The Environmental Protection Agency’s first WaterSense Partners of the Year were recently recognized for encouraging Americans to tap into their water resources wisely over the last year.

EPA Assistant Administrator Benjamin Grumbles (right) and Rob Zimmerman from Kohler.

EPA Assistant Administrator Benjamin Grumbles (right) and Rene DeJager from Ferguson.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s firstWaterSense Partners of the Yearwere recently recognized for encouraging Americans to tap into their water resources wisely over the last year. The awards were presented Oct. 9 at the WaterSmart Innovations Conference and Exposition in Las Vegas, the first national water-efficiency conference for an interdisciplinary audience.

In 2007, WaterSense partners were responsible for labeling, selling and promoting more than 193,400 WaterSense-labeled products, saving the United States more than 277 million gallons of water annually.

The 2008 Partners of the Year helped advance the WaterSense mission through a range of activities demonstrating creativity and collaboration. Three of the winning organizations have also worked together to educate plumbers and consumers on the benefits of WaterSense-labeled products.

While the EPA’s WaterSense program depends on the efforts of more than 1,000 partners, these four partners earned this special distinction from EPA:

  • Manufacturer Partner of the Year - Kohler Co.
    Kohler has been involved with WaterSense since day one. The company has been making efficient plumbing fixtures since the late 1980s with the advent of the first generation of low-flow toilets. Technology has advanced considerably since those days and Kohler now has four types of high-efficiency flushing mechanisms that meet EPA’s WaterSense criteria: regular gravity-flush toilets, as well as dual-flush, pressure-assisted and power-assisted types. Kohler sells WaterSense-labeled toilets under its KOHLER and Sterling brands.
    Kohler has actively promoted WaterSense-labeled products on the trade show circuit, through national media outlets with its spokesperson Ed Del Grande (a.k.a. “Ed the Plumber” on the DIY Network), by conducting numerous interviews, on its Web site, and through some noteworthy publicity events. The foremost of these was the Charmin Holiday Restrooms in Times Square.
    In partnership with Procter & Gamble, Kohler provided 20 WaterSense-labeled toilets (the Barrington Pressure Lite) in what had to be some of the most luxurious portable restrooms to grace the streets of Manhattan. The promotion garnered more than 7 million media impressions in publications such as USA Today and The New York Times. Over the course of the six-week promotion, which occurred during the busy Christmas and New Year’s Eve holiday season, an estimated half-million visitors in Times Square were able to experience the high-performing, water-efficient toilets.

  • Retailer and Distributor Partner of the Year - Ferguson
    Founded in 1953, Ferguson is the country’s largest wholesale distributor of plumbing supplies. As a wholesaler, Ferguson naturally watches the market closely and in recent years has seen a growing business and consumer interest in products that preserve natural resources, including water. Ferguson joined as a WaterSense partner in August 2007.
    With about 22,000 associates in 1,400 service centers located in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and beyond, this North American company of United Kingdom-based Wolseley plc has educated its staff about the benefits of water efficiency and WaterSense-labeled products with remarkable speed for a company of its size. Ferguson capitalized on the WaterSense Sales Tool Kit to create informational packets and point-of-sale materials for its private-labeled PROFLO high-efficiency toilets that have earned the WaterSense label, and the company regularly invites manufacturers to teach about their water-efficient products. Ferguson even has a proprietary database of all “green” products sold by the company.
    Ferguson hopes to expand its PROFLO line to include WaterSense-labeled bathroom sink faucets later in 2008, as well as water-efficient showerheads and urinals, which are currently being considered for WaterSense labeling.

  • Promotional Partner of the Year - The Saving Water Partnership
    In 2000, Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) and 17 local utilities that purchase their water wholesale from SPU formed the Saving Water Partnership to promote efficient water use. The 1% Water Conservation Initiative is a goal to reduce personal and business water consumption by one percent every year for 10 years - essentially an effort to hold water demand constant. While population in the Seattle Regional Water System has grown steadily since the partnership began, water use, in fact, has declined.
    Starting in October 2007, the Saving Water Partnership brought the WaterSense message to the Seattle and King County masses with its “Save With Every Flush” public service announcement, a 30-second television spot that aired for several months. The partnership also placed print advertisements in three non-English-speaking newspapers to reach a wider audience of consumers.
    Later that December, the partnership staged “The Great Flush-Off,” with Allan Dietemann, acting manager of Seattle Public Utilities Resource Conservation Section, and Benjamin Grumbles, EPA’s assistant administrator for water. This event demonstrated the flushing power and water efficiency of a WaterSense-labeled toilet compared to less-efficient models by flushing ping-pong balls and potatoes.
    This multipronged approach has proven successful. The Saving Water Partnership’s multifamily residence toilet replacement program, which offers property managers $80 for each old, inefficient water-guzzler replaced with a WaterSense-labeled toilet, has seen a 24 percent increase in the last year. The partnership processed a total of 2,255 such rebates in 2007.

  • Irrigation Partner of the Year - Timothy Malooly of Shorewood, Minn.
    Timothy Malooly, based in Minnesota, has worked in the irrigation field for 26 years and believes that using water resources efficiently is an inherent responsibility. Malooly is president of two Minnesota-based irrigation firms: Irrigation Consultants & Control, with six employees, and Irrigation By Design, with 40 employees. Nearly a dozen of his employees are also WaterSense irrigation partners. These companies design and install water-efficient irrigation systems for projects as varied as the Russia’s Grizzly Coast exhibit at the Minnesota Zoological Garden in Apple Valley, Minn., to the more than 1,200-acre, master-planned community Spirit of Brandtjen Farm in Lakeville, Minn.
    Malooly is a firm believer in professional certification and has structured his companies to reward employees who pursue ongoing accreditation. Being certified by a WaterSense-labeled program adds credibility that a layperson respects, he explains, not just someone in the industry. Personally, he has completed three different WaterSense-labeled certification programs through the Irrigation Association and has been invited to speak at functions in at least 25 states about the merits of irrigation certification programs.

    WaterSense, a partnership program launched in 2006 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, seeks to protect the future of our nation’s water supply by offering people a simple way to use less water.