This article originally appeared in Water Quality Products March 2020 issue as "Preserving WaterSense"
In Fall 2019, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the fiscal year 2020 budget bill for the Interior Department and the U.S. EPA, preserving EPA’s WaterSense program and increasing water infrastructure funding. WaterSense is a voluntary certification and labeling program for water-efficient plumbing products and has helped consumers save an estimated 3.4 trillion gallons of water over the past 10 years, according to EPA. WQP Associate Editor Cristina Tuser interviewed Kerry Stackpole, CEO and executive director for Plumbing Manufacturers International (PMI), regarding the preservation of the program and PMI’s support of it.
Tuser: In what ways are the preservation of EPA’s WaterSense program important to PMI?
Stackpole: PMI members are enormously proud of the environmental benefits to American consumers delivered by the water- and energy-saving benefits of the more than 30,000 WaterSense plumbing products, more than 90% of which are created by our member companies. Since 2007, Americans have cumulatively saved more than 3.4 trillion gallons of water and $84.2 billion in water and energy expenses through this voluntary collaboration between the EPA and plumbing product manufacturers, according to the most recent WaterSense Accomplishments Report. Data from water utilities have shown that the nation’s transition toward high-efficiency plumbing products has resulted in critical water savings, benefitting numerous states and cities that have experienced droughts and high population growth over the last 30 years.
Tuser: What work has PMI done to support WaterSense?
Stackpole: PMI members have invested tens of millions of dollars in the design, development and manufacturing of more than 16,000 faucets, 8,000 shower heads and 3,300 toilets to meet WaterSense standards since the program’s inception. These products are third-party tested and certified to assure they meet WaterSense standards and deliver performance that meets consumer needs and expectations.
Tuser: What changes do you hope to see implemented into the program in 2020 and beyond?
Stackpole: PMI and EPA WaterSense are partners in progress on behalf of the American people. We are looking forward to exploring ways by which the plumbing products industry can deliver greater water efficiency through safe, responsible plumbing. The EPA is currently funding studies exploring the impact of low-flow rates on water and sanitary systems to assure the delivery of clean, safe drinking water. Beyond 2020, we are committed to partnering with the EPA toward improving America’s water delivery and finding solutions to the estimated 2.1 trillion gallons of water wasted due to water main breaks, leaky pipes and aging infrastructure.
Tuser: What changes have you observed in the industry since the implementation of the WaterSense program?
Stackpole: What impresses me most is the strong embrace of WaterSense by plumbing product manufacturers across North America and the strong adoption by homeowners, as well as residential and commercial builders. Manufacturers have risen to the challenge of producing more than 30,000 high performance WaterSense products. This variety of products means consumers have more choice than ever when it comes to saving water and energy at home and in their communities. Better still, plumbing product manufacturers have embraced third-party certification.
Tuser: Do you have any advice or insight for plumbing manufacturers who are interested in becoming WaterSense partners?
Stackpole: The future is water-efficient and energy-saving products. Becoming a WaterSense partner is not hard, but it does require manufacturers to think differently about how they design, develop and deliver their products to the marketplace. This is not a trend, so much as a movement to assure there is enough clean and safe water to go around. Forty out of 50 state water managers expect water shortages under average conditions in some portions of their states over the next decade. Plumbing product manufacturers have an important role to play in minimizing the risk of water shortages by assuring consumers have access to safe, water-efficient plumbing fixtures and fittings now and in the future.