With California facing water shortfalls in the driest year in recorded state history, Governor Brown today proclaimed a State of Emergency. (Photo courtesy California Office of the Governor)

With California facing water shortfalls in the driest year in recorded state history, Governor Brown today proclaimed a State of Emergency. (Photo courtesy California Office of the Governor)

Speaking at a San Francisco news conference on January 17th, California Governor Jerry Brown officially declared a drought emergency in the state. Brown called on all citizens to voluntarily reduce their water use by at least 20%. 2013 was the driest year on record in California with San Francisco receiving the least amount of rain since the city began keeping precipitation records. The drought announcement comes on the heels of a landmark proposal requiring the insulation of hot water piping in new buildings in an effort to conserve water.

The proposal, put forth by the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry (UA) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), would save energy and water in new buildings. The two organizations jointly submitted the proposal to the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO).

In a statement, the groups said Americans waste millions of gallons of water by letting water run until it’s hot enough for use in showers and sinks. To curtail this waste in new buildings, NRDC and the UA proposed that the 2015 edition of IAPMO ‘s Uniform Plumbing Code require insulation of all hot water piping systems such as those serving lavatories, showers, dishwashers, and kitchen sinks. The Uniform Plumbing Code is the model for local and state plumbing codes now in force in at least 19 states.

Mike Massey, Executive Director of the Piping Industry Progress and Education Trust Fund and a member of the World Plumbing Council Executive Board told High Rise Facilities: “The recent proposal is groundbreaking in that a major trade union and environmental organization are joining forces to save water and energy.” Massey, who frequently represents the UA in Green Building-Energy Efficiency-Environmental matters went on to say, “The UA has long been involved in energy efficiency. In fact, water conservation and energy efficiency have long been part of the union’s training program.”

Peter Lehner, Executive Director at the Natural Resources Defense Council, commented: “Most of us waste too much time, energy and money waiting for hot water to come out of our faucets and showers. By combining efficient designs, proven energy-saving materials, and skilled labor, we can build smarter buildings that curb this waste and improve the amenity of new buildings. This proposal will not only save homeowners and renters money on their monthly utility bills but also protects our environment by cutting energy and water use.�?

William P. Hite, General President of the United Association, added: “This proposal is indicative of the UA’s commitment in construction, service and maintenance practices required for energy efficient green buildings. Throughout the construction industry, there are untapped opportunities to make our buildings and our economy more efficient, and we should seize these opportunities to create good jobs for American workers.�?

According to Massey, almost 20% of all the electricity used in California is used to pump water and in most cases, electricity or gas are used to heat water. Currently, about eight percent of U.S. energy demand goes to treating, pumping, and heating water, which is enough electricity to power more than 5 million homes for an entire year. Water heating also accounts for 19 percent of home energy use. Moreover, letting a faucet run for five minutes uses about as much energy as using a 60-watt light bulb for 14 hours.

“Insulating hot water and cold water piping in commercial buildings is commonplace, and this proposal will see that its required in all applications. With California’s Governor declaring a drought emergency, we expect to see water and energy conservation taken to the next step, which will mandate water recycling, reuse, hot water circulating systems, rain and storm water catchment systems and of course solar powered pumps and ever more energy efficient pumps,” added Massey.

The IAPMO convenes their 85th Annual Education and Business Conference in Minneapolis in September and will vote on the new proposal at that time, with implementation likely to occur in 2015.