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Trump Bemoaned Water Pressure. Now His Administration Has Eased Standards

Dec 17, 2020

The U.S. Department of Energy has finalized two new rules that offer a win to President Trump in his personal crusade to roll back water efficiency standards on appliances like showerheads.

Trump frequently has bemoaned what he views as insufficient water pressure with newer appliances.

The new rules, announced Tuesday, loosen water regulations on showerheads and for washers and dryers. The Trump administration heralded the standards as a victory for the "quality of life" of Americans.

"[These] final rulemakings allow consumers to choose products that can make their lives easier, more comfortable, and save them time," Deputy Secretary of Energy Mark Menezes said in a statement. "That time and effort saved can be better spent on the more important things in life."

In the 1990s, Congress set a 2.5 gallon-per-minute maximum flow rate for showerheads, in order to conserve water. The ruling was updated under the Obama administration to ensure that 2.5 gallons per minute was the total water output, regardless of how many nozzles were featured on a single showerhead.

This new rule allows every individual nozzle on a showerhead to use 2.5 gallons of water per minute.

"It is a big deal because potentially you have showerheads that are using five, seven and a half gallons a minute, and that's a lot of water," said Andrew deLaski, the executive director of the Appliance Standards Awareness Project, a coalition of environmental consumer groups supporting strong efficiency standards.

And contrary to the Energy Department, he says the rules could actually negatively affect consumer experience.

"If you have a shower that uses that much water, you're going to run out of hot water within as little as 10 minutes in the house," deLaski told NPR. "So whoever is second in line for the shower is going to get a cold shower."

He also said more water usage equals higher water utility bills.

"We estimate that a typical household today is already saving about $500 per year because of existing standards for a range of appliances used in the home, including plumbing products," he said. "If you start rolling back these standards, that means higher bills for consumers."

The Energy Department also finalized a ruling that creates a separate product class for residential washers and dryers that have cycle times of fewer than 30 minutes (and 45 minutes for front-loading washers), which deLaski says essentially set them up to be used without energy limits.

He adds he's hopeful the Biden administration will reverse the new rules. President-elect Joe Biden has promised to redo a host of environmental regulations the Trump administration has rolled back.

deLaski also expects some states to continue setting their own efficiency standards.

"As federal requirements get looser, more and more states are going to set their own standards because water conservation is serious business throughout much of the American West, where states are faced with long-term droughts," he said.

The issue of water pressure and standards has been top of mind for Trump this past year.

Last December, he told reporters during a roundtable on reducing red tape in government that he instructed his administration to look into "sinks and showers and other elements of bathrooms where you turn the faucet on."

"You turn on the faucet, you don't get any water," he proclaimed. "[People] take a shower and water comes dripping out. It's dripping out, very quietly dripping out. People are flushing toilets 10 times, 15 times, as opposed to once."

It's a topic he even brought on the campaign trail, lamenting what he views as inadequate water pressure to rallygoers in Carson City, Nev., in October.

"The shower, the worst. Do you ever get under a shower where no water comes out? And me, I want that hair to be so beautiful. I want the hair to look good," he exclaimed.

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