Equilibrium & Sustainability

These are the best and worst states for water efficiency

FILE – Water from the Colorado River diverted through the Central Arizona Project fills an irrigation canal on Aug. 18, 2022, in Maricopa, Ariz. The first weeks of 2023 will be crucial for Southwest U.S. states and water entities to agree how to use less water from the drought-stricken and fast-shrinking Colorado River, a top federal water manager said Friday, Dec. 16, 2022. (AP Photo/Matt York, File)

California, Texas and Arizona scored the highest on a new ranking of nationwide water efficiency policies, while Mississippi, Alaska and the Dakotas landed in the lowest spots, a new report has found.

Water services in most U.S. states are woefully inefficient, even as the impacts of widespread drought undermine water affordability and reliability, a new report has found.

States on average earned only 23 points out of a total possible 89 on a 2022 State Rankings Scorecard released on Wednesday by the Alliance for Water Efficiency, a stakeholder-based nonprofit in Chicago.

While some states showed improvement since the previous scorecard — from 2017 — the analysis observed “little-to-no meaningful progress” overall.

The top-scoring state — the state with the most advanced policies on water efficiency, conservation, sustainability and accessibility — was California, according to the scorecard.

Trailing California were Texas, Arizona, Georgia, Washington, New York, Nevada, New Hampshire, Colorado and Minnesota.

Among the worst performing states were Mississippi, Alaska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Missouri, Wyoming, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Oklahoma and Nebraska.

“Most states continue to put the onus on local water agencies, businesses, and the public to pay for and implement water efficiency and sustainable water services,” the report stated.

To compile this year’s rankings, the Alliance for Water Efficiency asked each state to complete a survey that assessed whether certain water efficiency and sustainability laws had been adopted — and then assigned points based on the answers.

The survey and scoring rubric were reviewed by an advisory committee, which included a group of state water agency officials, according to the report.

The 2022 scorecard assessed several issues included in the previous rendition: plumbing fixture standards, water loss control, drought preparedness and water conservation planning, state funding and technical assistance for water efficiency, climate action planning, and whether rate structures encourage conservation.

The current version also considered some new factors: water-land use planning, accounting for energy savings from water efficiency and state funding for both water bill assistance and water reuse.

Among the key observations was California’s uniqueness as the only state that requires water utilities to plan for climate change.

In addition, the scorecard found that Connecticut is the only state that reported using its own funds to support customer water bill assistance.

The survey identified 18 states that use their own revenues to fund water efficiency and conservation, as well as 16 states that provide funding for water reuse.

Thirteen states require rate structures that encourage water efficiency, while 19 mandate coordination between local land use and water planning agencies, according to the report.

The Alliance for Water Efficiency identified numerous opportunities for policy improvement particularly among the seven Colorado River Basin states, which have been enduring prolonged drought fueled by climate change.

These states — which averaged 37 out of 89 on the scorecard — could benefit from adopting plumbing efficiency standards, limiting water loss from distribution systems and financing water reuse and recycling, the report found.

“Providing sustainable water services is increasingly costly and complicated because of climate change and other factors,” Ron Burke, president and CEO of the Alliance for Water Efficiency, said in a statement.

“It is important that states, as well as the federal government, support local efforts to reduce water use with financial assistance, policies that drive best practices, and planning that facilitates cooperation across watersheds,” Burke added.

Tags water efficiency

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