Without advance notice to stakeholders, the U.S. Department of Energy has proposed to re-define showerheads as shower valves, which would allow only a single showerhead using no more than 2.5 gallons per minute of water per showering compartment. The new definition would effectively ban multiple outlet shower systems (hand showers, body sprays, gang showers and more) that have proven popular with segments of the market.

Unless challenged, the new definition would take place by June 18. The Plumbing Manufacturers Institute (PMI) has issued an action alert to members advising them to contact DOE and speak out against the re-definition.

According to PMI Executive Director Barbara Higgens, neither PMI nor affected manufacturers were informed of the action and “stumbled across” the news when it appeared as Docket No. EERE-2010-BT-NOA-0016 in the Federal Register, buried amid numerous other directives. When we spoke on May 26, Higgens was hurrying to try to assemble a coalition of other organizations that would be impacted by the new showerhead regulations. These include not only plumbing and construction trade associations, but also groups such as AARP and organizations representing disabled people, for whom multiple showerhead systems are more of a functional necessity rather than luxury convenience.

Showerheads fall under DOE jurisdiction to enact water conservation standards, and all manufacturers are resigned to producing units that use no more than 2.5 gpm. Multiple shower systems have presented a difficult challenge from a water conservation standpoint, with various solutions debated and proposed over a period of years.

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