News Feature | April 17, 2017

Utilities Fear Trump Will Cut WaterSense Program

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

Water utilities are advocating for the federal government to retain the U.S. EPA’s signature water conservation program despite proposed budget cuts from President Trump.

The EPA program WaterSense promotes water efficiency and conservation. WaterSense projects include labels for water-efficient products such as toilets and showerheads. The program is also known for its “Fix A Leak Week” campaign, “a marketing effort meant to inform consumers of the gravity of water loss in their homes and to encourage them that there’s something they can do about it,” Water Online’s Peter Chawaga previously reported in a close-up on the initiative.

President Trump is proposing deep cuts to the EPA budget, and that puts WaterSense at risk. “The WaterSense program is funded solely at the discretion of the EPA administrator, which is why it's in such jeopardy,” WXPR reported.

Water utilities are concerned about the fate of the WaterSense program. Amy Barrilleaux, public information officer for the Madison Water Utility, praised the success of the program. She argued that nixing WaterSense would be “shortsighted,” WXPR reported.

"Our toilet rebate program alone, which relies on WaterSense to build that program, has saved a half-billion gallons of water, $2.6 million in water and sewer costs, and has actually even saved enough energy to power 130 Madison homes for a year," Barrilleaux said, per WXPR.

"Without that certification label, our customers don't know what to buy and we don't know how to make sure it's water efficient," she said. "We have been hoping to expand to maybe dishwashers or clothes washers that are EPA WaterSense certified. If that program goes away, I don't see how we make that expansion.”

WaterSense proponents point out that, ultimately, water efficiency is cost effective.

“The WaterSense program costs about $2 million a year to administer by the EPA, but has saved billions of dollars in energy costs and water usage through its message of conservancy aimed at American consumers,” Wisconsin State Journal reported.

The nonprofit Alliance for Water Efficiency is “rounding up” water utilities in support of WaterSense, according to WXPR.

“A letter from the Alliance for Water Efficiency has been sent to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt in an attempt to keep the WaterSense program afloat,” Wisconsin State Journal reported.

To read about similar programs visit Water Online’s Source Water Scarcity Solutions Center.