Posts Tagged ‘water efficiency’

Standing Strong for Clean Water

In the last 5 months HRWC has been regularly expressing our concern on changes to federal policy, legislation, and the budget.  I want to share with you a few of these letters and comments and assure you that HRWC is there to face new challenges coming while continuing our work to protect and restore the river for healthy and vibrant communities.

hrwc20The Healing Our Waters Coalition (HOW) composed a letter defending the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) which, under the President’s budget, would be cut completely.  HRWC signed on to this letter that stated, “The potential wide-ranging budget cuts impact many agencies that are critical to the success of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, as well as those that ensure people throughout the country have access to safe air and clean drinking water. Millions of people in the Great Lakes region and across the country—including many communities which have borne the brunt of racial, environmental and economic injustice—will pay a steep price if Congress does not reject the proposed cuts to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and agencies like U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and others.”

HOW Coalition’s letter pushing back against the Trump Administration’s proposed budget cuts and in support of funding Great Lakes programs attracted a record 152 groups that signed on to the letter that sent a strong message to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees to fund these important programs.

In response to President Trump’s regulatory reform efforts, HRWC signed on to 3 letters and participated in a national video.

One letter outlined HRWC’s objections to this proposed regulatory reform.  “We object to the false premise that public safeguards are holding back our nation.  In reality, environmental protections have saved lives, improved health, conserved resources and spurred innovation, all while allowing for economic growth and providing far more in benefits that they cost”.  In addition, HRWC signed on to a regional Great Lakes letter that outlined environmental and economic reasons for environmental protections in the Great Lakes region and highlights the importance of policies like the Clean Water Act in protecting vulnerable communities.

I was also interviewed for a video compiled by the Clean Water Network and the River Network that includes leading river protection groups talking about the importance of federal legislation on regional clean water efforts.  This video was compiled at National River Rally in May in Grand Rapids,  a conference for over 600 river and water champions.

The Alliance for Water Efficiency led the charge on another very important program facing budget cuts.  EPA’s highly successful WaterSense® program is a voluntary public-private partnership that has saved American consumers more than $33 billion (in 2015 dollars) on their water and energy bills over the past decade. WaterSense is a voluntary program, not a regulatory one, and it costs less than $2 million dollars a year to administer. It is universally supported by consumers, manufacturers and the public and private agencies charged with supplying water to American households and businesses. Since its inception in 2006, it has been immensely successful at achieving its goal of reducing water consumption. An estimated 1.5 trillion gallons have been saved using WaterSense-labeled products.

While of lesser significance to HRWC, we also signed on to letter opposing efforts to repeal or undermine protections for national parks and monuments spearheaded by the National Parks Conservation Association.

Finally, HRWC has been providing stories of our success with federal funding, legislation, and policies to national groups, policy makers, and legislators.  These on the ground examples are being used to illustrate the importance of federal grants and programs and to provide concrete water quality improvement stories.

HRWC is lending its voice and success stories to the national dialogue on federal environmental policies, budgets, and legislation.  We believe this is an example of how to Stand Strong for Clean Water.

News to Us

France Climate Countdown

Eiffel Tower during Paris Climate Convention. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

News to Us covers a diversity of topics this month including articles that chronicle two significant threats to local water resources – stormwater runoff and coal tar pavement sealcoat, and three (yea!) bright spots highlighting solutions to – wastewater treatment, microbead contamination and global climate change.

Healing fractured water: How Michigan’s roadways impact our waterways. In Oakland County alone there is “nearly 2,700 miles of county roads that average 24 feet wide. With an estimated average annual rainfall of 30 inches, these roads generate over five billion gallons of stormwater runoff in just one year.” Learn more about roadway runoff, the issues and solutions (including mention of Ann Arbor’s Green Streets policy) in this article that is part of a series on the Great Lakes water cycle.

Coal tar sealants: Challenges ahead. This article provides a good overview of the issues associated with coal tar and other high PAH pavement sealcoats that residents commonly use to maintain and beautify asphalt surfaces.  This is an issue HRWC has been educating our partners and supporters about because of the significant water quality and human health impacts.  Read this article and visit our webpage to learn what you can do.

Dexter Brewery Turning Wastewater To Energy. The City of Dexter and Northern United Brewing Company have come up with an innovative solution to a big water problem. Northern United has invested in a state of the art onsite wastewater treatment system that turns wastewater into energy and reusable water. This is allowing the company to expand its water use and treatment needs without overburdening Dexter’s municipal wastewater treatment plant.

Nations Approve Landmark Climate Accord in Paris. Reason for celebration is the agreement reached at the Paris Climate negotiations last week.  The last set of negotiations in Copenhagen 6 years ago ended in gridlock and a lot of disappointing finger pointing with nations shirking responsibility, including our own. While there are significant weaknesses to the Paris accord, nearly every country signed the commitment including the U.S. and China, the world’s leading emitters. Many are viewing the accord the beginning of a global shift away from a fossil fuel based economy.  As global citizens we need to keep up the pressure on our countries to hold to their commitments.

U.S. House approves bill to ban plastic microbeads. News to Us has been tracking the issue of plastic microbead pollution in water for some time now.  Good news on this front as well. A bill banning this ingredient used in personal care products like soaps and toothpastes has passed the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill now awaits a Senate vote.  A similar bill has be stalled in the Michigan legislature for some time now.

World Water Day

Reflections on World Water Day 2015

Reflections on World Water Day 2015

Sunday marked the 21st annual World Water Day – a day to reflect on the value of a resource often easy for those of us fortunate enough to be in a water rich environment to take for granted.  News media and social networks were abuzz with coverage of this event and the importance of water.  Take a moment to browse some of the great coverage out there by searching on #WaterIs in Twitter.

I ran across a simple blog sharing some compelling statistics about freshwater: 36 eye-opening facts about water.  The piece is a good reminder of how good we have it, treatment how important water is to protect, and how we all might be better stewards.

Some of the 36 that jumped out at me?

10. More than one-quarter of all bottled water comes from a municipal water supply – the same place that tap water comes from.Break the bottled water habit.  In our area tap water is clean and safe.  Even tasty. In fact, ambulance for Ann Arbor water customers, A2 water frequently wins the regional Michigan Water Tasting Competition (yes, this is a thing).

And then there are these; “24. On average, an American resident uses about 100 gallons of water per day. 25. On average, a European resident uses about 50 gallons of water per day. 26. On average, a resident of sub-Saharan Africa uses 2 to 5 gallons of water per day.” Each of us can do better.  Small actions can help us achieve more efficient use of water.

For example, “33. It takes 3,962 gallons of water to produce 2.2 pounds of beef.”  Eating less meat can dramatically reduce your water footprint.  Also, “14. A running toilet can waste up to 200 gallons of water each day.” Simply maintaining our plumbing is another habit we can get into to reduce water use that doesn’t even touch the water you actually use in a day.  It just cuts back on the waste.

And finally, “11. Approximately 400 billion gallons of water are used in the United States per day; nearly half of that is used for thermoelectric power generation.” By reducing your energy use, you are conserving water as well (and reducing your carbon footprint too!).

You don’t have to look far to find stories about the devastation caused by water scarcity or the consequences of spreading a finite resource too thin. The extreme drought in the Western United States shows we are not immune to the impacts of a lack of water. So, take a moment to reflect on everything water provides and how you can do your part to tread lightly on this vital resource.  And next time you set eyes upon the Huron River let her know how much you appreciate what she does for you.

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!




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.

2014 Watershed Community Calendar

Get your hero on!

The communities of the Huron River watershed have come together to produce another spectacular calendar. Chock full of stunning Huron River photography, stormwater pollution2014 Watershed Community Calendar prevention tips and local resources, this year’s version features 15 of your neighbors who are doing their part to protect water quality in their everyday actions!

Your mission if you choose to accept it is to become an H2O Hero yourself. Pick a sidekick, choose your color, select hero gear and decide which “bad guys” you will fight. You can get your hero on in seven easy steps — check the hero handbook that starts on page 28 of the calendar. Once you’ve done it, “like” HRWC on Facebook and update us with your hero name (clever or not). We’ll enter you to win one of 50 H2O Hero t-shirts that we’ll give away in January.

How to get your calendar.

By mail.  City of Ann Arbor, City of Brighton and Village of Dexter are direct-mailing to most households in their communities the week of November 4th.

In person.  Calendars will be at these customer service counters:2014CalendarJanuaryPhoto2014-CalendarJanuaryTip
-Livingston County Drain Commission and Road Commission
-Washtenaw County Water Resources Commission and Road Commission
-City of Ypsilanti
-Village of Pinckney
-Green Oak Charter Township
-Marion Township
-Pittsfield Charter Township
-Charter Township of Ypsilanti

From HRWC. Contact Pam Labadie at or (734)769-5123 x 602. We can mail a calendar to you for $5 or you can pick one up for free at HRWC.

About the Calendar.

The 2014 Watershed Community Calendar is a collaborative effort to educate residents about the importance of water stewardship and nonpoint source pollution prevention. The communities listed above believe there are substantial benefits that can be derived by joining together and cooperatively managing the rivers, lakes, and streams within the watershed and in providing mutual assistance in meeting state water discharge permit requirements. HRWC would like to thank them for their continued support of the calendar program.

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!

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?

A Meeting of the Minds

NAF logoLast week over 500 people from 43 states and two territories gathered in Denver, buy cialis CO for the inaugural National Adaptation Forum. These 500 represented our national climate adaptation community—folks from around the country helping people and wildlife prepare for a changing climate. I attribute it to the universal nature of the issue that the event was attended by federal, state and local government staff and officials, academics and professionals from the non-profit and private sectors. City planners, public works professionals, wildlife biologists, sustainability directors, climate scientists, insurance and hazard mitigation professionals all exchanged ideas, successes and challenges. Each brought new perspectives and innovations that crossed sectoral silos and built a common fabric upon which all of us can draw and build. I was fortunate to be a part of this seminal event.

The program and presentations were exciting and energizing. Cities and towns throughout the nation are taking action to reduce vulnerabilities to climate change impacts which vary depending on where you are in the country. Out west, water scarcity will worsen as less snow falls on the mountains to replenish their water sources. Wild fires are becoming more frequent and severe. Coastal areas face sea level rise, higher storm surges and salt water intrusion. Here in Michigan, we are expecting more severe droughts in the summer and larger storms in the spring and fall. Many communities are reacting to extreme events that have already occurred such as Superstorm Sandy, the 2012 drought or the Chicago heatwave. The thread running throughout the talks, no matter where a speaker was from or what issue they were focused on, is that communities should be minimizing risk. We cannot know when that big storm will come or how long a drought or heat wave will last. But we can be proactive and ready our communities for these times.

I was proud to speak on behalf of HRWC and the communities in the watershed participating in our Climate Resilient Communities project. Our work is unique in that we are approaching adaptation on a whole systems scale – the watershed. Involving the many municipalities in the watershed is challenging but innovative. And there is power in our numbers. What we can accomplish together is far greater than what any one community can accomplish on its own.

The National Adaptation Forum was the first climate adaptation event of this nature and, exceeding the expectations of the conference organizers, generated tremendous interest. Twice as many presentations were submitted as could be accommodated. Registration closed long before the conference and a long wait list formed. As conference organizer and plenary speaker Lara Hansen of EcoAdapt stated, we are part of the “adaptation vanguard”- a group of forward-thinking individuals at the front lines of a growing movement. This made me feel hopeful. I hope it does the same for you.

The State of Climate Change Adaptation in the Great Lakes Region

Climate adaptation is any action taken that reduces the vulnerability of natural communities and the built environment to the impacts of climate change.  For example, if we are going to get larger storms, what do we need to do to our stormwater practices and infrastructure to reduce the chances of flooding or pipe or dam failure?  If warmer air temperatures mean we are more susceptible to a new forest pest or pathogen, what do we do to reduce tree loss?  These are some of the questions we are considering, along with water resource professionals from throughout the watershed, in our Making Climate Resilient Communities project.

We are not alone in our efforts to adapt to changes in climate.  There are communities, agencies and organizations throughout the Great Lakes Region that are engaged in efforts to determine courses of action in response to climate change.  Those of us who are working in this arena are pioneering a new field and can serve as a resource to others.

Recently, EcoAdapt, an organization focused on facilitating climate adaptation, released a report: The State of Climate Change Adaptation in the Great Lakes Region. The report provides an overview of climate change in the region, shares the results of a survey to water resource professionals capturing adaptation activities and reflects on common challenges and opportunities to push the needle forward on climate adaptation.

HRWC’s Climate Resilient Communities and Saving Water Saves Energy projects stand proudly among the 57 case studies highlighted in the report (pg 94).  You will also find other examples from our watershed including the efforts of the City of Ann Arbor (pg 103) and the Great Lakes Adaptation Assessment for Cities project that has selected Ann Arbor as one of it’s assessment cities (pg 142).  This report, along with many other adaptation resources can be found on CAKE (Climate Adaptation Knowledge Exchange) website.

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