The US Department of Energy on Tuesday finalized a pair of new rules rolling back water efficiency standards on showerheads and other consumer appliances, punctuating President Donald Trump’s long-documented water flow grievances in the final weeks of his administration.
The new showerhead rule goes after the two-and-a-half-gallon-per-minute maximum flow rate set by Congress in the 1990s. Under current federal law, each showerhead in a fixture counts toward that limit collectively – but the Energy Department’s new rule means each showerhead individually can reach the limit set by Congress.
The department also established separate product classes for residential washers and dryer units that have cycle times of less than 30 minutes and meet lower efficiency standards.
“Today the Trump Administration affirmed its commitment to reducing regulatory burdens and safeguarding consumer choice,” Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette said in a statement. “With these rule changes, Americans can choose products that are best suited to meet their individual needs and the needs of their families.”
The rollbacks were quickly rebuked by environmental advocates and consumer and appliance standards groups, many of whom had raised concerns when the administration first proposed easing water efficiency standards in August.
“Changing the rules to address one of President Trump’s pet peeves is simply silly,” Andrew deLaski, executive director of the Appliance Standards Awareness Project, said in a statement. “Thousands of showerhead models on the market today meet the standards that Congress set way back in 1992 and provide a great shower.”
The changes, deLaski maintained, “allow for products that needlessly waste energy and water, are ridiculous and out of step with the climate crisis and the long-term drought facing much of the country. The Biden administration can and should promptly reverse them.”
That message was echoed by the vice president of advocacy at Consumer Reports, David Friedman, who praised appliance makers in a statement for “innovating in ways that help consumers thanks in part to steadily improving federal guidelines over the past three decades.”
“The goal of appliance standards is to help consumers save money by reducing energy costs while meeting their needs, but these latest rollbacks and rule changes by the Department of Energy run counter to that mission.”
The newly finalized rules mark only the latest instance of the Energy Department rolling back efficiency standards on consumer appliances.
In October, the agency announced it had finalized a rule allowing for a new class of dishwashers with cycle times of an hour or less and different energy and water conservation standards.
The slate of recent changes align with Trump’s larger dismantling of environmental regulations, and, more specifically, his open disdain for poor water flow.
Trump claimed late last year that Americans are flushing their toilets “10 times, 15 times, as opposed to once” and are having difficulty washing their hands.
“We have a situation where we’re looking very strongly at sinks and showers and other elements of bathrooms where you turn the faucet on – and in areas where there’s tremendous amounts of water, where the water rushes out to sea because you could never handle it, and you don’t get any water,” the President said last December during a roundtable with small business leaders about deregulatory actions.
“You turn on the faucet and you don’t get any water. They take a shower and water comes dripping out. Just dripping out, very quietly dripping out,” the President continued, lowering his voice as he spoke about the drips.
“People are flushing toilets 10 times, 15 times, as opposed to once.”
CNN’s Caroline Kelly contributed to this report.