EPA Considers Labeling Program For Water Efficient Products

The Environmental Protection Agency is working to establish a national, voluntary, market-based program for promoting water-efficient products...

by James Laughlin

The Environmental Protection Agency is working to establish a national, voluntary, market-based program for promoting water-efficient products with the goal of conserving water supplies and reducing water and wastewater infrastructure needs.

More than 36 states expect to experience water shortages over the next 10 years, even without drought conditions, according to EPA. At the same time, the nation needs to spend 100s of billions of dollars to maintain and improve water infrastructure.

The Pacific Institute, a California based non-profit environmental think-tank, recently released a major new report on water conservation. The report titled, "Waste Not Want Not: The Potential for Urban Water Conservation in California" presents a compelling case that substantial water savings can still be achieved through conservation in the urban sector. Although focused on California, the findings in this report are applicable to most regions of North America that are considering developing new supplies of water.

Along with conservation, efficient water use can have major environmental, public health and economic benefits by helping to improve water quality, maintaining ecosystems and protecting drinking water resources. Wise water use can also save homeowners money on water and energy bills without compromising convenience or performance.

Water-efficient products meeting current standards can reduce home water use up to 30 percent and many products on the market today exceed those standards, EPA said. Water-efficient products for commercial use can save up to 20 percent, and opportunities exist in the industrial sector as well. However, there isn't a national, easy-to-use guide to help consumers locate and purchase water-efficient products.

EPA is evaluating various public information tools to help raise awareness of the importance of water conservation and the growing demands placed on America's water supplies and water infrastructure systems.

The water efficient product labeling program is just one of the tools under consideration. It would be based on EPA's successful Energy Star program, a government-backed program to protect the environment through energy efficiency.

A national program would seek to increase water efficiency by informing water users of the advantages of water-efficient products, motivating manufacturers to produce more water-efficient products, and encouraging distributors, retailers and local water utilities to promote these products.

The types of products the Agency plans to evaluate include plumbing products, appliances, and landscape irrigation devices.

EPA wants to build "partnerships" to help promote the program. Without support from stakeholders, including manufacturers, retailers, water and wastewater systems, municipalities, states, consumer organizations, and environmental groups, a market enhancement program for water efficient products will not be viable and certainly would not reach the level of success enjoyed by the Energy Star program.

So far, a wide range of utilities, associations and manufacturers have endorsed the water efficient products program, including the AWWA, Water Environment Federation, American Public Works Association and both AMSA and AMWA. More than 50 state and local water agencies also have endorsed the program.

As part of its promotional efforts, EPA has held a series of stakeholder meetings to discuss water efficient products. A final meeting is tentatively planned for April in Seattle, WA.

For more information on the program, visit www.epa.gov/owm/water-efficiency/index.htm

James Laughlin, Editor

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