EPA Honors Leaders in Water Efficiency Movement

The Southern Nevada Water Authority has been honored for saving more than 20 billion gallons of water...

The Southern Nevada Water Authority has been honored for saving more than 20 billion gallons of water since it launched its Water Smart program four years ago in the Las Vegas area. The Authority was among the winners of the first Water Efficiency Leader (WEL) awards, a program sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency which recognizes organizations and individuals who are providing leadership and innovation in water efficient products and practices.

“These water efficiency stars are shining examples of cooperative conservation and innovative technology,” said EPA Assistant Administrator for Water Benjamin H. Grumbles.

While the U.S. population has nearly doubled over the past 50 years, water use has more than tripled. Due to demographic shifts, increased demand, and aging water infrastructure, there is a national need for more efficient use of water resources, he said.

The WEL Awards are intended to help foster a nationwide ethic of water efficiency, as well as to inspire, motivate, and recognize efforts to improve water efficiency. The program enables EPA to document “best practices,” share information, encourage an ethic of water efficiency, and create a network of water efficiency leaders.

Southern Nevada’s Water Smart Program is a collection of strategic initiatives in conservation programming, including progressive policies, aggressive education, and substantial incentive programs. The program includes water efficient landscaping, new homes, private sector partnerships with the landscape, pool, and car wash industries, rebates for smart irrigation controllers, and an annual trade event promoting innovation in water efficient products and practices.

Winner in the Government/Military category was Florida’s Water Reuse Program. EPA said the program is a model for efficient use of water on a statewide level. The state’s comprehensive program includes a wide variety of elements, ranging from state regulations to public outreach and reuse feasibility studies. As of 2005, 41% of all wastewater in Florida was treated for reuse, saving over 331 million gallons per day while watering residential lawns, golf courses, and parks.

The individual award went to Bill Sartor, under whose direction the San Antonio Water System has realized a savings of 3 billion gallons per year. Sartor served as the original chairman of the water system’s Community Conservation Committee, established as a result of the drought of 1996. He then developed and implemented a water conservation program for businesses that includes an extensive and multifaceted toilet retrofit program, landscape rebates, horizontal-axis washing machine rebates, certificate programs, water audits, a large-scale (process) retrofit rebate, and workshops and educational programs.

EPA Planning Study of Lakes

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is embarking on a three-year study to determine the state of America’s lakes. The “Survey of the Nation’s Lakes” is the first-ever attempt to assess real-world conditions by studying 909 lakes, ponds and reservoirs whose profiles are representative of all lakes in the United States.

“America’s lakes shape the landscape and are at the heart of our natural heritage, health, and beauty,” Grumbles said. “EPA’s national state-of-the-lakes study will measure lake health, map priorities, and motivate grass-roots stewardship, a cornerstone of the President’s Cooperative Conservation agenda.”

Survey samples will be taken from natural and human-made freshwater lakes, ponds and reservoirs next summer. Bodies of water included in the survey will be a minimum area of 10 acres in area and at least 39 inches deep.

The last time EPA catalogued the status of lakes was in 1972-1976, when 815 lakes were evaluated nationwide. The new study will resample 113 lakes from the earlier survey for comparison.

Researchers will look at water chemical quality, turbidity, color, conditions of shoreline habitat, and pathogen indicators. Other conditions will also be measured. Researchers will use the same sampling techniques among all lakes to provide uniform results and permit comparisons across the country.

This study is part of a larger EPA effort to assess coastal waters, rivers and wetlands. A similar survey, for wadeable streams, was completed earlier this year. All of the surveys will be repeated to analyze the success of efforts to manage and improve overall water quality. The report on the lakes survey will be released in 2009.

More information about the Survey of the Nation’s Lakes: www.epa.gov/owow/lakes/lakessurvey

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