WaterSense new home specification draft available for comment

WaterSense, a program sponsored by the EPA, made its Draft Water-Efficient Single-Family New Home Specification available for public comment on May 22, and held an online public meeting on June 18 to solicit public comment. The draft includes specifications for indoor plumbing fixtures as well as landscape design and irrigation systems. The EPA expects as many as 14 million new single-family homes will be needed in the next seven or eight years, and the specifications are available for builders and landscapers to have these new homes labeled with a WaterSense certification.

Some of the outdoor regulation components include choosing between two options for landscape design – one that limits the amount of turf to 40 percent of the landscaped area and one that gives the landscaper an opportunity to design the landscape with a water budget. There are also criteria for mulching, pools and spas and a stipulation that no ornamental water features will be allowed to receive a WaterSense label.

Several meeting participants raised questions regarding these outdoor regulations. Areas addressed included the installation of ornamental features that solely use reclaimed water or provide the rest of the landscape with surface irrigation, regional concerns, the amount of plants used outside of the turf limitation and the environmental benefits of using more turf. Other outdoor-related questions concerned specifications for irrigation, including the actual language about controller use.

Since the public meeting, the Irrigation Association released its concerns regarding the draft. The IA’s governmental affairs department has flagged the following recommendations as potential concerns:

· Eliminating the need for irrigated landscape entirely.
· Limiting turf to 40 percent of the landscapable area.
· Working with a water budget of 60 percent of reference evapotranspiration for cool season turfgrass.
· Omitting ornamental water features.

Along with the IA, the International Professional Pond Contractors Association (IPPCA) has raised concerns over the ornamental water features stipulation. Following a conversation between John Flowers, committee head of the EPA WaterSense New Homes Program and Dave Jones, executive director of the IPPCA, the IPPCA has agreed to work with the EPA WaterSense New Home Specification Committee as a stakeholder.

Additionally, the IPPCA was asked to provide scientific and factual data regarding ornamental water features. According to Jones the stipulation to omit the features is currently based on public perception that they waste water.

On July 5, the IPPCA released its proposed language for section 4.1.4 “Ornametnal Water Features” of the draft specification. The new language reads “Ornamental Water Features shall meet one or more of the following specifications: 1) Incorporate a closed re-circulation system; 2) Utilize a naturally occurring water source; 3) Sustain aquatic life; 4) Support wildlife; 5) Utilize reclaimed water.”

Jones is also proposing a moratorium on the issue as several concerns have been raised by various professionals and associations and the July 21 deadline is quickly approaching.

WaterSense and the EPA have asked for comments regarding issues of this nature or any other concerns with the draft specification be submitted in writing by July 21. It is important for all landscapers to review the proposal and submit questions or concerns to WaterSense. Following the submission deadline, the EPA currently plans to review and finalize the draft.

Industry professionals who wish to view the draft in PDF form can visit http://www.epa.gov/watersense/specs/homes.htm. Regulations for outdoor water use are in section 4.0 Water Efficiency Criteria. Those who wish to submit comments or questions should email them to [email protected] by September 4th.

The IA also plans to submit formal comments on the draft and asks its members to not only submit comments to the EPA, but also forward them to IA government affairs director, Andy Smith at [email protected].

Jones has asked IPPCA members to email comments to [email protected] as well as to [email protected]. Flowers can also be reached at (202) 564-0624.

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