In some current debates on water conservation, particularly involving high efficiency, 1.28-gpf, toilet proposals, it might seem that PHCC is opposed to the installation of water-saving devices. We have been pretty adamant about the need for more evidence that existing infrastructure can support new technologies. But clearly, the association and its members are very much in favor of water conservation. The “protection of the environment” emphasized in our mission statement is an important part of what PHCC is all about. However, this overall issue becomes much more complicated than “for” or “against.” It requires looking at the relationship between the contractor and the client/customer to understand our position.
What are our thoughts on 1.28-gpf and other high-efficiency proposals? We think the concept is sound, but we want to wait until ongoing drainline studies have been completed before supporting state-mandated low-flow toilet proposals. If you are a plumbing contractor who remembers the years of frustration when the federal government required everyone to install 1.6-gpf toilets, I am sure you can understand where we are coming from. In the end, the contractor is ultimately responsible for installing a system that truly works and truly saves water. That also means the plumbing contractor is in the best situation to advise customers and answer their questions about what water-saving devices will work and the difference they make in the convenience and operation of the customer's plumbing system. We have the most direct contact with the end-user, which is why we want technology to work effectively before implemented.
In today's world, homeowners want more than what they ever had in the past. Whereas previous generations worried about the possibility of diseases caused by improper water and sewage treatment, the innovation of plumbing and the development of codes alleviated those concerns. Now, the focus is on how to save water — efficiently and effectively. Manufacturers have developed water-saving devices to meet this demand for water convenience and conservation. Politicians are quick to establish laws requiring water savings in order to address the need to conserve water. Unfortunately, the important element that is often left out of this debate is the plumbing contractor — the one who knows more about installing water-saving devices than anyone else. That is why it is crucial that the plumbing contractor and the plumbers are at the forefront of discussions regarding how to properly protect the public. Are we? Let's take a look.
PHCC is making sure that the plumbing contractor is not left out and is in the middle of the debate. We have a presence every day on Capitol Hill that has helped us influence legislation and regulations affecting plumbing contractors. A plumber's voice has been heard at several Congressional hearings on green plumbing, as well as within several industry alliances that were formed to address conservation issues. Our Green Construction and Water Conservation Task Force members are heavily involved in all these efforts.
Our most recent activity is involvement with an industry coalition sponsoring plumbing-related research projects. The first proposed study will assess what drain line carry support is needed for different toilet flow rates. Rather than plumbing contractors standing on the outside waiting to learn what they will be asked to install, they'll be involved in the discussions and will participate in field research regarding what works and does not work to the satisfaction of the customer. With California's adoption of a high efficiency toilet mandate and movement in this direction by other states, perhaps nationally, this study is extremely important. Our partners in this effort are the Plumbing Manufacturers Institute, the Alliance for Water Efficiency, the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials, and the International Code Council.
We're also involved with a number of water conservation groups, including the U.S. Green Building Council and the Alliance for Water Efficiency. We are participating in the development of “green codes” with the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials and the International Code Council. In addition, PHCC became an EPA WaterSense partner so that it could influence the development of WaterSense standards for plumbing products and new homes. Often we are the only representative who has actually installed a toilet or dealt with a homeowner's complaint about a product, so our thoughts add a real-life element to discussions with all of these groups.
The public's demand has changed over the years. In the beginning, when it was all about health and sanitary water installations, there was little consideration for conservation. Today's plumbing contractor is obligated to install systems that save water and protect the health of the public. It's an obligation that the contractor members of PHCC take seriously — to represent contractors' interests in the movement to sustainable installations — just like they did more then 100 years ago when this industry was in its infancy.
Ike Casey is executive vice president of the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors - National Association. He can be reached at [email protected].