Revised Specs Lower Cost of WaterSense in New Homes

The average newly built, single family home in the United States can waste 10,000 gallons of water annually. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense program soon will make it easier for builders to construct and differentiate homes that use water about 20 percent more efficiently, once its draft specification is final.

WaterSense has refined its draft labeling specification (initially released in May 2008) for single-family new homes based on comments received from the public and additional research. The revised specification addresses efficient plumbing fixtures, hot water delivery systems, appliances, landscape design, and irrigation.

The revised specification will ensure that future WaterSense labeled homes still use 20 percent less water than similar new homes, while reducing the burden and cost to the builders. The modifications to the previous draft specification have built in some additional flexibility; the changes include:

  • Hot water delivery systems -- New performance standards no longer require specific types of hot water delivery systems or insulation of hot water pipes.
  • Landscaping - The revised landscaping criteria allow for a wider variety of landscaping options.
  • Irrigation systems – Additional requirements for minimum distribution uniformity values and rain shutoff devices increase the efficiency of newly installed irrigation systems.
  • Water budget tool – An improved resource, the water budget tool, better reflects growing seasons and plant water requirements.
  • Inspection guidelines -- An optional sampling protocol adds flexibility and streamlines the inspection process for production builders.

Once the specification is finalized, homes built and inspected to the specification will bear the WaterSense label. Homeowners who invest in WaterSense labeled homes will not only save water, but also money on utility bills. WaterSense labeled new homes should be achievable by builders and affordable to consumers without compromising water savings.

The WaterSense new homes specification will also align with existing green building programs to ease the cost and obstacles to achieving other green labels.

The updated specification for single-family new homes will be available for public comment through July 7. EPA anticipates releasing the final Water-Efficient Single-Family New Home Specification in late 2009.

EPA welcomes input on the revisions made to the specification, and encourages all interested parties to view the most recent documents and provide comments. In addition, EPA plans to hold at least one public meeting on the revisions in June 2009.

For details on the specification, upcoming public meetings, and other program information, contact the WaterSense Helpline at 866.987.7367 or send e-mail to