Water Conservation Awards Highlight Model Programs and Practices
California is struggling through its third year of drought, 2013 was the driest year on record. Our current water situation is bleak, but Silicon Valley is leading the way in innovative practices aimed at stretching our limited supply. As a result, The Valley is in much better shape than much of California.
The Silicon Valley Water Conservation Awards Coalition announced its 2014 winners, including a government agency that is cleaning contaminated groundwater and using it for industrial purposes, a gardening business that landscapes with climate-appropriate, native plants, a vaudeville-style performance troupe that entertains, educates and inspires kids to conserve water, a non-profit organization that oversees drought-tolerant tree plantings, a business that uses recycled water for landscape irrigation, an individual who is leading the charge on promoting grey water systems, rainwater capture and composting toilets, and a water utility that is doing just about everything possible to educate and motivate its customers.
Three of the winners are SSV Partners:
- City of Palo Alto Utilities (Water Utility)
- NASA-Ames Research Center (Government Agency)
- Google (Business)
About the winners
City of Palo Alto Utilities (Water Utility). The City of Palo Alto Utilities (CPAU) has one of the most comprehensive water conservation programs in the state. From 2004 through 2013, they provided more than 18,000 free indoor and landscape water surveys, rebates for high-efficiency toilets, clothes washers, turf grass conversions and irrigation upgrades, and free direct installation of high-efficiency fixtures for residents and businesses. In 2013, CPAU contracted with WaterSmart to become the first water agency in Silicon Valley to deliver home water reports to residential customers. This program has been shown to result in water savings of up to 5% for participants. Over the past two years, CPAU has piloted a new technology for cellular-based, real-time water use monitoring and advanced metering analytics, which has been attributed to reducing water use by an average of 8% for program participants. Indoor water efficiency regulations for new construction require installation of high-efficiency fixtures and appliances to meet at least a 20% reduction in water use. Larger non-residential buildings must be plumbed for use of recycled water for flushing toilets, urinals and in landscape irrigation. New business landscape reports and water budgets will target 100 of the City’s largest irrigation customers. Between 2005 and 2013, water use in Palo Alto declined by 4.4%, despite a 14% increase in population. While a variety of factors can influence reductions in water demand, CPAU's conservation programs alone have been credited with saving close to 300 million gallons of water (enough to fill 12,000 swimming pools) over the past 10 years.
NASA-Ames Research Center (Government Agency). NASA’s Ames Research Center, located at Moffett Field, operates the Arc Jet Complex (AJC) for the development and testing of spacecraft heat shields. The AJC simulates the extreme heating and thermal loading encountered by spacecraft during atmospheric entry. The AJC, operating 150-170 days per year, requires approximately 110,000 gallons of water per operating day for industrial steam production and cooling. Recently the Complex activated a wastewater recovery system that uses cleaned up contaminated groundwater instead of potable water for its needs. The conversion from potable water to groundwater has reduced Ames’ potable water use by more than 10%, saving approximately 20 million gallons of potable water per year.
Google (Business). Through the implementation of interior and exterior water efficiency measures, Google saved close to 20 million gallons of potable water in 2013. They removed the batteries from all of their auto-flush urinals and installed urinal cake with enzymes that help eliminate the buildup of calcium crystals. This has essentially made the urinals waterless, eliminating hundreds of flushes per day. Google also worked closely with the City of Mountain View on two large irrigation projects that converted existing systems from potable to recycled water. They are currently using about 15 million gallons of recycled water per year, and anticipate this increasing to 24 million gallons by the end of the year.
About the Water Conservation Awards Coalition
The Coalition overseeing the Silicon Valley Water Conservation Awards includes: Acterra, Bay Area Water Supply & Conservation Agency, City of Foster City, City of Palo Alto, GreenTown Los Altos, Joint Venture: Silicon Valley Network, Santa Clara County Creeks Coalition, Santa Clara Valley Water District, Sierra Club Loma Prieta Chapter, Silicon Valley Leadership Group, Sustainable San Mateo County, Sustainable Silicon Valley and Tuolumne River Trust. Special thanks to The Campbell Foundation and The San Francisco Foundation for their support of the Silicon Valley Water Conservation Awards.