The Trump administration is moving to loosen environmental standards for showerheads following a string of public complaints from the president about low-flow fixtures designed to save water.
A new proposal from the Department of Energy (DOE) would change the definition of a showerhead, essentially allowing different components within the device to count as individual fixtures, sidestepping requirements that allow no more than 2.5 gallons to flow through per minute.
"If adopted, this rule would undo the action of the previous Administration and return to Congressional intent, allowing Americans-not Washington bureaucrats--to choose what kind of showerheads they have in their homes," DOE spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes said in an email to The Hill.
The move drew swift criticism from consumer groups.
"There is absolutely no need to change current showerhead standards," David Friedman, vice president of advocacy at Consumer Reports and a former DOE official during the Obama administration, said in a statement.
"Thanks to the standards, consumers have access to showerheads that not only score well on [Consumer Reports] tests and achieve high levels of customer satisfaction, but also save consumers money by reducing energy and water consumption," Friedman added.
President TrumpDonald TrumpTexas announces election audit in four counties after Trump demand Schumer sets Monday showdown on debt ceiling-government funding bill Pennsylvania AG sues to block GOP subpoenas in election probe MORE has revealed his fixation on fixtures by repeatedly bringing up his distaste for showerheads, toilets, and even energy-efficient lightbulbs and dishwashers.
“Showerheads — you take a shower, the water doesn’t come out. You want to wash your hands, the water doesn’t come out. So what do you do? You just stand there longer or you take a shower longer? Because my hair — I don’t know about you, but it has to be perfect. Perfect,” he said to laughter at an event in July on rolling back regulations.
In December, he said that “people are flushing toilets 10 times, 15 times.”
While Trump’s comments have been mocked on late-night TV shows, communities in water-scarce areas, particularly in the West, rely on low-flow fixtures to preserve their water supplies.
Residents of other parts of the country benefit financially from the standards through lower water bills and reduced costs tied to water heaters.
Roughly three-quarters of showerheads on the market use 20 percent less than the maximum allowed under law, but some highly rated fixtures use just 70 percent of the flow allowed under law.
Under previous administrations, the DOE has updated standards for a range of appliances and fixtures with little fanfare.
“The new plan is a gimmick in search of a problem,” Andrew deLaski, executive director of the Appliance Standards Awareness Project, wrote in a blog post.
“Complaints about inadequate showerheads were frequent decades ago, immortalized in a 1996 Seinfeld episode. But for many years now, we’ve had a fix for poorly performing models,” he said, referencing research from Consumer Reports. “In the wake of years of innovation, including the improved use of aeration, the magazine found that ‘the top water-saving and rain-shower models we tested provide a strong flow.’”
The DOE's new proposal could violate “anti-backsliding” provisions put in place in the 1992 law when Congress established the 2.5 gallon standard.
DeLaski said he suspects the DOE will be challenged on the rule if it is finalized, with environmental groups working to demonstrate the climate change impacts of the decision.
Beyond wasting water, he said, “the plan would raise greenhouse gas emissions when more fuel is burned in homes with gas water heaters and at the power plants that supply power to homes with electric water heaters.”