Archive for the ‘Save Water Save Energy’ Category

Working for the Huron at Home

In addition to being the director at HRWC, I own a home. As a homeowner we’ve been trying to reduce our carbon footprint and save water and energy.IMG_0104

My work in the environmental field makes me familiar with the many things we can do at home to protect the environment. But it takes money and time to act on these tips. This past year we were finally able to work on a few “greening” home improvements, shared here for inspiration . . .

Rain Gardens

Last year we reached out to the Washtenaw County Water Resource Commissioner’s Office to help develop a plan to capture and infiltrate more of the runoff from our roof.  Years ago we installed a rain barrel but it is limited to 50 gallons per rain, with use in between rains.  I live in Ann Arbor on a pretty small parcel and there is not much room for rain storage and infiltration…or a garden.  But we were able to identify 2 different rain garden locations—one a swale along one side of the house and another in the front of the house.

After choosing plants and a design we installed the rain garden last spring—digging, mulching, and placing rocks and native plants strategically for rain water capture and aesthetics.

At first it didn’t look like much but as the summer and fall wore on the plants blossomed and grew.  We enjoyed running outside when it was raining to see the water gushing out of the gutter/downspout and in to the rain garden where it soaked in to the ground.  We found out that we have pretty sandy soils, unusual for this area, so the water soaked in quickly.  If anything, we can divert more runoff to this garden it was so “thirsty”.  I also learned, through trial and error, what was a weed and what wasn’t.  Staying on top of the weeding is the biggest challenge now that the rain garden is in.

Solar Panels

Last summer we also decided to install solar panels.  Since we had last looked in to solar panels the cost has come down substantially.  There are also substantial tax incentives in place this year that help with the price of the panels. We got quotes, talked with colleagues and friends who had installed panels and chose an installer, Homeland.  It took over 4 months until the system was up and running but in early November we were generating electricity!  We’re still getting familiar with how it all works but we have a nice looking box in the basement that hums when we are generating energy and a website to track our power generation.  We’re looking forward to the summer when the sun really shines to see how much energy we can generate and reduce our carbon.

For You!

If you are considering home improvements, or even smaller actions that help protect the environment, HRWC promotes many of them at our Take Action pages. Our booth at the Home, Garden & Lifestyle Show, March 18-20, will feature two sustainable landscaping experts providing free information on rain gardens and native plants: Susan Bryan leader of Washtenaw County’s Rain Garden Program (Saturday) and Drew Laithin of Creating Sustainable Landscapes (Friday/Sunday).

Susan also wrote the cover story for the Spring 2016 Huron River Report, sharing success installing private rain gardens in our Swift Run Project and offering some great tips for those considering DIY rain gardens. Take a look, its a good read and will inspire you to start a rain garden movement in your neighborhood.

The Carbon Footprint of Water

Water utilities and residents within the Huron River watershed contribute approximately 178 million lbs of CO2 annually through the production, use and treatment of drinking water.  This is equivalent to the annual emissions from nearly 17,000 passenger vehicles. It takes more than double the combined areas of the Pinckney and Waterloo Recreation Areas to sequester this much carbon each year.


My guess is most of you have not thought about water use as a contributor to climate change.  Before undertaking this analysis, I had not.  But over the course of the past two years, through a project supported by the Masco Corporation Foundation, HRWC has been able to research and calculate the carbon footprint of our water use here in the watershed.

A new report shares our findings. The Carbon Footprint of Domestic Water Use in the Huron River Watershed follows water from its source through water treatment, residential water use and wastewater treatment to discharge back into the environment.  At each point in the cycle, energy is used. Energy is needed to pump, treat and heat water and energy use results in the release of CO2 and other greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.

What did we learn?

  • Energy used to produce drinking water in the watershed is about 10% higher than national averages.
  • Energy used to treat wastewater in the watershed is 57-76% higher than national averages depending on treatment type.
  • Energy used in homes for water use was lower than national averages but by far the most energy intense phase of the cycle in the watershed.

What this tells us is that there is room for improvement both among water utilities and residents of the Huron River watershed. There was a lot of variation in the efficiency of local water utilities. Future efforts can target utilities that use the most energy per unit of water produced or treated.  Improving efficiencies at these utilities can lead to significant reductions in our collective carbon footprint.

That said, the greatest gains that can be made are within your power. Reducing the amount of hot water used in the home is the single greatest strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions associated with water use. And, by doing so, households will also see reductions in both water and energy bills.  It is a win-win-win situation.  Save water. Save energy. Save money.

What can we do?

There are many sources of information and tips on how to reduce water use in homes.  Pick a few tricks that work for you and get started. It is another way that you can take personal actions that contribute to the well being of the planet and all its inhabitants.

  • Take a look at HRWC’s H20 Heroes webpage for water saving tips
  • When purchasing new appliances, look for the WaterSense label
  • Calculate your current water use and see how changes you make lower your impact using a water calculator.

Often overlooked when identifying ways to reduce carbon emissions, water conservation holds the potential for significant gains in reducing a community’s contribution to global climate change and something individuals and families can take on to reduce their carbon footprint.  So get started today.  And share with us in the comments how you are becoming an H20 Hero!




News to Us

dte site

In this edition of News to Us read about the impact of water resources on Michigan’s economy and how the State and energy providers are responding to the recent EPA rule on reducing carbon emissions associated with power production. The MichCon cleanup site and Nichols Arboretum’s School Girls Glen are also highlighted in the news recently.  Finally, dive into Popular Science this month for a full read on water.

Michigan’s University Research Corridor plays major role in protecting and advancing Michigan’s ‘Blue Economy’  At the recent Detroit Regional Chamber’s Mackinac Policy Conference a report was released quantifying the impact of local universities’ investments in water research, education and outreach.  “Innovating for the Blue Economy” speaks to the importance of water resources to Michigan’s economy.

Michigan gets ready for EPA’s proposed carbon rules  What is the response, in Michigan, to EPA’s plan to cut carbon dioxide emissions from power plants? This piece reveals, generally, the State’s major power companies are not surprised by the rules and have been decreasing the amount of energy derived from coal for some time now. However, coal is still the primary source of energy in DTE’s portfolio at around 50%.  The State is left to determine how to reach the federal goal of 30% reduction in carbon pollution from power generation by 2030.

Redevelopment of riverfront MichCon site in Ann Arbor in the works  A 14-acre riverfront environmental cleanup site in Ann Arbor may have a developer to lead the redevelopment as soon as this fall.  Mixed-use development is proposed for the site including public access to the river and greenspace.  HRWC has been an advocate for the cleanup and smart redevelopment of the property which could help connect downtown and the river.

The vanishing of Schoolgirls’ Glen Read a historical account of a special spot on the watershed map – Schoolgirls’ Glen.  The Glen has a unique history. Now part of the UM Nichols Arboretum, it has been damaged by the encroachment of development and poor stormwater management. Efforts are currently underway to help restore this place which is home to a diversity of plant and bird species.

Popular Science – Water Issue 2014 And if you really like to get your feet wet in water issues and news, this month’s Popular Science magazine is designated entirely to the topic of water.  The What’s in Your Drinking Water infographic is a particularly interesting look at the problem of pharmaceuticals in our water. There is also a good Q&A on the water/energy nexus, a concept we explore here at HRWC in our Saving Water Saves Energy project.  There is also a compelling piece on water conservation and conflict, among others.

And that is the news to us.

Two “Families” Save Their Way To Winning!

The Thomas-Rupley family and the Benjamin Linder Co-op in Ann Arbor save water, energy and money, reduce their CO2 emissions and earn free water from HRWC.

Both entered the HRWC Saving Water Saves Energy Project’s “Pledge, Save, Win” Contest in March. Both will get their first quarter water bill paid (up to $250) for their efforts.

Save Water Comic

A comic book of savings from Benjamin Linder Co-op.

The Co-op’s savings, estimated at 100 gallons per day, were led by Emma Kelly, the group’s sustainability steward. Emma helped her housemates save water by installing 5-minute shower timers and providing grey water collection buckets in each shower. Residents re-use the grey water to flush toilets. Emma also focused housemates on saving at the washing machines — advising them to wash only full loads on cold water cycles.

SWSE Pledge Contest Rain Barrel

The Thomas-Rupley’s save with a rain barrel.

The Thomas-Rupley family, estimated savings 31.5 gallons per day, has been living a water-saving lifestyle for some time. They made their own rain barrel for watering their garden, retrofitted their toilet to make it dual-flush and installed a low flow shower head. They also use left over drinking water for houseplants, and catch excess cold water from the kitchen faucet for use in their washing machine.  The Thomas-Rupleys also wash only full loads in their clothes washer.

Entries were judged for the amount of water saved, the savings techniques and for creativity in showing and telling how savings were achieved. Extra points were awarded for saving energy-intense hot water and full participation of the entire household!

Congratulations to the Thomas-Rupleys and the residents of the Benjamin Linder Co-op! Save on!

Save Water, Save Energy, Win Free Water

That’s right! HRWC will pay the April water bill for three lucky families in the Huron River watershed, up to $250 each!Pledge, Save, Win

HRWC’s “Pledge, Save, Win” Contest encourages watershed homeowners to make the connection between water and energy. Saving one, means saving the other. Up to 13% of our nation’s electrical energy goes to pumping, treating and heating our water supplies.

There are just three steps for entering.

1 —  GO to, to watch a 60-second public service announcement.

2 — PLEDGE to do one or more activities to save water daily.

3 — REPORT what you did to save water by March 31, 2014. Reporting can come in the form of stories, videos, photos or other creative ideas. Winners will be selected based on creativity and effectiveness.

To help jump start your family’s efforts, has many tips and tools, including an online savings calculator, and a map to verify that you live in the boundaries of the Huron River watershed if you don’t know.

Winners will be announced by April 15, 2014.

“Pledge, Save, Win” is a campaign of the Saving Water Saves Energy Project, funded by a grant from the Masco Corporation Foundation.

Videos That Make a Difference

PSAs, PSAs and more PSAs . . .A Hero Rises

In addition to HRWC’s own PSA,  “A Hero Rises”  produced by our Saving Water Saves Energy project with Detroit Public Television and funded by the Masco Corporation Foundation, we are happy to report that several local college students have been bitten by the film arts bug! I am currently working with a terrific group of Washtenaw Community College students and their instructor Matt Zacharias to review and debut a bevy of Huron-related PSAs (coming in January).

And this is just in from the University of Michigan!

Ever wonder how people understand and make sense of climate change? Ever wanted to convince people that the issue is important? Well now is your chance.

The Erb Institute, in collaboration with the department of Screen Arts & Cultures, has sponsored a competition to create the best student-produced video aimed at engaging the public in climate change.

Public voting for student-produced videos for the Climate Change Communication Challenge is now open!

They challenged U-M students to create a public service announcement that would inspire positive action on climate change. Eleven teams of students put their skills to the test. Now is your chance to weigh in on the best video!

The video receiving the most votes will receive the $1,500 Popular Vote Award. The poll closes at 12 PM EST onThursday, November 21.

Spread the word! Encourage your friends, family, students, and colleagues to vote!


Join our watershed students in taking shorter showers!

Our handy shower timer! Can you stop in 5?

Our handy shower timer! Can you stop in 5?

Mill Creek Middle School shower survey raises awareness on climate change, water and energy!

Seventh grade teacher Cheryl Darnton and her students learned about climate change this spring, capping off their studies with an experiment in water conservation. Will middle schoolers take shorter showers to help save water and energy?  Ms. Darnton began the study in May by surveying her 80 students, asking them to record how long and how often they showered. She also asked parents how often and long they thought their kids were showering. A few weeks later, Ms. Darnton gave all of her students some handy 5-minute shower timers compliments of HRWC’s Saving Water Saves Energy project (reducing a 10-minute shower to 5 minutes can save 12.5 gallons of water or more, depending on the flow rate). In June, students and parents took a final survey recording and observing how their shower times changed.

So, how did they do?

While the results weren’t overwhelmingly positive, there was some improvement. When asked, students reported that they had cut down their shower times – some by at least 10 minutes! The amount of students showering between 21 to 30 minutes went down by 12%, while the amount between 1 and 10 minutes went up by 18%. That’s a lot of change!

“I take shorter showers because of the red timer.”

Ms. Darnton asked the parents what they thought of the survey. Most parents said that it had a very positive impact on their children – 46% said that the timer decreased their shower times! One parent said, “Just being aware of counting the minutes of when the water is running has motivated her to use less.” Often, Ms. Darnton found that usage of the timer spread to the rest of the family. One student even said, “My brother uses it sometimes.”

Want to find out more about saving water and energy in your home? Visit our new H2O Heroes website!

Skyline students battle it out…

Who can take the shortest showers?

This past year, thumb a group of six students from Ann Arbor’s Skyline High School tapped into HRWC’s “Saving Water Saves Energy” project by producing a “how to” video for their school’s community. Inspired by the water conservation information they were learning, health they decided to create a unique contest for their fellow classmates.

These students, who were members of the Communications, Media and Public Policy magnet, wanted to see how their classmates were doing – how much water were they using? And if they were using a lot, why not teach them a little about water conservation?

Are you ready to rumble?

They challenged 30 students from each of the four magnet programs offered at Skyline to cut their water – and as a result, energy — consumption. The classes were competing for the shortest shower, and were encouraged to bring their times down to a quick five minutes per shower!

Our students talked to their peers about where their water comes from as well as the energy it takes to process and deliver the water they use every day. They hoped that with this awareness, students would bring advice home to their families and friends about water usage and conservation.

Each competitor took an initial survey to set a baseline, and then took daily surveys in the following week to see if they were able to cut down their shower time. At the end of the week the students looked at the results and found that the Health and Medicine magnet class cut their average shower time by five minutes, going from 15 minute showers to ten.

The winning class at Skyline High School!

The winning class at Skyline High School!

But I don’t want to!

The students found that coordinating this competition had some challenges. These included recruiting participants and making sure that everyone submitted accurate data. They visited classrooms often to remind everyone to take part. One class seemed to be submitting false data, and the students actually threatened to disqualify them!

Our students thought that this was a great project to work on within their school and would like to expand it in the future. They would like to include the rest of the school, or maybe even their district! They all acknowledged that there is a lot of potential in changing the habits of high school students, and with their input we can make a significant impact on the way Ann Arbor views water.

Six Teens Take on a Water and Energy Challenge!

Ever think about the water and energy connection?

These six Skyline High School students sure do. They recently worked with HRWC to produce two great videos about the Huron River watershed and how saving water saves energy!

Students Diana Cleen, Nivetha Samy, Hannah Lee, Eric Jensen and Andrew Almani, Kaz Ishikawa not shown

Students Diana Chen, Nivetha Samy, Hannah Lee, Eric Jensen and Andrew Almani, Kaz Ishikawa not shown

Pat Jenkins, the teacher in charge of the Communications, Media and Public Policy magnet, approached HRWC last summer with the goal of having these students work directly with the organization on specific issues. This group chose to work with HRWC on the “Saving Water Saves Energy” program – above other options!

Each student had their own reasons for choosing HRWC. Nivetha, who was already passionate about environmental issues, thought that it would be a good way to get involved with and change the local environment. She wanted to raise awareness about the problems our community faces in terms of water usage. Eric, on the other hand, had no prior knowledge of water use or conservation issues. This gave him the opportunity to learn more about it. The group had some experience with energy conservation projects, but had never specifically thought about water conservation or the relationship between water and energy.

Aaaand action!

The group first decided that their goal for the videos was to raise public awareness about the water issues in Ann Arbor, and to provide solutions that everyone could use. They particularly wanted to target high school students as their audience. So how do you do that, you may ask?

For “Saving Water Saves Energy,” the CMPP students took a clever approach by including HRWC’s H2O Hero. Each student dressed up in the hero costume throughout the video in order to show that if they can do it, you can do it! They demonstrated making easy, small changes at home that have a big impact in the community. Their video can be found here.

Okay, so – what exactly is a watershed? That’s what our students got to figure out while producing their second video. Through doing research and participating in River Roundup, they saw the term “watershed” shift from an abstract concept to a very specific one. They learned what it is, and what role it plays in our ecological system and our own drinking water. “What is a Watershed” featured students from multiple high schools in the area. So, you recognize your friend in the video? Hey, maybe you’ll want to learn what a watershed is, too! The video can be found here.

Let’s get dirty!

In order to get a better understanding of the issue and HRWC as an organization, the students participated in multiple events outside of school. They went to an HRWC River Roundup and a bug identification day, and said that both were great experiences. For River Roundup, they accidentally drove in the wrong direction – for 40 miles! Once they got to the stream monitoring site, the girls weren’t too keen on touching a bunch of bugs. The boys did the dirty work while the girls kept track of exactly how many bugs they found.

Maybe I should stop taking those 45 minute showers…

Before working on this project, Nivetha was always aware that she should probably be taking shorter showers. But that’s okay, right? After producing two videos on water conservation, she had a very different perspective. Now, she is actually motivated to follow her own advice! She felt that participating in River Roundup really helped the message hit home. She saw the source of her own drinking water in front of her and understood that she needed to take better care of it. The other students also felt that they have been conserving more water lately than they did before participating in the project with HRWC.

So if it changed their behaviors, what about their friends or family? According to the students, friends were not that into it. However, their families were! Diana said her family was easy to nag and remind them to be water and energy conscious. In her house they actively try to cut down on dishwashing and laundry loads.

The main consensus of producing the videos was positive. The students really enjoyed making them because they were in charge of everything – whether it was acting, directing, or editing. They played every role! Plus, they got to dress up in the H2O hero costume. Who wouldn’t want to do that?

National Challenge for Water Conservation, April 1-30, 2013

Pledge to conserve water and reduce pollution!H2O-Hero

The month of April is the Second Annual National Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation, a friendly, community-based competition between cities across the nation to see who can be the most “water wise.”

Presented by the Wyland Foundation, the month-long Challenge invites city leaders and their residents to pledge to conserve water.  All those who take the pledge are entered into a national competition with other communities to win hundreds of prizes – including a Toyota Prius, water saving fixtures and Never Waste water bottles from the Alliance for Water Efficiency. Last year residents from over 1,000 cities participated and pledged to save a total of 4.7 billion gallons of water.

HRWC Deputy Director Elizabeth Riggs helped pre-launch the campaign with a presentation to 6-8th grades at Tappan Middle School in Ann Arbor.  HRWC and Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje were invited to introduce the Wyland Foundation’s mobile learning experience to the Tappan community and talk about HRWC’s work.

HRWC’s Saving Water Saves Energy program has lots of tips, tools and calculators on saving water, as well as a new 60-second PSA that promotes the connection between water and energy. Start your April by joining in the National Mayor’s Challenge and by going to to tap into the H2O Hero in you!



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