The ENERGY STAR program from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been highly effective, and the blue square label in approved products is widely recognized nationally and internationally. The WaterSense program follows a similar approach for water conservation, focusing on low-flow plumbing fixtures that exceed the requirements of federal water standards. The program also provides specific recommendations for each building type, based on gathered data and case studies for successful projects.

Just like the ENERGY STAR program has a scoring system for buildings, the WaterSense program includes the US EPA Water Score:

  • The Water Score can be calculated with the Portfolio Manager tool, just like the ENERGY STAR score.
  • The Water Score is also a comparative scale from 1 to 100, indicating how the building matches up with similar properties throughout the country.
  • The Water Score calculation is very simple for property owners already using the Portfolio Manager, since they must only add a full year of water bill data.

Water savings lead to energy savings, since pumping and heating costs are reduced when a building uses less gallons per year. As a result, an improvement in the Water Score is likely to bring a better ENERGY STAR score as well. Water savings also lead to off-site energy savings, by reducing the workload on treatment plants.


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Improving the EPA Water Score of a Building

The US EPA has published several guides to help property owners reduce their water consumption and improve their Water Score. As of October 2018, the published guides cover four applications that account for a large share of water consumption:

  • Bathrooms
  • Residential kitchens and laundries
  • Landscaping and irrigation
  • Mechanical systems

Plumbing fixtures with the WaterSense label consume at least 20% less water than conventional fixtures, and even higher savings are possible when replacing older fixtures affected by leaks. The WaterSense label covers a wide range of plumbing fixtures: residential and commercial toilets, shower heads, bathroom faucets, urinals, pre-rinse spray valves, irrigation controllers and spray sprinkler bodies.

The WaterSense label also applies for complete homes, and a family of four can save over 50,000 gallons per year with a labeled home. This reduces yearly utility bills by around $600.

Although there is no labeling program for commercial facilities, the US EPA has gathered water usage data for many property types like hospitals, offices, hotels and restaurants. Based on the water consumption breakdown for each building type, the WaterSense website provides advice for property managers. For example, bathrooms normally represent the largest fraction of water consumption, but in restaurants they are surpassed by kitchens.

WaterSense Program Results

The WaterSense program was first introduced in 2006, and it has been highly successful in reducing the water consumption of US buildings:

  • From 2012 to 2017, the plumbing fixtures labeled by WaterSense increased from 8,577 to 27,630. The largest product categories are faucets (15,945), shower heads (6,570) and toilets (3,184).
  • The program has saved over 2.7 trillion gallons of water since its launch in 2006, and only in 2017 it saved 631 billion gallons. This is equivalent to the total consumption of all US households during 98 days.
  • The accumulated electricity savings add up 367 billion kilowatt-hours, equivalent to the yearly energy consumption of 34.1 million US homes.
  • Thanks to the WaterSense program, consumers have saved $63.8 billion in water and energy bills.
  • The EPA Water Score is a recent addition to the program, introduced in 2017. It was developed to replicate the success of the ENERGY STAR scoring system.

Qualified plumbing engineers can design installations that minimize water consumption, while also helping you find promising upgrades in existing properties. Working with professionals also ensures code compliance, and you can avoid design errors that typically delay project approval and construction.

 

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