WaterSense is a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) program designed to encourage water efficiency in the United States through the use of a special label on consumer products. It was launched in June 2006, and is a voluntary program.

In its newly published specification released Aug. 31, the EPA has removed its 40 percent turf limitation for new homes labeled under its program. The WaterSense New Home Specification becomes effective Jan. 1, 2013. Most people in the green industry viewed the turf limit as nonsensical given the differences in climate across the country.

Rather than the arbitrary 40 percent turf limit, WaterSense now requires that builders of homes qualifying for the WaterSense program use the Agency’s water budget tool in planning landscape design. The tool is available on the WaterSense website

WaterSense is not a regulatory program, but rather a voluntary program. EPA develops specifications for water efficient products through a public process. If a manufacturer makes a product that meets those specifications, the product is eligible for third-party testing to ensure the stated efficiency and performance criteria have been met. If the product passes the test, the manufacturer is rewarded with the right to put the WaterSense label on that product.

To obtain the WaterSense designation newly constructed homes must meet criteria in three areas: 

  • Indoor water use, including plumbing, plumbing fixtures and fittings, appliances and other water-using equipment.
  • Outdoor water use, including landscape design. Irrigation systems are not required. Irrigation systems that are installed must meet the criteria in this specification.
  • Homeowner education.

To view the U.S. EPA WaterSense newly published specifications, click here.