WaterSense: What It Is and How It Works


What is WaterSense?

WaterSense, an innovative program established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), serves as a model for water conservation. Designed to promote water efficiency across the United States, EPA WaterSense helps consumers identify water-efficient products, homes, and services. Products that earn the WaterSense label are certified to use at least 20% less water, saving resources and money without sacrificing performance. This initiative not only guides consumers in making eco-friendly choices but also supports the environment by reducing the demand on water utilities and preserving water supplies for future generations.

The Role of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plays a pivotal role in safeguarding the United States' water resources. Through initiatives like WaterSense, the EPA sets standards for water efficiency, fostering a culture of conservation. The agency collaborates with manufacturers, retailers, and consumers to promote products and practices that reduce water use and environmental footprint. By endorsing WaterSense certified products and educating the public on water conservation, the EPA contributes significantly to the national goal to conserve water resources, thus enhancing sustainability and ensuring that the environmental and economic benefits of water efficiency are realized by all.


Core Objectives of WaterSense

Importance of Water Conservation

Water conservation is vital for sustaining our planet's limited freshwater resources. Efficient water use helps prevent water scarcity, protects the environment, and reduces utility costs and energy consumption. Embracing water conservation tips and practices, like those advocated by EPA WaterSense, ensures a stable water supply for future generations while mitigating environmental impact.

Conservation Goals

The primary objective of EPA WaterSense is to achieve significant water conservation on a national scale. By setting rigorous performance criteria for water-efficient products, the program aims to reduce overall water consumption in homes and businesses. WaterSense’s conservation goals include decreasing indoor and outdoor water use through efficient products and practices, fostering sustainable water management, and supporting the resilience of water infrastructures. Through these efforts, WaterSense aspires to conserve billions of gallons of water annually, ensuring the availability of this precious natural resource for future generations.

Impact on the Environment and Economy

WaterSense has a profound impact on both the environment and the economy. Environmentally, it reduces the strain on natural water bodies and ecosystems by minimizing water wastage and promoting efficient use. Economically, WaterSense certified products lead to substantial savings for consumers and businesses by lowering water bills and decreasing the need for expensive water infrastructure upgrades. Moreover, the program stimulates market innovation, creating jobs in manufacturing and retail of eco-friendly products. By aligning environmental conservation with economic benefits, WaterSense embodies a sustainable approach that fosters long-term ecological health and economic prosperity.


How WaterSense Works

  1. WaterSense partners with manufacturers to produce water-efficient products that meet EPA’s strict criteria for efficiency and performance.
  2. These products undergo rigorous independent testing by third-party organizations approved by the EPA to ensure they save water without compromising functionality.
  3. Once a product is verified to provide significant water savings of at least 20% less water than traditional models, and deliver reliable performance, it earns the EPA WaterSense label.
  4. This label is affixed on the product to make it easy for consumers to identify and choose products that have been proven to reduce water use, helping them make environmentally responsible decisions that also lead to financial savings.

This certification process not only guarantees water conservation but also assures consumers of the product's quality and durability.

Criteria for Products and Services

The criteria for WaterSense certified products and services are stringent and scientifically based, focusing on water efficiency, performance, and reliability.

  • Uses less water than conventional models while maintaining or exceeding performance benchmarks.
  • Meets technical and market factors including water savings potential, performance, technology state, and environmental impacts.
  • Shows consistent results based on actual product performance data to maintain label integrity and encourage long-term water savings. Not all products are eligible for EPA WaterSense labeling; data demonstrating water efficiency and performance are crucial for consideration.
  • Services, such as landscape irrigation design, must promote efficient water use practices and adhere to WaterSense’s specifications.

By establishing these high standards, WaterSense ensures that certified products and services contribute effectively to conserving water, delivering tangible environmental benefits and operational cost savings.


WaterSense Products

Overview of Different Categories

  • Bathroom Fixtures: Toilets, showerheads, faucets, and urinals that significantly reduce water use.
  • Kitchen Products: Kitchen faucets and pre-rinse spray valves designed for high efficiency.
  • Commercial Products: Water-efficient products tailored for business use, including flushing urinals and commercial pre-rinse spray valves.
  • Irrigation Products: Sprinkler heads, controllers, and sensors that optimize outdoor water use.

Comparison: WaterSense vs. Non-Water Sense Products

Product WaterSense Label Usage Non-Water Sense Label Usage Water Savings Per Year
Toilets 1.28 gallons per flush 1.6 gallons per flush 13,000 gallons
Standard Showerheads no more than 2.0 gpm 2.5 gallons per minute (gpm) 2,700 gallons
Sink Faucets and Accessories 1.5 gallons per minute 2.2 gallons per minute 700 gallons

Commercial Urinals no more than 0.5 gpf 1.0 gallon per flush (gpf) 4,600 gallons
Irrigation Controllers weather-based irrigation controllers and soil moisture-based irrigation controllers (also known as soil moisture sensors, or SMSs) clock-based controllers  15,000 gallons 
Outdoor Spray Sprinklers regulate pressure to ensure a consistent flow rate and deliver water evenly operate at water pressures higher than recommended 5,600 gallons

Pre-rinse Spray Valves maximum flow rate of 1.00 to 1.28 gpm 1.6 gallons per minute (gpm) 7,000 gallons

WaterSense: Technological Advancements

WaterSense has spurred significant technological advances in water-efficient products. Innovations include smart irrigation systems that adjust watering based on weather conditions, advanced toilets with dual flush options, and low-flow showerheads with enhanced pressure for optimal user experience. Aerators in faucets have also evolved, providing effective water flow with reduced usage. These advancements not only enhance water efficiency but also maintain, or even improve, the performance and convenience for users, demonstrating that water conservation and innovation can go hand-in-hand.


WaterSense: Challenges & Criticisms

Addressing Misconceptions and Concerns

Common misconceptions about WaterSense include fears of compromised performance due to reduced water flow. However, WaterSense products are rigorously tested to ensure they meet high efficiency and performance standards. Critics sometimes argue that the program's voluntary nature limits its impact. Yet, WaterSense has successfully driven market transformation towards greater water efficiency, demonstrating that voluntary programs can produce significant environmental and economic benefits. By continuously improving technology and maintaining strict certification standards, WaterSense addresses these concerns, proving that water conservation and superior performance can coexist.

Comparative Analysis with Similar Programs

WaterSense often gets compared to international programs like the European Union's Ecolabel or Australia's Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards (WELS). While these programs share the goal of promoting water efficiency, WaterSense distinguishes itself through its partnership approach, engaging with manufacturers, retailers, and consumers to drive awareness and adoption of water saving behaviors. Unlike some programs that focus solely on product labeling, WaterSense also emphasizes consumer education and sustainable water management practices, providing a more holistic approach to water conservation.

Overcoming Obstacles to Adoption

The main obstacles to adopting WaterSense products include higher upfront costs and lack of awareness. To overcome these, WaterSense and its partners engage in extensive educational campaigns to highlight long-term savings and environmental benefits. Financial incentives, rebates, and demonstration projects also help to alleviate cost concerns. Building stronger relationships with builders, plumbers, and local governments to endorse WaterSense-labeled products can further drive adoption. By showcasing the tangible benefits of water-efficient products and practices, WaterSense aims to shift public perception and encourage broader acceptance and integration of water-saving technologies.

watersense certified toilets

Legislation and Policy Impacting WaterSense

Government Regulations and Incentives

Government regulations and incentives play a crucial role in the success of the WaterSense program. Federal, state, and local governments often adopt WaterSense standards to guide water efficiency policies, integrating them into building codes and public procurement criteria. Incentives such as tax breaks, rebates, and grants encourage consumers and businesses to choose WaterSense certified products. These governmental actions not only promote the adoption of water-efficient products but also support the broader goals of water conservation and sustainable resource management.

Compliance and Enforcement Issues

Ensuring compliance with WaterSense standards can be challenging. While the program itself does not enforce compliance, it relies on third-party certifiers to verify that products meet specific criteria. Occasionally, issues arise with non-compliant products being marketed as water-efficient, misleading consumers. Strengthening the verification process and increasing transparency can mitigate these issues. Enforcement can be enhanced through better coordination with retailers, stricter penalties for false advertising, and regular audits of certified products to maintain the integrity and trust in the WaterSense label.

Impact of Regulations on Product Development

Regulations inspired by WaterSense have significantly influenced product development in the water industry. Manufacturers are motivated to design products that meet or exceed WaterSense standards to stay competitive in a market increasingly driven by sustainability. This regulatory environment fosters innovation in water-efficient technologies, leading to advancements in product functionality and efficiency. As a result, consumers have access to a broader range of high-performing, water-saving products, which also drives continuous improvement in water efficiency across the industry.

How Policy Shapes Water Efficiency Standards

Policy plays a pivotal role in shaping water efficiency standards, with programs like EPA WaterSense at the forefront of establishing benchmarks for water use and conservation. Government policies support WaterSense by integrating its standards into public procurement, building regulations, and environmental guidelines. This governmental backing legitimizes and reinforces the importance of water efficiency, encouraging industry compliance and innovation. As policies evolve to address emerging water challenges, they continue to drive the advancement of water efficiency standards, ensuring that they remain relevant, ambitious, and aligned with broader environmental and sustainability goals.



Is WaterSense required?

WaterSense is not mandatory; it is a voluntary program designed to encourage water efficiency in products, homes, and services.

How do you calculate water savings?

Water savings are calculated by comparing the water use of WaterSense-labeled products with traditional products, taking into account the average water usage and frequency of use over a specified period.

What does WaterSense mean in toilets?

In toilets, the WaterSense label means the product uses at least 20% less water than standard models while still meeting strict performance criteria set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Who created WaterSense?

WaterSense was created by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to promote water efficiency and conservation.

How do WaterSense faucets work?

WaterSense faucets work by using advanced aerators and valves designed to reduce water flow without compromising performance, thus saving water while maintaining strong water pressure.


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The material provided in this article is for general information purposes only. It is not intended to replace professional/legal advice or substitute government regulations, industry standards, or other requirements specific to any business/activity. While we made sure to provide accurate and reliable information, we make no representation that the details or sources are up-to-date, complete or remain available. Readers should consult with an industrial safety expert, qualified professional, or attorney for any specific concerns and questions.


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Author: Herbert Post

Born in the Philadelphia area and raised in Houston by a family who was predominately employed in heavy manufacturing. Herb took a liking to factory processes and later safety compliance where he has spent the last 13 years facilitating best practices and teaching updated regulations. He is married with two children and a St Bernard named Jose. Herb is a self-described compliance geek. When he isn’t studying safety reports and regulatory interpretations he enjoys racquetball and watching his favorite football team, the Dallas Cowboys.