This year has been an eventful one for a number of states and regions already coping with significant water problems.
Virginia and South Carolina, for example, were under drought conditions for most of the summer. Rainfall shortages in Massachusetts got so bad that 86 municipalities issued restrictions on outdoor water use. And New Hampshire newspapers reported that the state was experiencing its hottest and driest summer in 20 years.
Hawaii, a state not known for water problems, has seen rainfall totals 89 percent below normal in some areas. Meanwhile, Arizona and Nevada were in near panic after Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the U.S., reached a 54-year low—a problem they can hardly afford right now.
If you live in one of these areas (or one of the many others experiencing similar conditions), the situation is disturbing. But a water activist, albeit an optimistic one, might see a silver lining: These developments could go a long way toward raising awareness about a serious issue—the growing water shortage and the urgent need for conservation. It’s no wonder the EPA has launched yet another effort to encourage consumers to do just that.
In July, the agency kicked off its “We’re for Water” national campaign urging Americans to make simple choices that save water. “The program, in collaboration with its partner, American Water,” the EPA says, “will spread the word about saving water by traveling cross country, stopping at national landmarks, and educating consumers about WaterSense-labeled products.”
One of the EPA’s big pushes is for consumers to start using more water-conserving, low-flow lavatory faucets, which account for between 15 percent and 16 percent of indoor household water use. WaterSense-labeled faucets and aerators, the agency says, can reduce flow by 30 percent or more without sacrificing performance.
“Whether by replacing an old, inefficient plumbing fixture with a WaterSense-labeled product or adopting more water-efficient behaviors, together we can help save water for future generations,” Peter Silva, assistant administrator for the EPA’s office of water, said in a statement announcing the new campaign. “WaterSense offers consumers simple tips that can help the environment and keep money in their pockets.”
WaterSense—the EPA’s voluntary program to promote and enhance the market for water-efficient products—sets the maximum flow rate of a lav faucet at 1.5 gallons per minute. And to make sure performance is satisfactory, the agency stipulates that water must flow at a pressure rate of 60 pounds per square inch. But is it necessary to buy water-saving faucets for activities, such as shaving or hand washing, that require very little time?
Definitely, says Carol Houlik, director of faucet marketing at American Standard in Piscataway, N.J.
“Faucets are 16 percent of the water use in the home, so for homes and especially [commercial] buildings, it’s not an insignificant amount of savings,” she says. Houlik explains that, “EPA estimates the average U.S. household can save over 500 gallons of water annually by installing WaterSense faucets.”
Home buyers who already have a non–water-saving faucet installed will find that it’s relatively easy enough for them to purchase an aerator that can be added to the spigot. “These control flow rate either through flow restriction (narrowing the opening through which the water is discharged from the faucet) or flow regulation (adapting the width of the opening through which the water is discharged from the faucet based upon fluctuations in water pressure to maintain a constant flow rate),” the EPA says.
For new buyers, there are well over 750 products on the market, and many big manufacturers only offer WaterSense-certified products, which makes it easy to choose something that suits the style of the house. For example, North Olmsted, Ohio.–based Moen, Indianapolis-based Delta Faucet Co., and American Standard say all of their residential products meet certification under the voluntary program. “In the commercial sector, all Delta lavatories have a 1.5 gpm outlet as standard—with the option of 0.5 gpm for further savings,” the company says.
And buying these products need not be a hardship. First of all, more manufacturers are converting their entire line of products into WaterSense-certified faucets, so they likely will not cost more than a traditional unit. Moreover, manufacturers say the average home buyer is unlikely to notice a difference in performance .
Though the water savings from a certified faucet seem insignificant, the category should be viewed in conjunction with other products in the bathroom. In fact, the California Urban Water Conservation Council reports that toilets, showerheads, and lavatory faucets account for 75 percent of all the water used in a house. So, individually, a product’s water use is hardly noticeable, but viewed cumulatively, each product’s water savings becomes much more critical—and necessary.
Colonial Times: Portsmouth Collection is a new water-efficient bathroom line that draws inspiration from Colonial Virginia. The Monoblock faucet with top lever shown here is made from solid brass, is free of lead, and features drip-free ceramic disk technology. In addition, the unit features the latest water-conservation technology and has WaterSense certification pending. It comes in a variety of finishes. American Standard. 800-899-2614. www.americanstandard.com.
Learn more about markets featured in this article: Indianapolis, IN.