Veronica Blette is chief of the WaterSense Branch for the U.S. EPA. Blette can be reached at [email protected].
The U.S. EPA’s WaterSense program set out to transform the marketplace for water-saving items. After 14 years, the program has grown into a trusted source of water-saving information and a label for water-efficient products, programs and homes that are independently certified to meet EPA’s specifications for efficiency and performance. Since 2006, WaterSense has helped consumers and businesses save more than 3.4 trillion gallons of water, as well as reduce energy use and utility bills.
This commitment to both conservation and quality is demonstrated by more than 2,000 WaterSense partners from the plumbing, irrigation, homebuilding, utility and nonprofit sectors who work together to foster and promote innovation in water efficiency. By collaborating on efficiency and performance criteria for product specifications and communicating the benefits of the program to consumers and businesses, these organizations help make WaterSense the norm in plumbing and irrigation.
At the 2019 WaterSmart Innovations Conference in Las Vegas, EPA recognized three WaterSense Partners of the Year from the water supply industry that showed innovation and creativity when convincing consumers to conserve water by choosing WaterSense labeled plumbing products and improving their landscape irrigation efficiency.
Public Outreach & Water Efficiency Leaders
Broward Water Partnership, Florida. The Broward Water Partnership in Florida used a variety of unique outreach efforts to reach residents of the 18 municipalities and utilities that make up the partnership. In 2018, they created two new animated mascots to promote WaterSense labeled fixtures in videos and on social media, Steph and Steve the Plumbers. Steph and Steve were a hit, engaging with thousands of residents online in both English and Spanish. After asking residents to vote on a name for a third mascot, the partnership crowned “Prince Pre-Rinse” the chief promoter of pre-rinse spray valves that save water and energy in restaurants.
The creativity did not stop flowing there; the partnership designed three other social media campaigns to increase participation in a WaterSense labeled toilet rebate program—Royal Flush, Flush with Success and Word Scramble. They also held a contest among 30 home improvement stores in the region, and the store manager with the most water-efficient toilet rebates received a $1,000 prize.
City of Plano, Texas. Meanwhile, in Texas, the city of Plano focused on helping residents reduce their outdoor water use. In conjunction with the WaterSense Sprinkler Spruce-Up campaign in May 2018, the city offered a three-part class series covering quick sprinkler fixes, do-it-yourself drip irrigation and proper use of irrigation controllers. Plano promoted its innovative online learning module, “Water, Water Everywhere: A Guide to Sprinkler Repair,” throughout the month, helping homeowners improve irrigation efficiency.
To support water-smart landscape designs and WaterSense labeled irrigation products, the city hosted the sixth annual WaterWise Landscape Tour of Plano residences and its Environmental Education Center. The tour inspired homeowners to use water-saving planting techniques and WaterSense labeled weather-based irrigation controllers, which access local weather and landscape conditions to tell systems when and how much to water. The city also initiated a new Water Ambassador Program for adult volunteers to promote leak detection, leak repair, efficient irrigation and landscaping principles and continued its Green Business Certification Program, which has certified a total of 43 organizations.
Upper San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District, California. On the West Coast, the Upper San Gabriel Valley (California) Municipal Water District proved that everyone, from students to do-it-yourselfers, can save water in their homes and communities. The Upper District, which has 27 water purveyors, made education its mission in 2018, hosting nine different workshops covering efficient landscaping, outdoor water use and leak detection and repair. For Fix a Leak Week in March 2019, the Upper District hosted two leak detection and repair workshops that encouraged attendees to install WaterSense labeled showerheads, toilets and weather-based irrigation controllers. One workshop was presented in Mandarin, to expand outreach to the community. For projects that were bigger than a do-it-yourselfer could handle, the Upper District’s Large Landscape Survey and Retrofit program used professionals certified by a WaterSense labeled certification program to install 142 WaterSense labeled irrigation controllers at 49 landscape sites.
Students learned about saving water through the Upper District’s “Water is Life” contest, which encouraged students to submit artwork that represented water as a valuable resource. The District also offered water education grants of up to $1,000 for school projects from kindergarten through 12th grade; more than $7,000 in grants was distributed to projects affecting nearly 1,000 students in the area. To engage more students, the Upper District funds a Sustainable Watershed Education program for 4th through 6th graders that focuses on water-use efficiency, watershed issues and groundwater awareness.
Performance on Display
Five-time Sustained Excellence Award winner Delta Faucet Co. made a real commitment to water-saving products. By 2018, all of its toilet models were considered high-efficiency, and about two-thirds of its showerheads had earned the WaterSense label. But Delta does not stop at manufacturing; it also promotes WaterSense to a variety of audiences, conducting six different Continuing Education Unit courses on labeled products for more than 3,400 trade professionals and providing 36 e-learning courses for employees, sales representatives and customers in 2018.
Where performance is concerned, the company lets its products do the talking. For the second year in a row, Delta hosted more than 800 industry professionals in a hotel that has Delta WaterSense labeled H2Okinetic showerheads installed, so guests could experience a high-performing product, which also conserves water.
“Delta Faucet Co. strives to produce and promote innovative kitchen and bath products that help conserve water without sacrificing performance,” said Delta Faucet Co. President Ken Roberts.
The company also invited design bloggers to an event at its headquarters, showcasing innovative Delta and Brizo brand water-efficient products. Influencers left the event with their own WaterSense labeled showerhead and shared their experience with followers on their social media platforms. By leveraging the influence of high-reaching tastemakers in the design space, Delta helped increase the overall awareness of WaterSense labeled products and their superior performance.
In addition to these manufacturers, EPA recognized the following WaterSense partners in 2019 for Sustained Excellence: Athens-Clarke County (Georgia) Public Utilities Department; city of Charlottesville (Virginia); Citrus County (Florida) Utilities; Cobb County (Georgia) Water System; KB Home; Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District; and the Sonoma-Marin Saving Water Partnership in California.