The EPA is making history by labeling homes “Water Efficient” under the WaterSense program. The impact of the program on home prices will be positive. Water saving should be substantial, and homeowners will save money on water.
On December 10, 2009 the EPA’s WaterSense program created final specifications for home builders to have their homes labeled as “water-efficient” under the WaterSense program. The Congressional authorization for WaterSense is about to be introduced in the Senate and House. Overall it is an excellent program because it rewards builders who design and install landscapes with efficient irrigation in mind.
However, currently I believe one area of the program is problematic, and I feel so strongly about this I spent three days in Washington DC, along with other members of the Irrigation Association, meeting with the offices of Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein, John McCain, Susan Davis, Mary Bono Mack and Glenn Thompson to express my concerns. The program allows for two options when it comes to landscape design. I support the first option, which is to use a water budget tool based on best practices of the Irrigation Association. The option I find problematic is to uniformly restrict new homes’ turf grass area to only 40% of the homes’ landscapable area, without considering geography or climate.
The WaterSense program was established in 2006 by the Environmental Protection Agency and is a public-private partnership whose goal is to promote non-agricultural water efficient products. I support the programs labeling initiatives for landscape professionals and products. I think the Smart Water Application Technologies (SWAT) initiative shows how the industry and water providers can successfully work together. I’m excited to see the EPA involvement concerning the labeling of smart controllers and hope this is the first of many.
In the past few years the gains in technology and awareness for saving water have been tremendous. The manufacturers have created products to give landscapers the ability to manage water efficiently and effectively. Public awareness has never been higher. As I travel around the country to talk about smart irrigation, I know I’m no more interesting than I was 10 years ago, but now the audiences are more interested.
Considering the gains made since 2006, and especially considering the rapid acceleration over the past two years, I view the arbitrary “one size fits all” turf grass restriction in the final specification for single family homes a step in the wrong direction. Efficient water management is more than just restricting turf grass area. If designers and builders are encouraged to use the water budget tool only, we will be supporting and encouraging the innovation in irrigation needed to solve the water crisis.