While they continue to make products that save water, leading plumbing manufacturers say more needs to be done to use water efficiently inside and outside buildings.
“We need to concern ourselves with the whole water infrastructure,” said Michael Sipek, CEO of Bradley Corp., Oct. 28 during the Executive Panel Discussion at the Plumbing Manufacturers International Fall Conference in Rosemont, Ill. “We lose millions of gallons of water through old and broken pipes. It’s a problem we can fix, but we don’t.”
Changing human behavior to use the innovative plumbing products now on the market is another issue, Delta Faucet President Jai Shah said. The importance of using water efficiently still needs to register with consumers.
The low price of water charged by utilities in many parts of the country doesn’t motivate people to save water, Moen President David Lingafelter said. A significant change in the cost of water would have to happen to see a big jump in their behavior.
Chris Baldwin, president of Global Faucets at Kohler Co., worries that raising the price of water would add a cost-of-living burden for many consumers. While raising water rates may solve one problem, he said, it could cause another.
Kohler is doing more than manufacturing water-efficient products, Baldwin said. It is committed to having a net-zero carbon footprint by 2035. As a company, Kohler is reducing the amount of water it uses in its factories and other facilities.
Sipek added: “Bradley does the same thing. We try to lead by example.”
Droughts in states such as California and Texas are making consumers more sensitive to the importance of water savings, panelists agreed. Weather-related disasters linked to climate change, however, have yet to make a substantial change in how manufacturers do their business planning.
“From a planning standpoint, it has not had a big impact,” Symmons Industries CEO Tim O’Keeffe said. “We just get more involved in charitable causes.”
Bill Strang, president of TOTO USA, agreed. He emphasized the importance of continuing to promote water-saving plumbing products to consumers and working with government regulators on water efficiency.
“What we’ve done as an industry is quite spectacular,” Strang said. “We need to promote a higher level of adoptions of water-saving products. When it comes to water-saving regulations, we like to say that we’d rather be at the table with regulators than on the menu.”
Chicago-based media personality Bill Kurtis moderated the Executive Panel Discussion. Also during the meeting, BNP Media Plumbing Group Publisher Bob Miodonski moderated a panel discussion that focused on water efficiency. Panelists were: Chicago plumbing contractor John Baethke, president, John Baethke & Son Plumbing; Mary Ann Dickinson, president and CEO, Alliance for Water Efficiency; Danielle Gallet, infrastructure strategist and Water Supply Program manager, Center for Neighborhood Technology; Mike Ramsey, water superintendent, Village of Westmont, Ill.; and Ed Lichner, president, Hydrodyne.
PMI’s 2015 Fall Conference will take place Oct. 26-29 in San Antonio, Texas.