Industry Groups Aim to Save WaterSense Program

RESNET HERSH2O

Proposed infrastructure bill includes formal federal establishment of the successful WaterSense program.

U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Jon Boozman (R-Ariz.) introduced the Clean Safe Reliable Water Infrastructure Act on May 16. This legislation would amend the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Federal Water Pollution Control Act by adding provisions relating to drinking water and wastewater infrastructure. It would include the formal federal establishment of the WaterSense program, which is currently a voluntary program sponsored by the EPA.

WaterSense is a labeling and recognition program that seeks to identify to consumers products that conserve water without compromising quality or performance. Services and products with the WaterSense label are certified to be at least 20 percent more efficient than average products in the same category. These products include toilets, urinals, showerheads, bathroom faucets, landscape irrigation controllers, and pre-rinse spray valves.

In April, International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO), along with 63 other manufacturers, trade associations and other industry stakeholders, sent a letter to EPA administrator Scott Pruitt urging him to continue funding for WaterSense. Largely in response to proposed cuts to the EPA budget, the letter outlines why these groups believe WaterSense is worth the $3 million it costs to run the program annually.

Between the program’s inception in 2006 and 2015, WaterSense has saved Americans more than $32.6 billion in water and energy bills and has saved 1.5 trillion gallons of water, according to the EPA’s website. The use of WaterSense-labeled products also saved 212 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity and 78 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. The letter also includes ways that businesses have benefitted from the WaterSense program, including the development of more than 16,000 models of WaterSense-labeled products for bathrooms, commercial kitchens, and irrigation systems.

S. 1137 would also amend the revolving loan program under the Safe Drinking Water Act to make more activities eligible for assistance and affirm the use of state revolving loan funds as security for state bonds. These activities include planning, design, and associated pre-construction activities; replacement or rehabilitation of aging treatment, storage, or distribution facilities; and public water system security measures eligible for assistance.

Additionally, the legislation would place more focus on shortcomings in wastewater infrastructure by reauthorizing Section 221 of the Clean Water Act, which authorizes grants for addressing combined sewer overflows, sanitary sewer overflows, and stormwater discharges, totaling $1.8 billion over five years.

Erin Schroeder is a freelancer writer and editor based in St. Charles, Mo.