We are just back from WaterSmart Innovations 2017 and want to congratulate our friends at the Southern Nevada Water Authority, the Alliance for Water Efficiency and others on the 10th Anniversary for this terrific event.  Billed as the “world’s premier urban water efficiency conference,” WSI 2017 did not disappoint. 

There were an extraordinary number of good things to experience and learn about at WaterSmart Innovations this year.  WaterNow Alliance was delighted to present on our ongoing initiative to open the door for utilities to invest at scale in water efficiency; we were joined by former GFOA President Ed Harrington, Moss Adams National Utility Practice Leader Julie Desimone, and Norton Rose Attorney and municipal bond expert Mary Kimura.

Several sessions stand out in our minds as we continue to marinate on the wealth of information presented:

Tucson Demonstrates Avoided Costs Through Conservation

The City of Tucson presented the results of a study conducted in collaboration with WaterDM and AWE examining the impact of water efficiency and conservation programs on customer rates. Customers are often perplexed by increasing rates even though they’re using less water. This study demonstrated that Tucson’s multi-pronged approach has reduced demand even as their population has grown. As a result, Tucson’s water and wastewater rates are 11.7% lower than they would have been due the avoided costs of capital improvement and increased capacity projects that otherwise would have been necessary. We’re hoping to see more municipalities use avoided cost analysis – capturing these savings is a big part of keeping water affordable.

Sacramento Goes Above and Beyond

The City of Sacramento shared insights into how they build a successful marketing campaign to get their customers to conserve even after Governor Brown declared an end to the drought. Bill Hoffman shared 50-years of experience in water conservation and reuse, and thoughts about where he sees the industry going. His telling observation – repeated throughout the conference – was: “You have a very Red state like Texas, and you have a very Blue state like California but they’ve both come to the same conclusion. It’s important to invest in conservation and efficiency.”

QWEL Spreads Far & Wide (and Wins Awards!)

Representative from San Diego County and Utah State University presented on their successful Qualified Water Efficient Landscaper training programs.  As a QWEL Professional Certifying Organization (PCO), WaterNow Alliance is always excited to hear about the great work other PCOs are doing to reduce landscape water demand, and it’s exciting to hear how the same program can be so successful even when managed in vastly different ways. In more exciting QWEL news, the Marin-Sonoma Saving Water Partnership’s QWEL program was honored the WaterSense 2017 Sustained Excellence Award and Education and Outreach Award.

Finally, like everyone attending, we felt the deep impact of the terrible tragedy that occurred in Las Vegas just days before we arrived. But being at WSI, among such passionate peers, provided us with a renewed appreciation for those working to do good in the world.

Ten years later, WaterSmart innovations has proved itself to be one conference you definitely don’t want to miss. We look forward to seeing everyone again next year in Las Vegas.

Cynthia Koehler is the Executive Director and Danielle McPherson is the Water Resource Specialist and Project Manager of WaterNow Alliance. For more information about the authors, visit our staff page.

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