem,” points out Baron.
Municipalities address not only the water use of their property owners, but the public property as well. Stormwater plays a key role in that.
“There’s a convergence of stormwater management philosophy and also demand management efforts in that when it rains, you want to keep more of the first flush on property, as opposed to moving all of the water from a rainstorm off of the property, into the gutter and away from the development as quickly as possible,” says Baron.
Educational initiatives on the part of water agencies and manufacturers have never been higher than they are today, with Saturday and evening classes accommodating the public’s schedule, Baron says.
“At least in California, the agencies see education as a very key component of demand management in helping their constituencies understand what it takes to bring quality, reliable water to an urban area,” he says.
For a long time, water purveyors have not engaged in discussions about what they do, Baron says.
“They do the work that’s necessary to make sure drinkable water comes out of that faucet 24/7, and we just got spoiled,” he says. “The United States on average spends less on water and wastewater management and processing as a percentage of income than any other developed country, so these agencies have done a wonderful job of doing what they were told to do and at a fraction of the cost of bottled water.
“People pay $1 a gallon for supermarket water,” he says. “The water that you get from a water purveyor is about two-tenths of one cent per gallon. We don’t mind paying $1 per gallon when we’re just buying a little bit at a time, but we get upset when we see a bill for two months’ water use that is $150.”
It may take a different mindset to drive that concept home, Baron says, pointing to fuel consumption as an example.
“If I ask a group of contractors or a homeowners association what is the price of a gallon of gasoline, everybody can tell me immediately,” he says. “If I ask how much the cost of a gallon of water is, nobody can answer that question.
“When you buy gasoline, you buy it, pay for it, and it’s stored in your car. It’s your gasoline, and now you are managing that gasoline. You have an instantaneous communication of how fast you’re consuming that gasoline that’s yours and how much you have left with the fuel gauge.”
In contrast, water is paid for after it is consumed.
“That behavioral difference says a lot and that’s why some agencies are trying to invest in smart meters that will not only show how much water is being consumed, but gives access to that information on an ongoing basis, as well as leak detection.”
Oftentimes, a lot of the costs a water agency faces, in terms of infrastructure, is handling peak demand because of sprinkler system use in the summer, Baron says.
“If you can wave a magic wand and convert every high-flow nozzle to a lower-flow, high-efficiency nozzle, you’d be able to reduce peak demand up to 30%,” he says. “Imagine what that would do in terms of delaying the infrastructure costs.”
Baron says the more manufacturers understand what challenges the water agencies face and what the true cost of delivering water is, the more they can focus on developing technologies that will help them accomplish their goal.
“Most manufacturers are going to say we want you to charge the full cost of water, not as the cost of water goes up, but because the cost of wasting the water goes up, so there is more of a financial incentive there to invest in a professional resolution of the problem and new technology,” he says.
Baron points to an innovative program launched by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California that is going beyond product rebates to offer service rebates.
“They are telling the property management companies, and homeowners’ associations that they will reimburse for half the cost of water management services provided they are saving the amount of water they’re claiming,” says Baron.
A contractor assesses the area, creates a water budget based on square footage, plant material and weather information so that the property owner knows if they are at 70% efficiency, there is an exact amount of water they’re going to use each month—akin to a water budget.
“This is the first time they’ve said they’re going to do a rebate program for water management services versus a rebate on a product installation,” says Baron. “It’s another way they’re trying to influence total demand. It’s a very multidimensional approach.”
In educational efforts, the agricultural industry is addressed in a separate manner.
“Ag water is not treated to the level that the urban potable water is treated, but the price of that ag water is typically very low compared to what an urban community will pay,” points out Baron.
As such, urban users may point out that since agricultural use is 80% of all of the water used in California, that sector should reduce its use. In turn, agricultural users may point out that the cost of food may increase without sufficient water.
“That’s the challenge,” says Baron. “Oftentimes, the allocation decisions are not based simply on pricing mechanisms but are based on social, environmental and political considerations.”
Even so, there are as many technological innovations going on in the agricultural irrigation side of industry as there is in the turf and landscape side of the business, says Baron.
“On the ag side of things, there are also financial incentives to encourage the installation of high-efficiency drip systems, subsurface drip systems or pivot systems,” he says.
The water-energy nexus also is critical in California, Baron says.
“Two-thirds of the rain and snow fall in northern California, but two-thirds of California’s population lives in southern California, so we have a particularly challenging situation because of the energy input to bring in water from northern California or from the Colorado River to southern California,” he points out. “Probably more than any other state, California has a more significant energy component in its water supply.”
Demand response irrigation is a relatively new concept in agriculture because all of the irrigation systems that have ever been built didn’t consider demand response because it didn’t exist until now, says David Zoldoske, the director of the Center for Irrigation Technology at California State University in Fresno and an expert in subsurface drip systems.
“There are several concurrent actions,” he says. “We need to review and look at what current systems are and whether they can or cannot accommodate demand response charges. The other part is to understand how demand response is going to impact the irrigation industry and to educate growers and irrigation designers and dealers on what they need to do to accommodate demand response on future systems.”
Zoldoske says it doesn’t matter if a drip line is buried or on top of the ground.
“It’s about the hydraulic capacity of the system—whether the system is groundwater or surface water and systems that are not pressurized,” he says. “Sprinkler and drip microsystems should be able to accommodate the demand response in most cases.
“There are going to be lots of exceptions depending on the water source, and if there are pipelines that have to be filled up as one system gets turned on,” he adds. “Surface irrigation flood systems are probably going to be most effective by demand response.”
Zoldoske says systems that require siphons to irrigate would be probably one of the most affected by demand response.
“It’s very difficult to turn off the system, and you’ve got to have other accommodations,” he says. “You’ve got to have buffering in the system and standby pumps that are run by diesel. Without doing a thorough analysis of the industry, it’s impossible to determine what the effects will be. We need to start out by reviewing what’s out there, how it’s operated and what we’ll need to do to accommodate demand response.”
The questions that would be posed: what is the water source, how is it being pumped, what are alternative solutions, is there on-farm storage, how does the conjunctive use of both surface and groundwater affect the operation of the system, is there an ability to shut the system down for a short period of time and then start it back up and how does that affect the total irrigation management on the farm.
Other questions: is there excess capacity? What time of year is it? Is it in the middle of a heat wave? What crop is being grown? What’s the application rate? What are the soil water holding conditions?
“You have to get a matrix of that and then back into it and ask if you have advanced warning and how far in advance will you know so that you can store extra water in the root zone prior to the shut-off,” says Zoldoske.
“It’s a new chapter in managing irrigation,” he adds. “There is going to be lots of discovery and things to be understood, and it’s certainly going to require a lot of science on this to make sure we get it right and minimize irrigation costs for the grower by maximizing production. That’s the name of the game.”
In an effort to move toward a more sustainable energy and water future, EPA has drafted “Principles for an Energy Water Future”, in which it encourages all stakeholders—including government, utilities, private companies, and ratepayers—to consider water-saving principles and incorporate them into their work.
EPA’s “Water-Smart Landscapes” publication provides its perspective on water efficient landscaping and irrigation.
Among EPA’s recommendations for communities struggling with drought, EPA suggests water restriction compliance, checking for leaks, fixture upgrades, water reuse, and letting grass go brown. EPA’s WaterSense program also emphasizes the energy-water nexus.
EPA’s WaterSense program recommends homeowners manage their irrigation systems and landscape practices to reduce water demand.
Simple steps such as adjusting the irrigation system with the seasons, avoiding watering midday when much is lost to evaporation, and setting appropriate irrigation zones can lead to significant water savings.
WaterSense also recommends homeowners use qualified irrigation professionals such as WaterSense irrigation partners to check and repair irrigation systems and ensure they are operating efficiently.
Changing landscape practices can also dramatically reduce water demand, EPA points out.
Using regionally appropriate and low water-using plants reduces a landscape’s need for supplemental water, while adding mulch around shrubs, trees, and garden plants reduces evaporation and keeps water in the soil where it’s needed, according to EPA. The agency has tips on saving water outdoors on its website, at www.epa.gov/WaterSense/outdoor/index.html.
While many Americans know about the importance of saving energy, and many know about the importance of saving water, few know about the direct connection between saving both, according to the agency. It takes a considerable amount of energy to deliver and treat the water used every day, the agency points out: letting a faucet run for five minutes uses about as much energy as letting a 60-W light bulb run for 14 hours. Heating water for bathing, shaving, cooking, and cleaning also requires a lot of energy. Homes with electric water heaters, for example, spend one-quarter of their electric bill just to heat water.
The agency suggests the installation of WaterSense-labeled products to save water and energy. Rob Zimmerman envisions that, eventually, “we have to make our built-in environment resistant to drought or flood.” Essentially, combining indoor water efficiency practices with outdoor water efficiency practices produces the optimal results.
Zimmerman is manager of Engineering and Water Conservation and Sustainability for Kohler, and works with not only the company’s new product development engineering, but also with the company’s sales and marketing teams to bring awareness to the need for more water efficiency in plumbing products and what choices people can make to reduce their water consumption, particularly in the indoors.
“In some parts of the country, the vast majority of residential water use is indoor water,” says Zimmerman. “There might be a seasonal component to it, like here in Wisconsin where we might be watering grass a couple of months out of the year.
“This year, when we had heat and drought, the water use kicked up significantly in the Midwest. But in places like in California, outdoor water use can be the vast majority of residential use.”
Thus, strategies for meeting demand management must be site-specific, Zimmerman says.
“There are good principles of design in terms of landscape as well as how a home is built and how it’s fitted out with plumbing fixtures,” he says. “That ought to be readily available and well-known.”
Studies point to three factors that account for the vast majority of water use in the home: the toilet, the shower and the clothes washer, says Zimmerman. Faucet aerators provide the best return on the investment, he adds.
Zimmerman notes a strong uptake on WaterSense-labeled toilets.
“I think the reason is that the products are competitively priced, but also they are designing them to use less water and perform even better than the old 1.6 gallons per flush and certainly better than the 3.5 gallons per flush that many people are still replacing,” he says.
“The feedback we’re getting consistently is ‘I was reluctant to change out my toilet because I heard the stories from long ago about low-flow toilets not working well.’ People are amazed that their toilet works better how and is using half the water that the old one did.”
Rebates “get people off of the couch, and that’s what they’re designed to do,” says Zimmerman. “I think one of the challenges that the water utilities have is making sure there’s awareness, particularly where there’s a new program. They need to get the word out that these programs exist, but when they do that well, then generally the rebates get snatched up pretty quickly.”
As a manufacturer, Zimmerman notes that rebates help drive demand.
“That helps drive innovation, which helps get new products out into the marketplace, even in places where there are not rebates,” he says. “The cities that have those programs have helped transform the market for the whole country.”
Author’s Bio: Carol Brzozowski specializes in topics related to resource management and technology.