By Kathleen Ferris
Do you remember the old low-flow shower heads? Some of them were awful, weren’t they? Those old shower heads began to give water-efficient fixtures an image problem that was hard to shake.
The U.S. Congress mandated more water-efficient household fixtures and appliances in 1994. It was an effective law that made a real difference in Phoenix and other big cities. Phoenix has calculated that homes built in 2009 use one-third the amount of water used by homes built before the law passed.
After the law passed, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was looking for a way to promote the best performing water-efficient products and spur innovation. In 2006, the EPA and industry partners created the WaterSense program. Now it’s easier for consumers to find high performing water-efficient products by looking for the WaterSense label.
For a manufacturer to receive the WaterSense label a product must use at least 20 percent less water than traditional fixtures or appliances and it must perform as well or better. The WaterSense program uses licensed, third-party certifying agencies to independently verify that the product meets both standards.
Water-efficient products have steadily improved. Today, most homeowners can’t tell the difference between a WaterSense shower head and a traditional one. The only indication is on a household’s water bill. For example, WaterSense bathroom sink faucets reduce water use by an average of 30 percent when compared to traditional faucets. That equals about 700 gallons a year for an average household, or enough water to wash 20 loads of laundry. Toilets that once needed 4-gallons of water to flush can now get the job done with as little as 1.28 gallons. By replacing old, inefficient toilets with a WaterSense model, an average family can reduce the water used by their toilets 20 to 60 percent.
It’s not hard for consumers to find WaterSense products. For example, for the last two years, Home Depot has won WaterSense Retailer Partner of the Year award for its dedication to promoting WaterSense products and Kohler Co. won for innovation. There are more the 1,600 models of shower heads and 1,900 toilets that meet WaterSense standards. The WaterSense stamp of approval is usually on the manufacturer’s label or consumers can visit the WaterSense product search site.
The WaterSense label isn’t just for shower heads and toilets anymore. WaterSense also tests and verifies weather-based automated irrigation controllers. That’s particularly important in the Phoenix area where as much at 50-70 percent of a home’s water is used outdoors.
All of the AMWUA member cities are WaterSense partners and each has a water conservation program designed to help you save money in your home and yard. Some cities offer rebates to help you pay to install new WaterSense fixtures and appliances. You could be saving some money and saving the rest of us a lot of water.
For 45 years, Arizona Municipal Water Users Association has worked to protect our member cities’ ability to provide assured, safe and sustainable water supplies to their communities. For more water information visit www.amwua.org.