From Water Wiki
Problems and possible solutions
Improve water efficiency
- Incentives for smart outdoor irrigation controller installs and retrofits (Evapotranspiration and/or soil moisture controllers)
- Pricing water correctly -- i.e. close to its marginal cost.
- Pricing alone doesn't affect behavior, though, without immediate feedback to let users connect their behavior to savings. So metering and billing need to be modernized to give consumers feedback: how do their everyday actions affect what they are paying? how does their consumption compare to community norms? Research shows that even simple signals (smiley faces for below-average consumption) powerfully affect human behavior.
- Incentivize builders to install cisterns/water collection system. An inch of rain on a 1,000-square-foot roof harvests 600 gallons of water. Installing a cistern can cost between $5000 - $10,000 for a 1700 gallon tank.
- Incentivize builders to install recycled (gray) water systems. Using recycled water for irrigation saves drinking water supplies. Recycled water costs 20% less than drinking water and provides nutrients for lawns and plants and reduces wastewater that would otherwise be released into local streams and creeks. NC law allows gray water systems for bathtubs, showers, lavatories, clothes washers and laundry sinks.
- Better benchmarking of water utilities.
- Incentivize use of efficient dishwasher and clothes washers.
- Water efficiency in state buildings - a major step has been taken in 2007-2008 with legislation setting water and energy efficiency standards
- Require irrigation contractors, landscape architects to be licensed and certified (at least for installs of a certain size)
- Ban/declare against public policy restrictive covenants, homeowners' association requirements and elements of land use (zoning and subdivision ordinances) that force irrigation and/or choice of water-intensive plantings or design
- Encourage season rate structures or other conservation rate structures that price high home consumption and/or irrigation use higher than potable use
- Regulate development to encourage multifamily dwellings. Multifamily dwellings use a small fraction of outdoor water use in comparison with individual single-family homes, primarily due to the smaller amount of turf associated with multifamily dwellings.
- Expand efficiency regulations for new developments. For example, water catchment and grey water systems can be built into buildings. For example, http://www.loraxdevelopment.com/pressreleases-greenesthouse.htm
- Improve Plumbing and Building Codes and Increase Retrofits – Adopt new standards for water efficient fixtures, including toilets, showerheads, faucets, and irrigation systems for new construction. Require separate meters and valves for all new irrigation systems. Remove barriers to collection and reuse of stormwater and wastewater in building and plumbing codes. Require upgrade of some plumbing fixtures such as toilets, showerheads and hot water heaters to current standards to save water & energy before existing commercial and residential properties are sold. Move N.C. building code standards closer to EPA Water Sense standards.
- Efficiency analysis requirements before construction of new intakes and water plants. Regulators and/or funders should get satisfactory answers to questions such as these before approving and/or financing new water intakes or plants/plant expansions.
- Research and educate on plantings and landscape design that minimizes the need for irrigation (hydro-zone approach). Outdoor water use accounts for approx. 10% of residential water use (demand can increase to as much as 30% during dryer conditions) in the Southeast.
- Educate farmers and recreational growers about crop/landscape plants coefficients, evapotranspiration rates, crop curve and water budgets. Incentivize monitoring systems.
- Begin state-wide environmental education program for K-12 schools. Use garden-based education to teach about conservation, stewardship and environmental justice. For example, the watershed project and the Edible Schoolyard.
- Agricultural improvements - furrow diking, land leveling, direct seeding, drip irrigation, changes in plant varieties
- Encourage on site precipitation capture and reuse for landscapes (ie. rain barrels)
- Increase targeted campaigns to install retrofit devices for toilets (can save .5-1.5 gallons per flush), showers (results vary greatly), urinals (can save .5-1.0 gallons per flush) and faucets (results vary greatly). Door-to-door residential water audits may include installation of retrofit devices.
- Education of the population in general about household water efficiency: leaks, appliances, faucets, toilets, showers.
- Precision irrigation: proper sensors and other forms of precision irrigation. USDA Florence Ag Research Station water project. Another example is Irrigation Management System, where the program uses weather and soil moisture information to provide growers with suggested irrigation dates and run times. Participating growers receive the information in a weekly Grower Report by e-mail. The system could become even more efficient if test results were "real time" instead of weekly. Even drip irrigation and microsprinklers can achieve efficiencies in excess of 95%, compared to flood irrigation efficiencies of 60% or less.
- Data and Institutional learning
- Use existing regulatory hooks related to water supply to examine water system efficiency, perhaps through a checklist of required measures rather than or in addition to the current point system for public funding
- It is difficult to use NCDENR's local water supply plans to compare municipal usage, since municipalities record water use differently. For example, Winston-Salem does not differentiate between light commercial and residential usage.
Improve drought response
- Uniform stages for drought response, at least within media markets. Is the Duke/Catawba Low Inflow Protocol a good model?
- Conservation pricing
- Water budgeting (sub-set of conservation pricing)
- Emergency interconnections wherever cost-effective
- Authorize General Permit for Water Interconnections – Authorize DENR to develop a general permit for interconnecting water systems to expedite interconnections. Develop policy to address potential conflicts between the goal of interconnecting water systems and regulating interbasin transfers of water.
- Which water systems are interconnected? Which systems aren’t? Develop a plan to identify and encourage interconnections.
- Increase and Improve Basic Water Use Data – Require all users, including agriculture, of 100,000 gallons per day or more and/or 2,000,000 gallons/month of groundwater and/or surface water to annually report their average daily use, their monthly use, and their peak use to the Division of Water Resources in DENR. Require all users, including electric utilities, to report consumptive uses such as cooling and irrigation. Increase civil penalties from $500 per violation for non-compliance to $500 per day.
- Fund and Provide Water Audits – Appropriate $500,000 to the Division of Pollution Prevention & Environmental Assistance in DENR to provide water audits for industrial, commercial and institutional sectors and to cost-share water audits with water utilities. Require all state agencies, including universities and community colleges to conduct water and energy audits for all state buildings with their own funds and to identify cost effective measures to reduce water use by 25% (?) over 10 years by July 1, 2009. Encourage local governments to set similar goals. Note electric utilities are also cost sharing energy audits. Water efficiency and energy efficiency are linked. Encourage a partnership between electric utilities and DENR to coordinate energy and water audits.
- Encourage Year Round Water Efficiency – Require applicants for DENR, Rural Center and Clean Water Management Trust Fund grants and loans to demonstrate efficient use of existing water resources, including conservation water rate structure, leak detection, and adequate maintenance of existing systems, effective January 1, 2009. Direct State Water Infrastructure Commission (SWIC) to develop criteria, such as conservation rates, conservation programs, retrofit programs, and leak detection to determine water efficiency as set out in by SL 2005-454 (HB 1095). AWWA estimates that pumping water and wastewater consumes about 20% of municipal energy budgets. Efficient use of water increases energy efficiency.
- Plan for New Development – The Division of Water Quality requires municipalities to begin planning for new capacity when they reach 80% of wastewater capacity. DWQ can prohibit new connections for failure to provide adequate capacity. Clarify Division of Water Resources and Division of Environmental Health roles regarding planning for new water capacity. Authorize local governments to levy impact fees on development for water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure. Existing authority? New development requires “new “water from either new supplies or increased efficiency (and new wastewater and stormwater too).
- Stormwater is a Resource – Stormwater can be used to recharge groundwater, for cooling, irrigation and other purposes. Require collection, treatment (if necessary) and reuse of stormwater for all major new developments and redevelopments. Amend existing stormwater rules to address water quantity as well as quality and to resolve conflicts between quantity and quality objectives.
- Study Water Storage and Water Efficiency – Appropriate $1,000,000 to some entity (State Water Infrstructure Commission?) to conduct two studies: 1) to identify increasing water storage at existing reservoirs, to identify new sites for both surface and aquifer storage, and to identify loss of storage from sedimentation and other pollution and 2) to identify opportunities to increase water efficiency at the State and local levels.
- Increase industrial, commercial, and institutional water efficiency – Environmental Management Commission has authority to adopt rules and standards to protect water quality. Increasing water efficiency improves water quality. Strengthen EMC’s authority to adopt water efficiency standards for industrial, commercial and institutional sectors. (Or Create a Water Efficiency Board?) Industrial standards could provide credit to industries that have made substantial reductions in water use when calls for new reductions. It’s unfair to apply across the board reductions to industries that have already made substantial reductions. For example the State could adopt standards for recycling car wash water.
- Develop Drought Insurance Products – Farmers, landscapers, car washers, power washers, etc suffer during droughts and water restrictions. Direct Commissioner of Insurance to work with the insurance industry and adversely affected industries to provide affordable insurance for future droughts.
- Prevent Loss of Water Storage Capacity -- Sedimentation and pollution decrease water storage capacity and increase water treatment costs. Increase appropriations to Clean Water Management Trust Fund, Farmland Preservation Trust Fund and other trust funds to protect both water quantity and quality. Require protection and restoration of 50 foot riparian buffers along streams for all new development.
- Where are the best opportunities for the State to encourage and fund regional water, wastewater and stormwater systems?
- Water use efficiency - should become a permanent, year-round practice; could require that applicants for state grants and loans to expand water supply demonstrate efficient use of existing water resources (including conservation rate structure, leak detection programs, and maintenance of existing systems).
- Should improve plumbing, building, and fire codes; increase use of retrofits for existing buildings' fixtures; have separate meters and valves for new irrigation systems
- Remove barriers to collection and reuse of stormwater and wastewater
Efficiently resolve disputes over competing groundwater uses
- Declare public policy on priorities
- Capacity user area-lite: local delegation and/or easier declaration, coupled with incentives for declaration
- Regulate Water Withdrawals/Groundwater Withdrawals – Groundwater and surface water are connected and are public trust resources. Most stream flows and surface waters are discharged from groundwater. Authorize State and local governments to regulate withdrawal of groundwater to protect both the property rights of neighbors and public drinking water supplies. Authorize State and local governments to require all water users to comply with state or local water restrictions (i.e. water conservation restrictions should apply to people using both municipal supplies and private wells).
- Review and reconsider present approaches to underground injection.
- Authorize State and local governments to regulate withdrawal from groundwater - in order to protect both the property rights of neighbors and public drinking water supplies as groundwater and surface water are a connected
- Amend Well Construction Act to permit investigation into competition between adjoining wells and effects on surface water flows, and to allow caps on pumping rates and volumes
- Authorize bans of wells in riparian buffers and well setback requirements from discharge areas
Distant early warning and response for future shortage areas
- More effective information gathering on withdrawals (surface and groundwater)
- Make water supply planning meaningful. Have water systems assess and report reliability measures and incorporate them into basin models.
- Fund Additional River Basin Water Plans/Budgets – Division of Water Resources has/is developing models or budgets for the Catawba, Cape Fear, Yadkin/Pee Dee and Neuse River Basins. Appropriate $ to DWR to develop models/budgets for all river basins and to improve existing models/budgets which lack groundwater and impervious surface data.
- State water withdrawal permit
- State Incentive Permit
- Assured supply law
- Create a "stress framework", a statewide, agreed-upon system for predicting areas with water stress. Cf. Massachusett's Water Policy Report (2004), recommendation # 1.
Improve water availability
- Encourage infiltration of stormwater
- Rehabilitate PL-566 dams and ensure they do not become high hazards
- Encourage off-stream storage for municipal systems with run-of-river intakes
- Encourage regionalization of water systems where economies of scale or capital/capacity needs require it
- Regional Optimization - Aside from building more storage, increasing the capacity of existing storage, or making more use of currently unused storage, interconnected water supply systems can optimize the use of their existing storage by transferring water between systems, thereby reducing risk for all participating systems.
- Provide a faster, more certain path for small and medium-sized, locally funded reservoirs.
- Conservation as water supply
Comprehensive Water Resources Management Planning
- Problem - The current regulatory process results in a de facto right of prior allocation for both water withdrawals and wastewater discharges. Allocations of pollutant discharge are first-come, first-served, and there is virtually no permitting or allocation of withdrawals. Discharges continue until there is evidence of water quality impairment, and then all dischargers in the watershed are subject to reductions. Similarly for withdrawals, withdrawals continue until there is evidence of aquifer draw down or water supply depletion, and then blanket reductions are imposed on all withdrawers.
- Solution - The state should permit both water withdrawals and wastewater discharges based on Comprehensive Water Resources Management Plans. The Comprehensive Water Resources Management Plans should be developed by major river basin across the state with 50-year planning horizons, and should consider both projections of water supply withdrawals and wastewater discharges. The Comprehensive Water Resources Management Plans should use hydrologic modeling to analyze the impacts of withdrawals and discharges on water quantity, stream flows and lake levels, as has been done in the Cape Fear River Basin. The hydrologic model outputs should be used as water quality model inputs to analyze impacts of future withdrawals and discharges on water quality. The Comprehensive Water Resources Management Plans would at least provide an indication of whether water resources demands in a given river basin are approaching the basins carrying capacity, and if so, when that limit might be reached.
Any person interested in withdrawing water or discharging wastewater should be required to submit relevant information to the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources before being allowed to do so, without exception. The information submitted would be used to examine the potential impacts to water quantity and water quality in the associated river basins using hydrologic and water quality models.
The State could develop Comprehensive Basinwide Water Resources Management Plans along the lines of the current Basinwide Water Quality Plans and the Cape Fear River Basin Long Range Water Supply Plan. Such an approach would require hydrologic models for each river basin, and at least a generalized water quality model for each river basin. Information from the Comprehensive Water Resources Management Plans could be used to make decisions about allocations and management strategies, and if necessary, declare capacity use areas for increased regulation.
- An alternative method of implementing comprehensive water resources management planning would be to enable Watershed Authorities. Regional partnerships of local governments and interested stakeholders could form Watershed Authorities. Existing political jurisdictional boundaries in North Carolina do not match watershed boundaries. NC DENR could write watershed-wide NPDES permits and water withdrawal permits for the Watershed Authority. The Watershed authority would then conduct the planning, analyses and management necessary to coordinate the activities of the local governments within the watershed in collectively meeting the requirements of the watershed-wide permits. The watershed-wide permits could incorporate wastewater discharges, stormwater management, and water supply withdrawals.
- Operating procedures that are fixed around simple variables, like reservoir levels, may be wholly inadequate to deal with the more complicated aspects that modern water management presents. Factors like soil moisture, how long a drought has been proceeding, and groundwater levels should ideally be included in operating procedures for storage. Simply tweaking old curves may be inadequate.
- Problem - Currently, we have an incomplete picture of the present. We lack complete information on water withdrawals, such as locations, amounts, and uses. We lack complete information on surface and ground water sources, having at best a sparse network of stream gages and monitoring wells. We receive only sporadic information on distribution and collection systems. We have almost no information about agricultural withdrawals, either locations or amounts. We obtain land use/land cover data very infrequently and at only a coarse resolution.
- Solution - Better water resources management will require better monitoring. Additional information is needed to guide public and private water use decisions. We must require information about locations and amounts from all water withdrawers and wastewater dischargers. We must increase our number of stream gages and monitoring wells. We must obtain land cover and land use data at higher resolution and at least every five years in rapidly-developing areas.
- Problem - Fees charged for drinking water, stormwater and wastewater services by many utilities do not adequately cover the costs of providing those services. For example, many communities are not collecting sufficient revenue to replace their water distribution systems at a rate equal to the rate at which their aging pipes exceed their design lives. There are few water and wastewater systems that are operating in a truly sustainable fashion. As for stormwater services, we are only now just beginning to discover what the costs are.
- Solution - The utilities that provide drinking water, stormwater and wastewater services should all be setting rates sufficient to cover all of their costs, including infrastructure rehabilitation and replacement, and be operating sustainably. The State should adopt standards for sustainable water, wastewater, and stormwater utility operation, and require that utility revenues cover utility costs to operate sustainably. The NC American Water Works Association has already developed such standards.
- The N.C.Local Government Commission could be the entity that monitors the adequacy of revenue for publicly-owned water systems, as the Utilities Commission is for privately-owned systems
- Rate structures should be a choice of each utility, provided that revenues cover costs and the utilities are operated sustainably.
- Use a service-based, rather than a volumetric-based, approach to w/s/[stormwater] utility pricing. The incremental approach to this is just to tilt charges more towards base/fixed fees and charges and away from variable/volumetric charges. However, so long as we also want to send conservation pricing signals based around reduction of volume of use, these approaches work against each other. So we need entirely new models for utility pricing.
State Water Infrastructure Commission
- Problem - So far, SWIC has been ineffective in obtaining funding for water and sewer infrastructure, and has completely ignored stormwater management infrastructure needs.
- Solution - SWIC should focus on providing funding mechanisms to assist the public water, wastewater and stormwater utilities in meeting the local and regional infrastructure needs. The NC Rural and Economic Development Center’s Water 2030 study grossly underestimated the infrastructure needs for stormwater management. SWIC should consider the water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure needs for the entire state, not just the needs of the water and sewer utilities supported by the NC Rural and Economic Development Center.
Interbasin transfer changes
- Adjust river basin map to increase size of defined basins (perhaps eliminating some or all of the subbasins now defined as river basins for ibt purposes)