California and federal agencies, faced with a historic drought, were tasked with allocating scare water supplies while balancing the needs of a multitude of water users and protecting against devastating economic loss. Traditionally, there is little inter-agency cooperation in water resource management. The magnitude of the 2014 drought, however, led federal and state agencies to craft a unified operation plan to balance competing water needs in the state: “Central Valley Project and State Water Project Drought Operations Plan and Operational Forecast April 1, 2014 through November 15, 2014.” This case study was presented at the Western Governors' Drought Forum meeting in Sacramento, Calif. Watch a video of the presentation or read and download the case study.
The Kay Bailey Hutchison desalination plant is the world’s largest non-coastal water desalination plant. It provides water to El Paso, Texas, which opened the plant in 2007 in conjunction with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in order to diversify and augment the city’s water supply.The Kay Bailey Hutchison plant draws brackish water from an aquifer called the Hueco Bolson, which contains both fresh and brackish water. In the early 2000s El Paso’s rapidly expanding population pushed the Hueco Bolson to the point of freshwater being overdrawn, which risked brackish water intrusion into the freshwater portion of the aquifer.Construction of the desalination plant was part of a broader effort to increase water supply and decrease demand that included a public education and conservation initiative, more balanced management of surface water from the Rio Grande, and wastewater reclamation.
Arizona is a growing, semi-arid state that established a framework to address groundwater overdraft in the most populated parts of the state by adopting the 1980 Groundwater Management Act. That statutory framework was later expanded to include aquifer storage and recovery. Relying on this framework and its deep alluvial groundwater basins, Arizona has stored millions of acre feet for future use. The largest single storer, the Arizona Water Banking Authority, was established in 1996 to assist with water management goals and to help mitigate the effects of Colorado River shortages. This model of water banking allowed Arizona to utilize its full entitlement of Colorado River water and also store water on behalf of Nevada.
A common problem echoed by utilities across the nation is that customers don’t have a sense of how much water they use, or the cost associated with providing that water. While some utilities provide exemplary conservation messaging, the status quo for many water providers is impersonal, bi-monthly billing. Through increased customer engagement and personalized analytics WaterSmart Software has yielded significant results in end-user efficiency while lowering operations and maintenance costs for utilities across the West. To further engage customers in water conservation, WaterSmart utilizes social norms and taps into behavioral psychology, yielding an average reduction of water use by 5% within a year. The following studies highlight the integration of behavioral psychology, data analytics and cloud computing employed by WaterSmart to show residential water users how their use compares with similar users and make personalized water savings recommendations.
Nevada is the driest state in the United States, averaging only 9.5 inches of precipitation annually. Combine that with a 1.8% legal entitlement to the Colorado River and a rapidly growing population, and the need for conservation and efficient water usage becomes essential. Rather than utilizing top-down mandates and restrictions to enforce conservation, the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) created the Integrated Resource Planning Advisory Committee to guide water resource planning for Southern Nevada. By involving business owners and developers in the decision process, SNWA incentivizes its users to conserve water and fosters a spirit of collaboration. This case study was presented at the Western Governors' Drought Forum meeting in Las Vegas. Watch a video of the presentation or read and download the case study.
The Gila River Indian Community in central Arizona has used irrigation to support agriculture for more than 2,000 years. The tribe’s culture is inextricably linked to the Gila and Salt rivers. Large-scale diversions, combined with a lack of policy to conserve water, led to declines in agricultural production, famine and widespread starvation. Years of litigation led to the Arizona Water Settlements Act of 2004, which included the Gila River Indian Community Water Settlement Act. This case study was presented at the Western Governors' Drought Forum meeting in Tempe, Ariz. Watch a video of the presentation or read and download the case study.
When showering, it is a common practice to start the shower and engage in other activities until the water is sufficiently warm. Experts estimate that this pattern of “behavioral waste” accounts for the duration of roughly 20% of every shower. Nationwide, shower related behavioral waste is estimated to account for 200 billion gallons of water use per year. This is not only wasted water, but also wasted energy as much of the water flowing down the drain is energy-rich hot water. High efficiency shower heads help reduce behavioral waste, but do nothing to solve the problem; however, recent innovations by Evolve Technologies allow water users to integrate “thermostatic shut-off valves” into their shower heads. The valves allow cold water to flow out when the shower is first turned on, but then shut off flow when water hotter than 95 degrees arrives. Thermostatic shut-off valves help reduce behavioral waste and save both water and energy.
In 2011 three utilities – Austin Water Utility, Texas Gas Service, and Austin Energy – developed a collaborative resource conservation plan called the Multifamily Energy and Water Efficiency Program. The collaboration between the utilities aimed to conserve water, electricity, and gas through joint utility reviews of facility efficiency evaluations. Read and download the case study.