WaterSmart Innovations gathers best plumbing, conservation minds

BY ROBERT P. MADEROf CONTRACTOR’s staff

LAS VEGAS — More than 1,000 participants from 40 states and 10 foreign nations took part in the third annual WaterSmart Innovations Conference and Exposition, held here in early October. WaterSmart Innovations has turned into the country’s premier assemblage of water conservation experts, including toilet testing engineers John Koeller and Bill Gauley, hot water expert Gary Klein from Affiliated International Management, engineer, author and green guru Jerry Yudelson, Dave Viola from International Association of Plumbing & Mechanical Officials, and Shawn Martin from the International Code Council.

Presented by the Southern Nevada Water Authority in partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense program, the American Water Works Association and other forward-thinking organizations, WSI offered more than 130 professional sessions in a variety of tracks as well as an expo hall featuring nearly 90 exhibitors from around the world. WaterSmart is the only conference that tracks the usage of water from the time it comes out of the ground through disposal.

“WSI provides a venue for professionals in a wide range of disciplines to come together in one place, at one time, to share their best practices and experiences,” said WSI 2010 Program Manager Doug Bennett. “The goal of WSI is to serve as a catalyst for these professionals, many of whom are from areas facing drought or water shortages, to implement new ideas with the goal of making their organization or community more water-efficient.”

The trade show included well-known names such as Niagara Conservation, Caroma, ACT Metlund, Kohler, Gerber, Grundfos, ICC’s Plumbing, Mechanical & Fuel Gas Group, and IAPMO. Zurn showed its HydroVantage sensor flush valve that generates its own electricity from every flush. Fluidmaster’s Greg Wisner showed CONTRACTOR a dual flush conversion kit that can be applied to any toilet. Wisner said a 5.0-gpf toilet could be converted to 4.0/2.5-gpf.

During the seminars, Shawn Martin, director of industry relations for ICC PMG, told attendees that residential graywater systems were sure to gain more acceptance. Graywater is defined by the plumbing codes as water drained from tubs, showers, lavatories, clothes washers and laundry trays. Other water that can be reclaimed and reused includes rainwater, swimming pool water, air conditioning condensate, steam boiler condensate, foundation drain water, and municipally reclaimed water, which is most often used for landscape irrigation.

Packaged graywater systems are on the market and they soon will be tested to NSF and CSA standards that are under development. NSF 350 covers onsite treatment of up to 1,500-gallons/day. The standard will also address blackwater, non-potable restricted and unrestricted uses both indoors and out (a restricted outdoor use means underground drip irrigation only. Unrestricted means the water can be sprayed above ground). NSF 350 includes a 26-week testing period and it will be released by mid-2011. CSA B128.3 covers equipment that treats 2,650-GPD for non-potable restricted and unrestricted uses and it calls for a 46-week test. It will be out by late summer 2011.

John Koeller, Koeller & Co., and Bill Gauley, Veritec Consulting, briefed attendees on the eight anniversary of their groundbreaking Maximum Performance Test for toilets. Gauley recounted how 1.6-gpf toilets didn’t work in 1993 and by 2000 the only test for toilets used media such as plastic balls and was just a pass/fail test. The two engineers, under the sponsorship of 22 U.S. and Canadian water utilities, created the MaP test to give consumers a better idea of what toilets actually worked and the utilities a better idea of which toilets were worth rebating in water conservation programs. Gauley recalled that in 2002, half the toilets failed to remove what was considered to be the minimum amount, 200 grams, of soybean past from the bowl.

In a separate session, Koeller gave the rundown on various green codes, standards and guidelines. Koeller pointed out that none of these are the law, including the two main model codes, unless a local jurisdiction passes it into law. The standards include Green Globes, ASHRAE Standards 189 and 191, and ICC’s collaboration with NAHB, ICC 700-2008, its green home standard. ICC 700 also applies to lodging. All three of those are ANSI standards. Green Globes may not survive the competition, Koeller observed. ASHRAE Standard 191 on water conservation in non-residential buildings is moving exceedingly slowly, and Koeller said some question the need for 191 since there are water conservation measures contained in ASHRAE’s high-performance building standard, Standard 189. Then there are guidelines that are not standards, like the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED 2009, EPA’s WaterSense, the Collaborative for High Performance Schools, Green Guide for Health Care, Built Green, Florida Water Star, Masco’s Environments for Living, which is aimed at homebuilders.

In bad news for commercial disposer manufacturers, Bill Hoffman, H.W. (Bill) Hoffman & Associates LLC, told attendees at a commercial kitchen session that large food service operations are pulling out their disposers because of the copious amounts of water they use. Food service operators are instead straining and composting their food waste, he said.

Dave Viola, director of special services for IAPMO, updated attendees on the Green Plumbing & Mechanical Code Supplement, which reduces water consumption by 20% over IAPMO’s Uniform Plumbing Code. The Supplement, which references EPA’s WaterSense, requires submeters, covers water treatment equipment, and limits tub spout diverter leakage to 0.1-GPM. The Green Technical Committee is working on clarifying the flow rates for commercial sink faucets for hand washing vs. other uses, cutting pre-rinse spray valves down to 1.3-GPM, and reducing dipper well faucet consumption. The Committee is also looking at revising pipe sizing for low flows by modifying Hunters Curve, which has not kept pace with reduced water flow from fixtures. The Committee’s task groups are also debating the role of water softeners, alternate water sources, efficient use of hot water, and solar electric-powered heat tapes for hot water distribution.

In addition to EPA, other sponsors include the Alliance for Water Efficiency, American Water Works Association, Audubon International, California Urban Water Conservation Council, GreenPlumbersUSA, IAPMO, International Center for Water Technology, and Irrigation Association.

Major sponsors include Niagara Conservation, Rain Bird Corp., Caroma, Parsons Corp., MWH Global Inc., Black & Veatch, Hunter Industries, Ewing Irrigation Products Inc., Water Management Inc., and Herndon Solutions Group.