Sponsored by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), WaterSense was a partnership program created to help Americans use less water via water-efficient products, homes, and services. With many states facing water shortages and consumers being met with rising utility bills, stakeholders began requesting a program for water conservation similar to ENERGY STAR® which simplified the consumer process of identifying high efficiency products. To aid in the development of such a program, the EPA held stakeholder meetings across the country to get input on how WaterSense should be structured. Two years later, the program was officially launched at the American Water Works Association’s Annual Conference and Exposition. In its first year WaterSense focused on a few priority behaviors, products, partners, and communications campaigns. In subsequent years the program expanded, adding additional water-saving product categories and service programs to aid consumers in selecting everything from water-efficient toilets to spray sprinkler bodies. Programs for Residential Consumers Installation of WaterSense labeled products helped consumers save water, energy, and money directly, while also influencing consumer behaviors in ways that would further water savings. Residential campaigns like the annual Fix a Leak Week provided residents with hands-on experience with products and face-to-face support with water conservation specialists through races, giveaways of leak detection and repair kits, demonstrations, workshops, exhibits, and festivals. Online campaigns broadcasted water saving messages and encouraged water-efficient behaviors, while sprinkler spruce-up programs helped homeowners determine if their watering systems were working properly before increasing their water usage in warmer months. Numerous residential campaigns under the WaterSense umbrella utilized outreach strategies including bill stuffers, brochures, Facebook pages, radio PSAs, websites (English and Spanish), and programs for children and schools. Programs and communication tools were also developed for the commercial and institutional sector. The WaterSense H2Otel Challenge encouraged hotels to evaluate their water use and adopt water-saving products and best management practices. Assessment tools and worksheets were developed to help commercial and institutional customers calculate savings associated with water efficient products, case studies of successful projects helped decision makers determine which proposed projects they should approve, and checklists, monthly tips, and quarterly newsletters provided guidance in addition to keeping the WaterSense program top-of-mind. Quarterly webinars were also offered to commercial and institutional partners as a form of ongoing support. Each year, partners were recognized for their efforts to reduce water waste through various excellence awards announced at the annual WaterSmart Innovations Conference and Exposition. The program’s achievements in water savings were evaluated by product, using models developed for different end-use sectors that compared the water used in the absence of the WaterSense program with the water used with the program in place. Municipal energy savings were calculated for pumping, treating, and heating water for use, as well as treating wastewater for disposal. By December of 2020, 14 years after the program’s official launch, WaterSense had helped Americans save a cumulative 5.3 trillion gallons of water and more than $108 billion in water and energy bills. Additionally, the use of WaterSense labeled products saved 603 billion kWh of electricity.
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