Act Now to Save U.S. Water Efficiency Standards

This afternoon I learned from the Alliance for Water Efficiency, a non-profit organization based in Chicago, that Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) has introduced a bill that would repeal the enormously successful and crucially needed national water efficiency standards for plumbing fixtures.

A vote could take place Monday. We cannot allow two decades of water conservation gains to get undone.

Rand’s amendment to S. 1392, The Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act of 2013, would repeal the water efficiency standards for toilets, faucets, and showerheads that have been in place since passage of the 1992 Energy Policy Act, signed by President H. W. Bush.

A water-efficient showerhead. Courtesy U.S. EPA
A water-efficient showerhead. Courtesy U.S. EPA

These standards have effectively built water efficiency into our homes and offices, saving billions of gallons of water every day. They reduce the volume of water needed to flush our toilets, wash our hands, and shower our bodies, with no change in behavior required by us.

Amy Vickers, author of the standards, as well as of the highly acclaimed Handbook of Water Use and Conservation, estimated that by 2025 the plumbing product standards would be saving as much water as now used by six New York Cities.

By saving hot water, the efficiency standards have reduced our energy bills and climate risks as well. And by shrinking the needed size of reservoirs, treatment plants, pipes and other infrastructure, they have cut the costs of water supply and delivery.

As Mary Ann Dickinson, president of the Alliance for Water Efficiency, states in an email widely circulated today: “The passage of this amendment would set the U.S. back two decades and would eliminate the continued water and energy savings that have benefited the nation.”

Dickinson adds: “We don’t have much time. The amendment is likely to be voted on Monday in the Senate.”

Suffice it to say, I’ve called my senator.

Sandra Postel is director of the Global Water Policy Project, Freshwater Fellow of the National Geographic Society, and author of several books and numerous articles on global water issues. She is co-creator of Change the Course, the national freshwater conservation and restoration campaign being piloted in the Colorado River Basin.


  1. Sarah Arnold
    January 7, 2014, 6:16 pm

    We had a freeze in here in Mississippi, and the next morning we had no hot water. The temperature was about -14 degrees,freezing.

  2. Bonnie Soley
    New Mexico
    September 14, 2013, 12:09 am

    If anything, we need stricter standards and a method to ensure that these kinds of fixtures are installed in new builds and remodeled dwellings – single and multi-family – residential and commercial, with financial aid for low income homeowners. New Mexico’s standards for protecting and preserving its water is abysmal. Gov. Martinez continues to allow industry to negatively influence good conservation and preservation regulations and depends on industry to police itself. Disgusting and very scary!