The EPA’s WaterSense designation is poised to become as ubiquitous as the Energy Star label. The program encourages manufacturers to find ways to make their products more resource efficient.
Manufacturers such as Kohler
, among others, have been recognized recently for their water-saving efforts. In October, Moen was named a 2010 WaterSense Partner of the Year for its 2009 collection of bathroom faucet products and for its national media outreach. Kohler, a WaterSense Partner of the Year in past years, recently received an inaugural excellence award from the program for strategic collaboration.
Tom Liebhardt, senior director, marketing–wholesale for Moen sees an opportunity for all members of the residential building industry to benefit, in part because of the success of the Energy Star program. “We’re banking on WaterSense,” he says. “The EPA can generally get a constituency together and get things done. They even offer certification for builders.”
The EPA has a lot of marketing and education clout, which means plumbers and builders can do a lot less explaining and a lot more installation.
Aaron Gaynor, owner of EcoPlumbers in Columbus, Ohio, has already seen a change in how people view plumbing fixtures. “Today, everyone understands low-flow faucets and WaterSense faucets; it’s pretty straight-forward. Toilets are tougher because we get complaints that they don’t stay as clean as a regular toilet.”
Gaynor plans to open a new showroom using the WaterSense label to differentiate what he offers from other plumbers or retailers of plumbing products in his area.
John Smith, owner of The Arizona Green Plumbers in Greater Phoenix, says he uses the WaterSense program daily in his business. “We offer WaterSense-labeled fixtures as the first option to our customers,” he explains. “If it is a repair that they choose to make themselves, we recommend that they still look for products with the WaterSense label. In addition, we offer free home and business water audits.”
Smith also uses the program to help educate consumers. “We demonstrate our products and services at community events, give free seminars at local community centers, and are active online on several social networking sites,” he says. Smith also hosts The Arizona Green Plumber Radio Show on BlogTalk Radio.
Smith married WaterSense marketing with charitable work by partnering with other organizations to retrofit WaterSense labeled toilets, faucets, and showerheads into a Ronald McDonald House, which resulted in a 20% water savings for the building.
Smith and Gaynor both point to consumer habits as the big issue when it comes to ongoing water efficiency. “It doesn’t take a huge, contracted job to make a difference in a household,” Smith reminds. “Changing everyday habits can make a big difference without the customer having to spend a dime.” Gaynor concurs, noting that where he operates, water shortages are not top of mind, but more media coverage of the highly subsidized nature of our country’s water supply has even that area of the country looking to conserve before prices make it a necessity.
Builder Brian Peulicke, the construction manager of Coachella Valley Housing Coalition in La Quinta, Calif., thinks user habits are extremely important when deciding which water-saving products to chose. When spec’ing toilets for an affordable multifamily project, he switched from dual flush to a 1.2-gallon single flush. “Our research showed that people waste more water with dual toilets because they flush them multiple times instead of choosing the correct flushing option.”
Liebhardt emphasizes that partnerships are what will move the WaterSense program forward and provide benefits to all members in the building supply chain. “The issue is trying to partner better. KB Homes is one of our biggest partners and was one of the first to get a home WaterSense certified,” he says. “We worked with them to get there, and it was just a tremendous partnership; we both pushed each other, which is how you get there.”