Thursday, May 17, 2007

Water, water everywhere

Water Use Operational Review Update

Water use is an important responsibility for all state agencies. Water usage has both a fiscal and environmental impact on the Commonwealth. This issue also holds opportunities for the state to lead by example with proper water use and water supply planning techniques.

The water use team was established to look at existing practices within state government and recommend ways the state can be more efficient and cost effective in the realm of water use. The team is developing a set of key recommendations that will aim at reducing the amount of water used as well as the associated costs. Delegates Tom Rust and Rob Wittman and Senator Phillip Puckett serve as the team’s legislative leaders. The Assistant Secretary of Natural Resources is coordinating the team’s work. Team members include representatives from the Department of Environmental Quality, the Department of General Services, Virginia Tech and the Virginia Military Institute.

In order to make the larger issue of Water Use more manageable, the team began working within five key sub-topics:

Water Re-use
Reducing Consumption
Water Supply Planning
Buildings (New construction, Retro-fits, Site management)

By dividing the issue up into these sub-topics, the group was able to put forth five initial recommendations.

1. Encourage additional state agencies, localities and private sector companies to pursue participation in the Virginia Environmental Excellence Program.

The Virginia Environmental Excellence Program (VEEP) recognizes facilities that have demonstrated a commitment to enhanced environmental performance. The Program is open to the private sector as well as state agencies. At the end of 2006 there were 345 facilities in the program. Approximately 85 individual state facilities participate in the program. In some instances each physical location is counted as a separate facility due to the way compliance requirements are set up.

Cost savings and environmental benefits of the VEEP are demonstrated. In 2006, participating facilities (public and private) achieved the following results:
$2.5 million in cost savings;
21.7 million gallons of water recycled;
46.3 million gallon reduction in water use;
55,980 square foot reduction in impervious surfaces.

2. Implement building specific or agency specific employee training regarding water conservation.

The programs would include, at a minimum: basic water conservation tips; a review of current procurement practices for water efficient purchasing opportunities; and, employee training regarding water use and consumption.

3. Finalize water re-use regulations and implement agency pilot program.

On March 9, 2007, the State Water Control Board approved the proposed Water Reclamation and Reuse Regulation. It is anticipated that the draft regulations will be finalized for public notice later this year. As part of the regulatory process, the Department of Environmental Quality will also be developing an economic impact analysis on the costs and benefits of the regulation requirements. The proposed regulation will establish requirements for the reclamation and reuse of wastewater that are protective of state waters and public health. For six reuse categories (urban – unrestricted access, irrigation - unrestricted access, irrigation – restricted access, landscape impoundments, construction, and industrial), the regulation specifies the required treatment standards and allows for the approval of other reuses and associated treatment standards commensurate with the quality of the reclaimed water and its intended reuse.

4. Require the use of Low Impact Development (LID) techniques in new construction projects.

The Department of Conservation and Recreation actively encourages the use of Low Impact Development (LID) as a means of complying with the state Stormwater Management and Chesapeake Bay Act Regulations. LID strategies strive to allow natural infiltration to occur as close as possible to the original area of rainfall. By engineering terrain, vegetation, and soil features to perform this function, costly conveyance systems can be avoided, and the landscape can retain more of its natural hydrological function. Low Impact Development practices dovetail with "green" building practices that incorporate environmental considerations into all phases of the development process. Builders can often use green building and LID to lower actual development costs.

Cost benefits to builders and developers utilizing LID strategies can be significant. According to the Center for Watershed Protection, traditional curbs, gutters, storm drain inlets, piping and detention basins can cost two to three times more than engineered grass swales and other techniques to handle roadway runoff. Case studies and pilot programs show at least a 25 to 30% reduction in costs associated with site development, stormwater fees, and maintenance on projects that use LID techniques. However, costs are very site specific and the implementation of LID practices should be determined by the site.

5. Retro-fit state-owned buildings with water efficient fixtures where cost effective. Require the use of sub-meters on large volume equipment in new construction projects.

The Department of General Services currently requires new state construction projects to use water efficient fixtures. However, there may be potential for improvement in equipment design and retro-fits. Sub-meters should be installed on large volume equipment such as chillers, boilers, cooling towers, irrigation, etc. This would allow the building operator to identify potential inefficiencies.

According to a study done by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the average potential water savings for an existing commercial office building is 28%. 63% of the savings are achieved through domestic plumbing fixtures, specifically the use of low-volume toilets, urinals and faucets. The typical payback for these water saving strategies are generally less than 3 years. The state could achieve many of these reductions by investing in appliances with the EPA “WaterSense” logo.


The Water Operational Review Team is drafting its full set of recommendations from this review. We welcome additional advice and input from readers of the VACostCutting blog. Please share your thoughts with the team through this blog. In addition, you can send your ideas to me at with the subject line “Communications Review from VACostCutting blog”.


  • Great ideas, the Lewis Creek Watershed Advisory Commitee has been trying to bring these ideas to the local governments.
    Robert Flanders

    By Anonymous Robert Flanders, at 5/17/2007 9:05 PM  

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