The WaterSense Label: What to Look For

Water shortages are coming your way, if they haven’t already — and not just in desert areas either. Seventy percent of U.S. counties will be affected by water shortages by the year 2050, according to a study by the National Resources Defense Council. That means your costs will rise, too.

So look for the Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense label, plus a few other terms we’ll explain to help you choose toilets, shower heads, and faucets that conserveevery last drop.

To search for products, use the Watersense product database. But keep the following in mind when you’re looking for labels.

The ‘right’ label

Look closely at which WaterSense labeling is included on products.

  • The good label you want: WaterSense teardrop logo + the phrases “Meets EPA Criteria” and “Certified by (insert name of EPA-approved testing organization; these change with the type of product).”  It means the product you’re holding in your hands has been tested and meets water-conserving standards.
  • A less informative label: WaterSense teardrop logo by itself. The logo isn’t enough to recommend a product, because the EPA allows manufacturers that just sign a commitment to water conservation to put the logo on their products with the word “partner” underneath.

It’s got nothing to do with the particular product you’re buying, says BuildingGreen, an independent company that educates building professionals on green product certifications.

What the label means

The WaterSense certification means the product meets a very specific set of water-conserving criteria—offering 20% water savings over a product that just meets code. The EPA-administered program rates products that use water but not energy:

  • Shower heads
  • Toilets
  • Bathroom sink faucets

WaterSense is working to develop specifications for these products, too:

  • Water softeners
  • Landscape irrigation controllers

Think of WaterSense as a sister certification to Energy Star, which is also EPA-administered. But there are differences:

  • Energy Star rates water-conserving products that also use energy, such asdishwashers. It considers a product’s water efficiency as part of its criteria.
  • Both labels won’t appear on the same products. If a product uses energy and water, it will have Energy Star; if it just uses water, WaterSense.

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