THE EPA HAS RELEASED the first list of toilets that have received its WaterSense label, making it easier to identify products that conserve water.

Launched in 2006, Water–Sense is a voluntary program that seeks to promote water efficiency. Through its labeling program, WaterSense identifies products—at the moment, toilets and bathroom faucets—that are 20 percent more water efficient than a standard product in the same category. The program “just made it easier for consumers and communities to save money, energy, and water,” says Benjamin Grumbles, assistant administrator for water at the EPA. “Water efficiency is the wave of the future,” he adds.

The agency's Office of Wastewater Management says the list is a significant development at a time when water conservation is more important than ever. The agency says, for example, that between 1950 and 2000, the U.S. population nearly doubled, but during the same period, public demand for water more than tripled. Adding to the problem, many regions are in the midst of severe droughts, making water even more scarce.

At the moment, fewer than 10 manufacturers have products that earn the WaterSense label. Stephanie Tanner, an environmental engineer with the WaterSense program, says more products are now showing up in retailers' showrooms and more are being added on a regular basis. The high-efficiency toilets (HETs) she says, have passed the EPA's requirement not to exceed 1.3 gallons per flush, as opposed to the standard 1.6 gallons per flush.

In addition to performing their intended function as well as, or better than, their less-efficient counterparts, an HET can pay for itself in only a few years and allow home buyers to receive a rebate—ranging from $25 to more than $200—from their local utilities, the EPA says.