technology profile - water management
EPA WaterSense Program
Beyond just establishing certified products that save on water usage is the notion of certification of an entire home.
By STEVE PANOSIAN
INITIALLY ESTABLISHED IN 2006, the EPA’s WaterSense program was and still is aimed at raising awareness of the need for reducing residential water usage. Think of WaterSense as the Energy Star certification for water. Climate change, clean water, air purity, energy conservation and energy usage are among the drivers in the net zero sustainable world. As homes are built and outfitted with the latest technology that delivers automated functions like security and monitoring, lighting control, healthier air, indoor environmental control and energy usage, this article will bring to light what the government has implemented in certifying the many ways that address controlling and reducing water usage.
Their accomplishments are remarkable:
• All 50 states are participating in the WaterSense program
• Amazingly, the WaterSense annual budget is only $2 million
• The ROI is more than $87 billion in water, sewer and energy cost savings
• Over 4.4 trillion gallons of water saved, the usage level of all U.S. households for six months
• $380 annual savings estimated for homes with $1,000 water bills retrofitted with WaterSense labeled fixtures and ENERGY STAR certified appliances
• 522.9 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity saved, one year of power for 47.7 million homes
70 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered by water and 1 percent of Earth’s water is available for human use. It’s been reported that 40 states expect local, statewide or regional water shortages, and we are experiencing the shortages forecasted less than 10 years ago.
My personal water-saving usage experience in my household has always been focused on the simplest measures – avoiding running the facets senselessly in the bathrooms and kitchen, attaching water-saving shower heads, purchasing energy and water-saving dishwashers and washing machines, and for our lawn, we didn’t invest in a water sprinkler system.
For the water-saving-conscious consumer, there are many products on the market that mitigate some of the problems of wasteful water usage habits. What’s evolved beyond establishing certified products for the home that save on water usage is buying into the notion of certification of an entire home.
Outfitting the custom smart home you would think simply entails purchasing the most advanced WaterSense labeled products. Is it a question of changing fixtures and appliances or designing a home to meet a specification? Let’s take a look at what the EPA is doing today.
the WaterSense label and the WaterSense labeled home
WaterSense is a voluntary partnership program sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The WaterSense label for water-efficient products can be associated as a resource for helping everyone find water-efficient products, new homes and programs that meet EPA’s criteria for efficiency and performance. WaterSense-labeled products and services are certified to use at least 20 percent less water, save energy and perform as well as or better than regular models. WaterSense partners with manufacturers, retailers and distributors, homebuilders, irrigation professionals and utilities to encourage innovation in manufacturing and support sustainable jobs for American workers.
New for 2022, as of January 1st, homes must meet the updated requirements to earn the WaterSense label. The specification ensures that WaterSense-labeled homes are at least 30 percent more water-efficient than a comparable home using typical new construction.
WHY A 30 PERCENT SAVINGS REQUIREMENT?
WaterSense labeled homes are required to be at least 30 percent more water-efficient than typical new construction. EPA has established this threshold to:
• Maintain household water savings relative to the previous version of the WaterSense labeled homes program
• Establish a benchmark that, while relatively rigorous, is universally achievable regardless of the local building market or climate
• Provide an appropriate balance of indoor and outdoor water efficiency measures across all climates
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF A WATERSENSE LABELED HOME?
WaterSense labeled homes are verified and certified to meet EPA’s Mandatory Checklist and water efficiency criteria. Some of the benefits of WaterSense-labeled homes may include:
• Savings that perform. WaterSense labeled homes are verified for performance as well as efficiency, including WaterSense labeled plumbing fixtures that are independently certified to use less water and perform as well or better than standard models.
• Quantifiable savings. Compared to typical new construction, the average family in a WaterSense labeled home can save more than 50,000 gallons of water annually inside and out, as well as over $700 in water and electricity costs per year, not to mention that water savings could be even higher in hot, dry climates.
• Peace of mind. Trained professionals conduct independent verifications to ensure that WaterSense labeled homes meet EPA’s criteria.
• Outdoor ease. High-performing landscapes are designed to be low-maintenance and water-efficient without sacrificing curb appeal. The addition of WaterSense labeled irrigation products help homeowners water smarter.
The basics of this certification highlight the key features the EPA evaluates:
• Efficiency of plumbing products
• Efficiency of water-using appliances
• Water waste from hot water delivery
• Housing design and layout
• Influence of landscape size, design and plant choices on theoretical irrigation requirements
• Irrigation design and technology
MANDATORY CHECKLIST FOR WATERSENSE LABELED HOMES
The Mandatory Checklist helps ensure quality performance in addition to efficiency:
• Pressure-loss test on all water supplies detection
• Free of visible leaks from bathroom faucet(s)
• Free of visible leaks from bathroom tub faucet(s),
tub spout(s) and showerhead(s)
• Free of visible leaks from the kitchen and sink faucets
Labeled Product Checklist
• Bathroom sink faucets
Independent certification for both water savings and performance help assure home buyers in a competitive market where third-party certifications matter. Consumers who are looking for a choice in efficient homes will find savings with WaterSense labeled homes should work with builders that:
• Earned the WaterSense label
• Adhere to its program guidelines
• Promote WaterSense
• Collaborate with their partners, vendors and inspectors
• Ensure that the home will meet the WaterSense specification
Like any other early planning step, the benefits of presenting and buying into a WaterSense-certified home must be clearly understood by everyone on the design-build team and, of course, the customer.
WATER USE AND SAVINGS FACTS
How we use water from the nation's lakes, rivers and groundwater aquifers, and why it's important to be smarter about how we use it is no different than energy conscious. Reliable and innovative WaterSense labeled products and a little "water sense" will get everyone on the road to saving water.
Given that 70 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered by water and 1 percent of Earth’s water is available for human use and it’s been reported that 40 states expect local, statewide or regional water shortages (2014 report), and we are experiencing the shortages forecasted less than 10 years ago. We can control the necessary changes for saving water.
• 82 gallons of water on average a day is used by each person (as of 2015)
• 50 percent of all household indoor water use is in the bathroom
• 13,000 gallons of water savings per year by replacing all old, inefficient toilets
• 5,700 gallons per year can be saved by turning the facet off when shaving and brushing teeth
• 90 gallons a day can be saved by easy-to-fix leaks
• 2nd largest use of energy in a home is the water heater (after space heating and cooling)
• 8 billion gallons of water used each day, residential landscape irrigation
• 15,000 gallons of a home’s irrigation water can be saved annually with a WaterSense controller
• 10 gallons of water is wasted running water non-stop while washing dishes
• Outdoor water usage accounts for more than 30 percent of total household water use, on average, but can be as much as 60 percent of total household water use in arid regions.
WATERSENSE PARTNER NETWORK
What I find most fascinating are the inroads that WaterSense has achieved when you review its advancements and evolution. I would imagine that the design-build community is already benefiting from their investments in energy and more recently, water savings home design fixtures as consumers become more actively purchasing products and solutions that protect our environment.
The EPA is building WaterSense as a national brand for water efficiency. That brand is more than just a product label; it is a symbol that represents the importance of water efficiency in the U.S. Making WaterSense labeled products, new homes, and services the preferred choice among consumers will help preserve water supplies for future generations, save on utility bills, and protect the environment. But the EPA can’t achieve these goals alone. The agency developed a partnership program to share resources and encourage the adoption of water-efficient behaviors and quality products that use less water.
• Resources are in place that define the benefits of
becoming a WaterSense partner
• Any organization is eligible to become a partner and join
• The national WaterSense community reach shares best practices with the local communities
• Partner of the Year recognition is given to those partners who go above and beyond
• A national partner directory provides he ability to search for partners by type, state or name
NEW WATERSENSE CERTIFIED PRODUCTS
The EPA makes available via www.epa.gov/watersense/products-development what new water-efficient products are in development for WaterSense! WaterSense is open to new products it should consider and whether products are providing consumer satisfaction.
• Find a WaterSense labeled product: lookforwatersense.epa.gov/index.html
• Find water-saving partner rebate programs: lookforwatersense.epa.gov/rebates
• Find out about a product’s water and money-saving potential: epa.gov/watersense/start-saving
WATERSENSE CERTIFICATION USAGE LOCALLY
I perused the various national and local retailer websites and found a considerable amount of WaterSense products offered online. Interesting from a marketing perspective, while some items do state ‘WaterSense Certified’ in their product descriptors, there are others that simply display the WaterSense Logo. I also do not see a WaterSense filter sorting tool on the online product page, but the search function does seem to list the EPA-approved products.
Regardless, I will continue to shut the water off between washing dishes, brushing my teeth and washing my car. I’ll count on the WaterSense program to continue what they are doing best.