Wisconsin Water Utilities Urge EPA Not to Eliminate WaterSense Program

Apr 7, 2017

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The Alliance for Water Efficiency is rounding up support from water utilities across the nation to save the Environmental Protection Agency's WaterSense program, which helps consumers make smart choices through use of a special certification label on products.

A number of Wisconsin communities such as Beloit, Janesville, Waukesha and several others rely on the program. Amy Barrilleaux, public information officer for the Madison Water Utility, said it's one of the most successful conservation programs they have.

"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," she said.

Products and services that earn the WaterSense label are certified to be water efficient, and nationwide have accounted for saving 1.5 trillion gallons of water. The program is at risk because of deep cuts to the EPA outlined in the Trump administration's budget. According to Barrilleaux, the only way now to make sure a consumer is buying a certified water-efficient appliance or service is the WaterSense label. "Those products and services that have the WaterSense label have been certified to be at least 20 percent more water efficient but still have good performance," she said. "So if somebody wants a $100 rebate for buying a high-efficiency toilet, they must buy a WaterSense toilet. That way, we know that the toilet they buy is going to meet those standards."

The WaterSense program is funded solely at the discretion of the EPA administrator, which is why it's in such jeopardy. Barrilleaux said this program works in Wisconsin and across the nation, and added that dumping it would be shortsighted. "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." More information is online at allianceforwaterefficiency.org and epa.gov/watersense. Wisconsin News Connection is here.