Shower Sense

June 28, 2010

WQP speaks with Stephanie Thornton, marketing and outreach specialist with the U.S. EPA's WaterSense program

Achieving water efficiency in the home has just gotten easier with the release of new WaterSense-labeled showerheads. Stephanie Thornton, marketing and outreach specialist with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) WaterSense program, discussed the benefits of these new showerheads and offered a roundup of the program’s latest news.

Elizabeth Lisican: How significant is the EPA’s new release of WaterSense-labeled showerheads?

Stephanie Thornton: We are pretty excited about it because it means that a homeowner can now do their whole bathroom with WaterSense-labeled products since we now have the toilet, the faucet and the showerhead available for the label.

The average household can save 2,300 gal of water per year by installing WaterSense-labeled showerheads and because it also reduces a demand on the water heater, they can save energy as well. So it is enough energy to power the television for a whole year.

Lisican: What criteria do the showerheads have to meet in order to become WaterSense labeled?

Thornton: For all of our products, they are generally about 20% more water efficient than the general standard.

For showerheads, the federal specification is 2.5 gal per minute (gpm), and our specification is 2 gpm. There is that water-efficiency component to the criteria and there are performance criteria as well.

Lisican: How did the EPA work with stakeholders to ensure satisfactory showerhead performance?

Thornton: With all of our specifications, we always have at least one public comment period, so we did that with this specification.

Also, we went a little bit further on this one and did some consumer testing where we had 40 people from the D.C. area actually take different showerheads home and test them in their own houses and give us feedback.

Lisican: How can a showerhead manufacturer obtain and utilize the WaterSense label?

Thornton: They send their products to these accredited independent laboratories who test the products and make sure that they meet our specifications.

EPA is actually not involved in any of that at all. They go to these labs and the lab tests whether it meets the water-efficiency and performance criteria, and if it does they issue the WaterSense label to the manufacturer. It is completely independent by third-party labs.

Lisican: How long does the process take for a product to become WaterSense certified?

Thornton: That varies depending on the lab and whether the manufacturer submitted all of the paperwork that was needed, but I think generally it is pretty quick.

Lisican: How can an manufacturer become a WaterSense partner?

Thornton: It is a voluntary partnership program and we partner with all types of different organizations, including manufacturers, retailers and distributors, a category that we call promotional partners, utilities, nonprofit organizations, local governments and then we also have irrigation partners as well.

But for manufacturers to partner with us, they have to manufacture a product that we at least have a draft specification out for. For example, if we put out the draft for showerheads and you are a manufacturer who makes showerheads, then you can partner with us and you just have to agree that within a year, at least one of your showerheads will be WaterSense labeled.

Lisican: Are other new certification specifications being developed to label products as water efficient?

Thornton: Yes, we have two specifications currently in development: There is one for irrigation controllers—that goes on your irrigation if you have an in-ground irrigation system at your house; it is a controller that decides when that comes on. And we are also working on one for prerinse spray valves, which is a commercial product used in commercial kitchens.

Lisican: How has the EPA WaterSense program evolved since its beginning?

Thornton: We started in 2006, so we are coming up on about four years. The main way we have evolved over time is that we have continued to add specifications to the program.

Also, in addition to the products, we just released a specification for new homes, so that is a big new area of the program. In addition to the new products and specifications, the partner base has continued to increase tremendously over time.

Stephanie Thornton is marketing and outreach specialist with the EPA’s WaterSense program. To contact the program, visit www.epa.gov/watersense. Elizabeth Lisican is associate editor for Water Quality Products. Lisican can be reached at 847.954.7958 or by e-mail at elisican@sgcmail.com.

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