Sacramento, Calif. — The amount of water on planet Earth has not changed in the last two billion years — but in the last century, water use increased at twice the rate of the world population. The U.S. flushes 6.8 billion gallons of water down the toilet every day, while more than half of our states anticipate freshwater shortages in the next 10 years. These are just a few of the facts plumbers learned when they attended one of the workshops held in California last fall to introduce the new GreenPlumbers program.
The program, which originated in Australia in 2001, is giving plumbers a new image and a new mission. The program was created by the Master Plumbers & Mechanical Services Association of Australia.
“Plumbers have long held their mission to be protecting the health of the country,” said Stephen Lehtonen, spokesperson for GreenPlumbersUSA. “Because of climate change and global warming, our new mission is to protect the resources of the planet by training plumbers to be advocates and educators in environmental protection and conservation.”
Lehtonen, who is also the executive director of the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors of California, facilitated a 15-year agreement that allows the enormously successful and effective GreenPlumbers training program of Australia to be implemented in the U.S.
“GreenPlumbers is an accreditation program that trains plumbers in water conservation and climate care issues,” Lehtonen said. “The program is designed to help save water and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
Intended as a comprehensive industry response to climate and water care issues, the program is open to all plumbers, regardless of affiliation or association membership.
GreenPlumbers has developed a five-course accreditation that totals 32 hours of training. The courses are Climate Care (8 hours), Caring For Our Water (8 hours), Solar Hot Water (4 hours), Water Efficient Technology (8 hours), and an Inspection Report Service (4 hours).
GreenPlumbers training programs are designed to assist plumbers in understanding their role in relation to environmental and public health, and to provide their customers with up-to-date information and advice on technology and energy- and water-saving appliances and plumbing services.
Comprehensive instruction on Climate Care includes gas emissions in homes and businesses.
Topics covered include water heating; energy consumption; heating appliances and cooling appliances.
Caring For Our Water aims to help contractors understand the water cycle process and the new technologies and behaviors that contribute to increased conservation. Topics covered include water efficient products; reducing household water consumption; storm water runoff pollution and prevention, and introduction to household water audits.
The New Solar Hot Water technologies instruction includes solar hot water technology; rebate information, and retrofit sizing and installation.
An overview class of the dynamic technologies that will shape future conservation efforts, Water Efficient Technology, covers recycled water; rainwater; graywater; septic tanks/wastewater treatment systems, and environmental/public health/safety regulations.
The Inspection Report Service class is an overview of domestic and commercial water auditing, inspections and reporting, assessment and strategies, including water and energy audits; commercial/industrial and residential buildings; and creating a master plan for future improvements.
Training workshops debuted in California this fall. The response from attending plumbers and contractors has been positive.
After being trained in Caring for Our Water and Climate Care classes, attendees commented: “Very overdue education. Thank God it's here now,” and, “Conserving water and utilizing the new technology will help save my clients money and build my company's reputation.”
The response from government agencies and conservation groups has also been enthusiastic.
“This is a great idea,” said Karen Morvay, water conservation specialist at the Santa Clara Valley Water District. “With the direct contact plumbers make each day with residents, I can't imagine a better spokesperson for energy and water use efficiency.”
The average family of four uses 150,000 gallons of water every year; the toilet alone uses 30,000 gallons. Using a high-efficiency toilet can save up to 4,000 gallons per year.
“An army of accredited GreenPlumbers can make a measurable, significant difference in energy and resource consumption,” said Lehtonen. “Once the GreenPlumbers concept is known among consumers, they will prefer, and demand, a Green Plumber, not only to save them money but to protect our environment.”
The Australian model, upon which GreenPlumbersUSA is based, has been successful in reaching that goal. Since implementation of the program in 2001, more than 5,000 Green Plumbers have been accredited, representing more than 2,300 businesses throughout Australia. Water consumption in Australia has been reduced up to 50% from 1990 levels.
The goal for 2008 in the United States is to train at least 8,000 Green Plumbers. A GreenPlumbers accreditation license for contractors supports and protects the integrity of the brand.
“In the next 10 years we plan to train 15,000 green plumbers in California and 40,000 nationally,” Lehtonen said. “We want to make the training free and available to all plumbers.”
The GreenPlumbers Training and Accreditation program is run by the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors of California Education Foundation, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation. While eligible for grants and donations, its primary workshop funding sources are government agencies, utilities and manufacturers.
GreenPlumbers has partnered with conservation groups, including the Alliance for Water Efficiency.
The alliance's executive director, Mary Ann Dickinson, said, “The Alliance for Water Efficiency is pleased to be part of the GreenPlumbersUSA program. This national partnership with GreenPlumbers will multiply the efforts of both organizations and yield tremendous results for water and energy conservation in the United States.”
GreenPlumbers workshops in California are open to plumbers and all contractors carrying a California C-36 license.
Additional information is available at www.greenplumbersusa.com or at 888/929-6207.