I am a firm believer in the power of networking. Leveraging the relationships we have built is a key component of Plumbing Manufacturers International’s success. Domestically and internationally, we have established valuable links with like-minded organizations in order to amplify PMI’s voice. We have, in fact, also reached out to groups that, on the surface at least, do not appear to be like-minded at all.
As a consensus-based organization, PMI’s goal is to put differences aside with the aim to find even the slightest of common denominators. There is generally some point on which we can agree, no matter how minute. We then build from that starting point to see how far we can go.
That is the notion of our efforts this past April on Capitol Hill as we met with policy makers and such groups as the water utilities, the restaurant association and the hotel association.
I also carried PMI’s message to the third annual meeting of the Plumbing Industry Leadership Coalition (PILC) held April 22 prior to the International Emerging Technology Symposium (IETS). Maximizing water efficiency will be one of the major issues addressed at our annual Fall Conference to be held Oct. 27-30, 2014 in Rosemont, Ill.
By sharing the responsibility for water efficiency with all stakeholders, including consumers, the focus on how to achieve maximum water savings, the action steps become clear. Real and immediate water savings can be achieved now, easily and painlessly, by simply retrofitting inefficiency “legacy” products that have been in the field for upwards of 30 years.
Only drips will be saved by focusing on moving to ever-lower flow rates in some future iteration of our products. The greatest potential and “biggest bang for the buck” is in replacing products that perform at pre-Energy Policy Act of 1992 (EPAct ’92) rates.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has blessed PMI’s calculation of estimated savings of three billion gallons of water per day through retrofits… and in fact calls the number conservative. Think about that — three billion gallons of water per day, saved by simply replacing old products with efficient and effective ones.
Why is it that while folks regularly stand in line for the latest tweak to their smart phone or tablet, they let decades roll by with little thought to upgrading the products in their homes to the latest in plumbing technology? How do we capture the hearts, imagination and passion of consumers when it comes to plumbing products?
PMI along with our membership is tackling this mighty task using all of the communication tools and social media at our disposal. While we work to preserve the sanctity of consumer choice in America, in areas where water is scarce, we have worked to promote the mandate of WaterSense-rated products; first California, then Texas and now Colorado. In addition, we have targeted messaging to the 12 top drought areas of the USA to encourage retrofits.
Differentiate conservation from efficiency
It is important to note that we are quick to differentiate conservation from efficiency. Conservation means simply using less water. It smacks of deprivation, sacrifice, and worse, poor product performance resulting in double flushes or extra time (and water) rinsing. Efficiency on the other hand connotes doing the same job effectively but with less water.
The notion of effective performance together with efficiency is the critical difference between today’s WaterSense products and the early generations of products dictated by EPAct ’92.
WaterSense products not only use less water, but in order to be granted the label, must ensure product performance and a good experience for the consumer. We’ve all heard the horror stories of the early “low-flow” products. As a result of the debacle, the cause for efficiency/conservation and everyone involved was hurt: manufacturers, environmentalists, government agencies and the consumer.
Fast forward from the well-intended, but poorly created and executed EPAct program of 1992 to the WaterSense program of 2006 which resulted in products that deliver not only efficiency by excellent product performance and a positive consumer experience as well.
PMI can confidently promote and consumers can confidently purchase products that provide maximum efficiency as well as satisfaction.
But as the late great Paul Harvey would say, here’s the shocking “rest of the story.” Estimates indicate that since 2006, only 5% of the market has transitioned to these terrific products. The good news: we have lots of potential!
As yet, EPA WaterSense has not been authorized. That is, it has not been officially sanctioned as a program and, as such, has not received the funding necessary to adequately promote it. Contrast the WaterSense program with the success and awareness of Energy Star.
Ask your neighbor — they are sure to recognize the big yellow Energy Star labels, but are likely to not be aware of the WaterSense label. It is that visibility that we need and want for our WaterSense program in order for the market to make the much-needed transition.
To that end, The WaterSense Efficiency, Conservation, and Adaptation Act (S. 2226), has been introduced by Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) and co-sponsored by Barbara Boxer (D-CA) to do exactly that: to provide the funding needed to build awareness of this program, which is probably the most successful government-manufacturing partnership ever. (Check the PMI websites for details). PMI members worked to established standards for efficiency and performance. This was not the case with EPAct ’92 and the results tell the tale.
With our country’s current budget issues, the road to authorization of WaterSense is a long and uncertain one. However, we can and will continue to promote the good word of WaterSense as an immediate and effective way to save the afore mentioned three billion gallons of water per day.
These saving can be realized now… even before attention is turned to the much needed upgrading of the USA’s water infrastructure which is responsible for the loss of an additional 1.7 trillion gallons of treated water (based on estimates from the U.S. Geological Survey), before it even gets to the plumbing products manufactured by PMI members!
Work with us to promote the use of WaterSense products to replace inefficient products in the field. The result will be a win-win for consumers, government, manufacturers and Mother Earth.
Barbara C. Higgens is CEO/executive director of Plumbing Manufacturers International (PMI) and oversees the international trade association representing manufacturers of most plumbing fixtures and fittings used in North America. Since joining PMI in April 1998, Barbara has served as a respected spokesperson for the plumbing industry, sharing and advocating the views of PMI members.