U.S. EPA works towards raising public awareness on water efficiency

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Assistant Administrator for Water, G. Tracy Mehan, III, announced that the Agency is planning a national program to promote water-efficient products to consumers.

Sept. 10, 2003 -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Assistant Administrator for Water, G. Tracy Mehan, III, announced that the Agency is planning a national program to promote water-efficient products to consumers.

Water use has gained national attention with more than 36 states expecting to experience water shortages over the next ten years even without drought conditions. A total of $400,000 has been made available in the 2003 Budget to support the program.

"Water is one of our nation's most precious national resources -- wise water use is something all Americans can put into practice to help protect the quality and quantity of our country's water supply," said Assistant Administrator Mehan. "Together with our partners in the public and private sectors we will strive to build a national voluntary market-based program for promoting water efficient products."

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. Water-efficient products for commercial use can save up to 20 percent, and opportunities exist in the industrial sector as well.

One of the tools under consideration is a water efficient product labeling program that is based on EPA's highly successful Energy Star program, a government-backed program to protect the environment through superior energy efficiency. There is significant support for product labeling from a broad range of stakeholders including water systems, manufacturers, retailers, municipalities, states, water industry organizations and environmental groups.

One of the first steps the Agency will take will be to hold a series of stakeholder meetings, the first one tentatively scheduled for Oct. 9, 2003 in Washington, D.C., to work toward possible approaches and partnership opportunities to promote water efficiency in the residential, commercial and industrial sectors.

More information on this story and water efficiency can be found at www.epa.gov or http://www.epa.gov/owm/water-efficiency .

A report on "The Clean Water and Drinking Water Infrastructure Gap Analysis" can be found at http://www.epa.gov/owm/gapreport.pdf . For other water efficiency tips go to: http://www.h2ouse.org or http://www.epa.gov/water/yearofcleanwater/month.html#aug .

Proposal to Change Policy for Apartment Water Use

As part of the celebration of the 30th Anniversary of the passage of the Clean Water Act, EPA has taken several steps to promote water efficiency, an important part of drinking water protection, particularly in dry and drought-stricken areas. To help apartment dwellers save water, EPA is proposing to change the regulatory policy on apartment buildings in order to encourage property owners to bill residents only for their actual water usage.

"Water efficiency is one of the four pillars of our strategy to make the nation's water infrastructure sustainable," said G. Tracy Mehan III, EPA's Assistant Administrator for Water. "We have seen that consumers use less water if they are billed not on just a flat rate but on what they actually use. Americans can save substantial amounts of water through water efficiency programs -- helping to make them aware of how much water they are using and the cost is one of the steps to produce environmental benefits."

Water meters, used to measure consumption, are necessary to conduct this usage billing, and "submeters" may be needed for the 15 percent of Americans who live in apartments. One way to encourage more residential submetering is to remove the potential regulatory burden currently faced by apartment building owners who install submeters and bill tenants separately for water.

EPA is proposing to revise its current policy regarding submetering of residential properties. Under the Safe Drinking Water Act, the national primary drinking water regulations apply to public water systems (PWS) that have its own water source, treat or sell water.

EPA has previously issued guidance stating that any building or property owner who meets the definition of a PWS and receives water from a regulated public water system, but bills tenants separately for this water, is selling the water and is independently subject to safe drinking water requirements.

As a way to promote full cost and conservation pricing to achieve water conservation, the Agency now proposes to change the policy as it applies to a limited aspect of submetering and direct billing of residential tenants.

The 60 day comment period on this proposed policy change began when it was published in the Federal Register on Aug. 28, 2003. For more information on water efficiency, go to http://www.epa.gov/owm/water-efficiency.

To help ensure that water efficiency gains recognition in the marketplace, on Sept. 4, G. Tracy Mehan, III, announced that the Agency is planning a national program to promote water-efficient products to consumers. Water use has gained national attention with more than 36 states expecting to experience water shortages over the next ten years even without drought conditions.

EPA Water Infrastructure Fund Programs Promote Water Efficiency

U.S. EPA Assistant Administrator for Water, G. Tracy Mehan III, recently highlighted the advantages of the Agency's State Revolving Fund programs to help states conserve water. Recent water shortages across the United States have served to remind states, utilities, and the public that water efficiency, reuse, and conservation is important for ensuring reliable services to customers.

Water efficiency can save money, help water supplies withstand drought, and protect water quality and the environment. EPA has released a new fact sheet that highlights how EPA's Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (SRF) programs can help states and systems support water efficiency measures.

Both programs provide grants to states to establish revolving funds from which states provide loans to drinking water and wastewater utilities for infrastructure improvements needed to protect public health and the environment.

For example, the Clean Water SRF program can fund projects that reuse wastewater for public purposes and the Drinking Water SRF program can fund projects to create dual distribution systems for drinking water and water for other uses (such as watering lawns).

Both programs can also fund non-structural measures that improve water efficiency such as installation of water meters to accurately track water usage and water efficient devices such as plumbing fixtures and appliances.

States can also use the Drinking Water SRF program to help develop water conservation plans and provide technical assistance to utilities on how to conserve water such as water audits, leak detection, and rate structure consultation.

As part of EPA's celebration of the 30th Anniversary of the passage of the Clean Water Act, August has been designated as Water Efficiency month. The fact sheet and other information on EPA's Water Efficiency programs can be found http://www.epa.gov/owm/water-efficiency .

Links to information on the Drinking Water SRF, Clean Water SRF, and other funding programs can be found at http://www.epa.gov/water/funding.html.

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