Trump Takes Aim At U.S. Water Efficiency Standards

Gina-Marie Cheeseman

To Donald Trump's credit, he makes no attempt to hide his contempt for environmental regulations. He's nothing if not obvious. Why should water efficiency standards and low-flow toilets be any different?

While speaking at an event at the White House, President Trump took aim at water efficiency standards in the U.S. 

Trump is directing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to look at the nation’s water efficiency standards. He claimed that there are “areas where there’s tremendous amounts of water, where the water rushes out to sea because you could never handle it — and you don’t get any water.” He also claimed that “people are flushing toilets 10 times, 15 times, as opposed to once...they end up using more water.” 

Toilets and faucets in the U.S. are already efficient

Legislation enacted in 2018 mandates that the EPA conduct investigations of water regulations adopted before 2012. That is a fact Trump failed to mention. He also failed to mention a few other facts as a glance at the EPA’s website reveals. Toilets use 1.28 gallons per flush less water due to recent advancements, which is 20 percent less water than the current federal standard of 1.6 gallons per flush. 

Launched in 2006, WaterSense is a voluntary partnership program sponsored by the EPA. Bathroom sink faucets and accessories with the WaterSense label can reduce a sink’s water flow by 30 percent or more, according to the EPA’s fact sheet. If all bathroom sink faucets were retrofitted with WaterSense labeled models, billions of gallons of water could be saved annually throughout the country. 

“After a short but bumpy transition period, new toilets have been taking care of business ever since with a single flush,” said Ed Osann, Director of National Water Use Efficiency at the Natural Resources Defense Council:

“The water-efficient toilets of today work great and are a necessary part of the water-efficient future we need if everyone is to have access to clean, safe, and affordable water.

Trump said that there are “many states where they have so much water that it comes down — it’s called rain — that they don’t know — they don’t know what to do with it.” Despite his claims that some areas of the U.S. have abundant water supplies, 40 of 50 state water managers expect shortages in some parts of their states under average conditions in the next decade, according to a 2014 Government Accountability Office report.

Environmental rollbacks are a hallmark of the Trump administration

Is Trump’s real aim in having the EPA take a look at water efficiency standards a desire to roll them back? Something he said about light bulbs during the same event provides a clue. “They got rid of the lightbulb that people got used to,” Trump said. He went on to mention “a standard of the new bulbs,” and said that “you’ll also be able — if you want, you can buy the other bulbs also.”

All of that is Trump speak for rolling back an Obama era light bulb efficiency standard. Back in September, the Department of Energy (DOE) released two rules that rolled back standards scheduled to take effect in January 2020 which require most household light bulbs to achieve LED levels of energy efficiency. The standards would save consumers billions of dollars while avoiding millions of tons of carbon dioxide emissions. Analysis by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy found that eliminating the standards will cost consumers up to $14 billion annually, or over $100 in lost savings annually per household.

Trump issued an executive order in 2017 that directed the heads of federal agencies to “review all existing regulations...that potentially burden the development or use of domestically produced energy resources, with particular attention to oil, natural gas, coal, and nuclear energy resources.” Nearly 80 environmental rules have been in the sights of the administration, including rules to control greenhouse gas emissions, water pollution, and smog.