President Donald Trump has made rolling back government regulations a cornerstone of his administration. He’s eliminated or weakened nearly 100 federal environmental rules aimed at protecting the safety and health of Americans, according to several tracking initiatives.
But, when it comes to his latest regulatory rollback pledge — to go after low-flow toilets and faucets — the president may not find much support, even from industry members that might usually back less government regulation.
For instance, Plumbing Manufacturers International, an industry group that represents the makers of 90 percent of the plumbing products sold in North America, touts the benefits of water-efficient plumbing fixtures on its website.
“The use of water-efficient plumbing products can lower your water bill by using less water,” PMI says. “In addition, these products will reduce energy usage, since energy is required to treat and transport water. WaterSense products have saved more than $63.8 billion in water and energy costs over the past decade.”
Given this, it is hard to know who — if anyone — the president was pandering to with his rambling screed about having to flush a toilet 10 to 15 times and not having enough water to wash his hands.
“We have a situation where we’re looking very strongly at sinks and showers and other elements of bathrooms where you turn the faucet on — and in areas where there’s tremendous amounts of water, where the water rushes out to sea because you could never handle it, and you don’t get any water,” the president said recently during a White House meeting with small business leaders about deregulatory actions.
“You turn on the faucet and you don’t get any water. They take a shower and water comes dripping out. Just dripping out, very quietly dripping out,” he added. “People are flushing toilets 10 times, 15 times, as opposed to once.”
Trump did not specify what he was talking about, but he probably means low-flow toilets and sinks, which have been in use for decades to lower water usage.
In fact, the change to bathroom fixtures that use less water was implemented by then-President George H.W. Bush in 1992. The Energy Policy Act stipulated that new toilets could use no more than 1.6 gallons of water per flush. It also set flow standards for bathroom and kitchen sinks and showerheads. The law went into effect in 1994 for residential buildings and 1997 for commercial structures.
These standards, as the plumbing industry has noted, have averted the use of billions of gallons of water and saved consumers money. In addition, communities have saved energy and money by treating less water. As a result, one engineer wrote for Plumbing and Mechanical, this should be an easy sell to customers.
“Even where water is not scarce, water-efficient plumbing products help consumers and communities reduce the strain on their aging infrastructures,” the Plumbing Manufacturers International say. “The expanded use of water-efficient plumbing products can delay or even eliminate the need for developing new or expanded municipal water systems and wastewater-treatment facilities, saving consumers and taxpayers millions of dollars. Conservation goals are met, and environmental quality is further safeguarded — all at no additional cost.”
There is also a voluntary program, run by the Environmental Protection Agency, to encourage even more efficient plumbing fixtures. Products labeled with the WaterSense logo are “certified to use at least 20 percent less water, save energy and perform as well as or better than regular models,” the EPA says.
Switching to WaterSense products and EnergyStar appliances can save an average family more than $380 a year, according to the EPA. In addition, the agency reiterated the findings of a 2014 Government Accountability Office report that “40 out of 50 state water managers expect water shortages in some portion of their states under average conditions in the next 10 years,” highlighting the need for water conservation.
Although the president said he had tasked the EPA with taking a look at the regulations, a review was already scheduled as part of a 2018 law that requires an assessment of any EPA regulations adopted before 2012.
The president’s hyperbole aside, the current regulations for toilets and sinks have reduced the strain on America’s water supplies and saved consumers and communities money. This isn’t progress that should be, pardon the pun, flushed away.