That’s why it’s so remarkable when people within the plumbing industry say nice things about the government getting something right. Also in this issue, you can read these comments: “Our government has done a real great job” and “Government is taking a better role this time around by driving the competition.”
These statements come from two manufacturers of high-efficiency toilets, which flush using at least 20 percent less water than 1.6 gpf models. The specific subject of their praise is the EPA’s WaterSense program, and how it has aided the acceptance of HETs among consumers, plumbing engineers and contractors. As a third manufacturer put it, “WaterSense is for the betterment of consumers and the environment.”
Now, WaterSense isn’t perfect. As recently as November, I pointed out in this space a glaring oversight in the program. WaterSense lacks a Partner of the Year Award for Plumbing Professionals such as contractors and engineers, yet it designates one for Landscape Irrigation Professionals.
Still, for those of us who remember the government’s heavy-handed mandate to require 1.6 gpf toilets in the mid-1990s, its handling of HETs has been astonishingly better. WaterSense - a program created by a government agency - deserves much of the credit.
Rather than requiring manufacturers to produce HETs and plumbing contractors to install them, WaterSense set up performance standards manufacturers can reach with their products voluntarily. This approach allows manufacturers to compete against one another by making HETs that meet or surpass the performance standards, thus attaining the coveted WaterSense label.
Timing certainly hasn’t hurt. Consumers’ attitudes toward water conservation have changed since the mid-’90s, and this change has helped both HETs and WaterSense gain acceptance. While many consumers weren’t exactly demanding water-efficient fixtures 15 years ago, they are today in increasing numbers.
Consumers are better informed now about why they must save water to help the planet. They are receptive to messages about sustainable buildings and green plumbing; WaterSense lines up well with those messages.
Consumers care about performance too, especially those who lived through some of the early days of the low-flow models. Here again, WaterSense spells out in plain terms how certain models perform using standardized testing. These tests help validate the claims manufacturers make about how their fixtures perform, and everyone becomes better educated as a result.
When I interview leaders in the plumbing industry for our monthly PM Profile feature, I frequently ask them how you, as plumbing contractors, can educate your customers about water-saving products. A response I hear often is you can learn more about WaterSense so you can discuss the program with your customers.
It’s good advice. Get informed about WaterSense, if you haven’t done so already. It will help you position yourself as the water-efficiency expert with your customers.