Saving Water: The PMI Perspective
September 6, 2012
While for most people, saving water makes sense, it's important to be aware of the difference between water efficiency and water conservation.
"We avoid using the term conservation. We prefer to talk about efficiency," said Barbara C. Higgens, executive director at Plumbing Manufacturers International.
To achieve water efficiency, plumbing products have to get the same job done with less water. Water conservation simply cuts back on the water used with no regard to how clean dishes get, how well shampoo is rinsed from hair, or how effectively the toilet flushes.
When the federal government mandated water-conserving toilets in the early 1990s without considering performance, contractors were plagued with callbacks and manufacturers were flooded with complaints.
"There is the risk of unintended consequences," Higgens asserts. "Manufacturers did not support the levels in the original low-water toilets. The result was a very unhappy generation of toilet users.
"There is a tipping point at which the product doesn't have enough water to do the job," she said. "Let's bring plumbing manufacturers to the table when new levels of efficiency are being looked at. We want intelligent decisions to be made. We want to discuss optimal goals."
WaterSense and Consumer Choice
As part of its mission, Plumbing Manufacturers International supports both water efficiency and consumer choice. PMI's members represent a broad range of products and functions as the "Voice of the Industry," Higgens said. The association supports WaterSense as a voluntary program.
"PMI has been a WaterSense partner from the beginning," Higgens said. "We like the idea of the WaterSense program because it addresses the notion of efficiency and product performance. The WaterSense label ensures performance of the product. Consumers can be confident the toilet will flush as it should. It is required for the product to meet the performance agreement."
WaterSense also has an educational component. Consumers learn about water efficiency upon reading the label and then are able to make better informed product choices.
"We strongly believe in the consumers' right to choose; to make decisions about how water is used in their homes," Higgens said. "People must be allowed to have the bathing experience they want."
Consumers should not be required to buy only WaterSense labeled products, but should be informed that these products can save at least 20 percent more water than the national standard, she continues.
"We are in the water business and we play a key role in the health and well-being of the public by both delivering and maintaining safe, clean water through plumbing systems, and then transporting the water away once used," she says. "As an industry, we need to build a stronger connection in the minds of the public between our industry and the efficient and safe management of this precious resource."
PMI represents 31 manufacturers and allied members, including many of the well-known companies selling plumbing products in the United States for decades.
"Our collective group of manufacturers is responsible for at least 80 percent of all the fixtures and fittings sold in the U.S. market," Higgens notes. "PMI promotes the efficient use of water while maintaining public health and safety."
Over the past several years PMI and its members have worked diligently with EPA's WaterSense program to develop specifications that result in both efficient and highly effective plumbing products.
PMI's efforts have brought together EPA, water efficiency experts, standards developers, plumbers and manufacturers to consider and balance the range of technical and performance issues unique to each product. To date, that effort has resulted in WaterSense High Efficiency Toilet and High Efficiency Residential Lavatory Faucet specifications, among others.
To learn more about Plumbing Manufacturers International, visit the website. To learn more about safe, clean water visit PMI's educational site.