EPA issues WaterSense update

WaterSense released a draft specification for water-efficient, single family new homes in May 2008. As the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) refines its draft specification for WaterSense labeled new homes, the agency has been working with seven pilot builders to construct homes that meet EPA’s water-efficiency criteria and developing tools to help builders across the country participate when the specification becomes final in 2009.

On November 25, 2008, EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson announced the first new home completed and certified to the draft specification. Built by Vanguard Homes in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, the home is designed to use 20 percent less water than similar new homes by incorporating WaterSense labeled products, ENERGY STAR qualified appliances, and other water-efficient features and systems inside and out.

EPA has also developed and is currently soliciting public comments on a water budget tool to help builders, landscape designers, and irrigation consultants determine ways to design attractive, water-efficient landscapes. Many comments have been received on various aspects of the draft specification, including the landscape design criteria. EPA included the following two options to ensure water savings outside a WaterSense labeled new home:

Turf cannot exceed 40 percent of the landscapable area; or
Builders can incorporate a water budget approach, which is a site-specific method of calculating the allowable amount of water to be used when designing a landscape.

EPA’s landscape water budget tool will help builders and their landscape designers determine:

The amount of water the landscape of new home is allowed to use, based on EPA criteria, and still earn the WaterSense label.
How much water the designed landscape requires based on climate, precipitation, plant type, and irrigation system efficiency.
Whether the designed landscape meets the budgeted amount.

This approach offers flexibility in landscape design, and EPA hopes this tool and the detailed guidance provided on how to use it will make it easier for builders and their landscaping consultants to determine water budgets and design landscapes to meet them. EPA is collecting public comments on the tool until December 19, 2008; interested parties should email their comments to watersense-newhomes@erg.com.


In other WaterSense new homes program news, WaterSense will be issuing two additional documents for public comment in the near future:

Draft WaterSense New Home Certification Protocol should be posted in December 2008 for public comment.
A second draft of the Water-Efficient Single Family New Home Specification is expected in early 2009. At that time, WaterSense will also post responses to comments on the first draft of the specification. 

To try the water budget tool or learn more about the WaterSense new homes pilot or other aspects of the program, visit www.epa.gov/watersense/specs/homes/htm.