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WaterSense: Meets EPA Critera WaterSense Seal An EPA Partnership Program

Partnership FAQs

What is WaterSense?

  • EPA launched WaterSense in June 2006 as a national, voluntary partnership program designed to help reduce municipal water use across the country through water-efficient products, new homes, and programs.
  • The WaterSense program labels products that use 20 percent less water and perform as well as—or better than—conventional models.
  • The WaterSense label makes it easy for consumers to identify products that have been independently certified to meet EPA’s efficiency and performance criteria.

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What’s special about WaterSense?

  • For each product eligible to earn the label, EPA has developed rigorous water efficiency, performance, and testing requirements.
  • Before earning the label, WaterSense labeled products must be certified to meet the specification by an independent certifying body licensed by EPA and accredited by a program administrator.
  • Backed by the credibility of EPA and third-party certification, consumers can have confidence that WaterSense labeled products use at least 20 percent less water and perform as well as or better than their standard counterparts.

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Who can become a WaterSense partner?

The following categories reflect the types of organizations that are currently eligible to become WaterSense partners.

  • Promotional Partners: Promotional partners assist EPA in educating others about the value of water, water efficiency, and the WaterSense brand. Organizations are prohibited from earning a profit from the use of WaterSense program tools and materials. To be eligible to become WaterSense partners, organizations must educate or work with consumers or organizations located in the United States and Canada. These partners fall into one or more of the following organization types:
    • Nonprofit Organizations: Examples include environmental organizations, nonprofit certifying organizations, and consumer advocacy groups.
    • Professional and Trade Associations: Associations whose members are eligible to join as a WaterSense partner may also join as promotional partners. For example, because water utilities are eligible for partnership, the American Water Works Association, whose membership includes several thousand utilities, is also eligible. Home builder associations are also eligible for WaterSense partnership.
    • Utilities/Water Districts/Government Agencies: Environmental departments, municipal programs, water agencies, water districts, wholesalers, public utilities, private utilities, wastewater treatment facilities, water boards, and public utility commissions of federal, state, provincial, and local agencies.
  • Manufacturers: Upon issuance of specifications for new product categories, EPA will announce a timeline for organizations that produce products in those categories to join as partners. This timeline may be released with the draft or final specification depending on the product category. All manufacturing partners must manufacture at least one WaterSense labeled product that will be sold in the United States or Canada within 12 months of execution of a partnership agreement. Manufacturers of component parts of a labeled product category are not eligible to sign on as WaterSense partners.
  • Retailers/Distributors: Upon issuance of specifications for new product categories, EPA will announce a timeline for organizations that sell products in those categories to join as partners. This timeline may be released with the draft or final specification depending on the product category. All retailer and distributor partners must sell, market, and encourage the use of WaterSense labeled products to customers in the United States or Canada within 12 months of execution of a partnership agreement. Partners must sell directly to consumers (e.g., retail stores, showrooms, online stores, or another type of public interface) without requiring installation or consulting services along with the products. Types of eligible organizations include, but are not limited to, home improvement stores, hardware stores, appliance retailers and distributors, plumbing supply houses, decorator showrooms/specialty stores, and commercial irrigation distributors. Retailers/distributors wishing to sell WaterSense labeled products under their own brand (private labeled products) agree to work with the manufacturer(s) of any labeled products to ensure that both the retailer/distributor’s and the manufacturer’s information are included in the WaterSense certification file and that the WaterSense Program Mark Guidelines are followed.
  • Professional Certifying Organizations: Organizations that sponsor professional programs in the United States that meet WaterSense specifications for certification programs.
  • Irrigation Professionals: Individuals who have been certified under a WaterSense labeled program and agree to promote water efficiency to customers and provide water-efficient services to customers can join WaterSense. To be eligible for partnership, the certified professional must provide service to at least one customer in the United States or Canada. At present, irrigation partners are the only type of certified professional covered under the WaterSense program.
  • Licensed Certification Providers: Organizations that commit to hire or contract with water- efficiency inspectors can partner with WaterSense. Licensed certification providers are also approved to train inspectors, oversee new home inspections, and issue certification decisions for inspected homes in the United States in accordance with the WaterSense New Home Certification System. The certification provider must signify such commitment by signing a licensing agreement and a WaterSense partnership agreement with EPA and must be approved by a program administrator.
  • Builders: Home builders that construct or plan to construct new homes in accordance with the most currrent version of the WaterSense New Home Specification, promote WaterSense labeled products and WaterSense labeled homes to customers, and provide other support as specified in the certification system can join WaterSense. To be eligible for partnership, the builder must commit to build at least one home that is certified to conform to EPA’s WaterSense new homes criteria within 12 months of execution of the partnership agreement and at least one home in the United States each year thereafter.

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How much does it cost to become a WaterSense partner?

  • There is no partnership fee; joining WaterSense is free.
  • For manufacturers, there are costs associated with developing new products to meet specifications and costs assessed by the licensed certifying body for product testing and certification.
  • For builders, there are costs associated with an inspection to ensure the home meets the requirements of the WaterSense New Home Specification.

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How do I become a WaterSense partner?

  • Identify the partner category that best suits your organization.
  • Fill out a partnership agreement for that partner category.
  • Send the completed form to the WaterSense Helpline

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Why is my organization not eligible to become a partner?

  • Currently, WaterSense is only partnering with the organizations listed in the Who Can Become a WaterSense Partner section of this FAQ. The following types of entities are ineligible for participation as partners until such time when EPA has established a formal role and/or draft specification for these new types of partners:
    • Consultants
    • Home inspectors
    • Realtors
    • Commercial, institutional, and industrial facility owners and operators
    • Plumbers
  • Manufacturers are not eligible to partner with WaterSense until a draft or final specification for a product category their company produces has been released by WaterSense. For more information, please go the Product and Program Specifications section of the website
  • In the future, EPA may invite additional types of organizations and individuals to partner with WaterSense. In the interim, EPA encourages ineligible stakeholders to sign up to receive the WaterSense Current newsletter, participate in the specification development process, and/or contact the WaterSense Helpline at watersense@epa.gov or (866) WTR-SENS (987-7367) to discuss other ways they would like to collaborate with EPA on water efficiency.

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What can I do to promote WaterSense if my organization is not eligible to become a partner at this time?

  • Use materials and tools on the WaterSense website to promote the program.
  • Recommend and install WaterSense labeled products.
  • Recommend WaterSense irrigation partners for irrigation system installation and audits.
  • Recruit new WaterSense partners.
  • Implement the Best Management Practices to reduce water use in your facility.

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What is a partnership agreement?

  • A WaterSense partnership agreement includes a discussion of the WaterSense program goals, a partner pledge, EPA’s commitment to WaterSense partners, and general terms and disclaimers. The partner pledge varies slightly depending on the type of partner. The WaterSense Program Guidelines briefly describe the differences in expectations for different partner types, as well as EPA’s commitment to its partners.
  • Partnership agreements are tailored to each partner type and outline the requirements of participating in the program for each category type. Each organization or certified professional signing a partnership agreement agrees to uphold the requirements of the guidelines for use of the WaterSense label, promotional label, partner logo, or program logo, as appropriate.

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What’s the difference between partner types?

  • Manufacturers design and create products to meet WaterSense specifications.
  • Licensed certification bodies test and label products.
  • Retailers/Distributors help get WaterSense labeled products into the marketplace.
  • Builders construct water-efficient homes using the WaterSense New Home Specification.
  • Licensed certification providers coordinate inspections and issue the WaterSense label to qualifying new homes.
  • Irrigation partners help homeowners use water more efficiently outdoors.
  • Promotional partners such as water utilities, state and local governments, nonprofit organizations, and home builder associations help spread the word about WaterSense.

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What do partners do?

  • Promote indoor and outdoor water efficiency and WaterSense labeled products and programs.
  • Participate in national outreach campaigns such as Fix a Leak Week and quarterly partner-only webinars.
  • Provide input for the program by submitting a brief annual update on water-efficiency activities.
  • Apply for WaterSense Partner of the Year awards by submitting an application.

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What are some of the benefits of becoming a partner?

  • Access to free materials and tools to help promote WaterSense labeled products and water efficiency.
  • Use of the WaterSense program marks (including the partner logo).
  • Membership in a network of water-efficiency experts to learn new strategies and collaborate with other types of partners.
  • Receive recognition from EPA as a water efficiency leader.
  • And best of all, it’s free to join!

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Why do I have to submit annual data?

  • Data reporting allows the program to measure results, such as total products labeled and water saved, to demonstrate the success of the WaterSense program.
  • Annual data reporting gives partners an opportunity to give feedback to WaterSense while updating their rebate, product, and contact information.
  • Partner input helps drive the direction of the program.
  • An annual data form is a requirement for submitting an awards application.

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What are the Partner of the Year awards?

  • The Partner of the Year awards are a way to recognize partners who help advance the overall mission of WaterSense, increase WaterSense brand awareness in a measurable way, and demonstrate overall excellence in the water efficiency arena.

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Why would private utilities want people to use less water?

  • Maintaining and replacing water supply infrastructure is a major cost for many local communities.
  • Water efficiency can help communities extend the life of their infrastructure.
  • Conserving water is much cheaper than building new supplies.

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If my utility is part of a larger organization that is already a WaterSense partner (such as a water district that oversees several water utilities), does my individual utility need to submit a separate partnership agreement?

  • Individual utilities and local governments must submit an individual partnership agreement regardless of their affiliation with another organization that is already a partner.
  • Organizations that have not submitted a partnership agreement may not use the program marks or have access to partner-specific materials.

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I am a utility or a government agency and already have an extensive water conservation (or efficiency) program, which is publicized. Why should I join WaterSense?

  • By participating in the WaterSense program, you are eligible to use promotional resources and materials developed by EPA, which helps your organization conserve resources expended on development of new materials.
  • EPA conducted market research to test its messages and design with consumers in different areas of the country. The templates incorporate the findings of this market research to best reach and connect with the public.
  • Partners are eligible to tap into the expertise and lessons learned in promoting water efficiency by other partners. If your organization is a leader in promoting water efficiency, you can share the results of your efforts to others and help the other localities across the nation protect our water resources.
  • Partners are also eligible to participate in national outreach campaigns organized by WaterSense. Partners have access to campaign specific materials and are connected to publicity done across the country. Fix a Leak Week and We’re for Water are examples of major WaterSense outreach campaigns.

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My organization has a very small water conservation program or does not have an existing water conservation program at all. Is WaterSense a good fit for me?

  • Yes, WaterSense can help your organization get started promoting water efficiency. WaterSense makes many free tools and resources available to all partners to help them develop and expand a water efficiency program. WaterSense partners also have many opportunities to get ideas from other partners with established programs during quarterly webinars and through the WaterSense partner website.

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What specific types of publicity will WaterSense provide?

  • WaterSense posts the names of participating partners on its website. It also includes a web registry of WaterSense labeled products and programs and WaterSense partners, including individuals that have been certified through a WaterSense labeled certification program.
  • EPA will periodically develop case studies and articles on the WaterSense program, including information on selected partners with their permission.

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Can I advertise my partnership with WaterSense?

  • Upon execution of the partnership agreement (signed by both the partner and EPA), partners are eligible to use the WaterSense partner logo in accordance with the WaterSense Program Mark Guidelines .
  • Partners may not use the partner logo as an endorsement of a particular product or program by EPA.
  • Partners may also use a press release to announce their partnership with WaterSense. A sample is provided on the WaterSense partner website.

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Can I quit the program?

  • Because WaterSense is a voluntary program, your organization may terminate partnership at any time.
  • There is no penalty for leaving WaterSense, and an organization may rejoin the program at any time.
  • Organizations or individuals that drop out can no longer use the WaterSense partner logo and will not be eligible for WaterSense recognition through publicity or awards.

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Will WaterSense ever become mandatory?

  • WaterSense was founded as a voluntary partnership program and will always remain that way.
  • The purpose of the program is to voluntarily transform the market for water-efficient products, programs, and practices.

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What types of costs would I incur as a WaterSense partner?

  • There is no partnership fee; joining WaterSense is free.
  • For manufacturers, there are costs assessed by the licensed certifying body and costs associated with developing new products to meet specifications.
  • For builders, there are costs associated with an inspection to ensure the home meets the requirements of the WaterSense new homes specification.

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Will my information be kept confidential?

  • Partner names will be posted on the website.
  • Certified products will be listed on the web registry.
  • Telephone numbers and addresses for contacts, partner goals, and reporting results are not released without prior authorization from the partner organization.
  • Any data submitted to WaterSense marked as “confidential” will be handled as Confidential Business Information. Sensitive business information may be claimed confidential under 40 CFR Part 2, Subpart B. WaterSense has an EPA-approved security plan in place to protect confidential business information from unauthorized disclosure. All data submitted as confidential will be handled as such.