Policy Advocacy

Water efficiency and conservation should be a national priority. The sustainable use of water contributes to healthy communities and healthy economies, helps citizens and businesses save money, and supports strong ecosystems. The Alliance for Water Efficiency (AWE) focuses on promoting legislation, policy and standards at the federal level to support investments in water-efficient products and programs. At the state and local levels, AWE works hand in hand with partners to advance regulatory solutions to water challenges.

Our Current Priorities

Authorization and Funding of the U.S. EPA WaterSense® Program

The Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense program is a voluntary partnership program designed to make it easy for Americans to save water by choosing water-efficient products and services. Products that meet WaterSense specifications must be independently tested and/or certified to carry the WaterSense label. Introduced in 2006, the WaterSense program lacks the federal funding and authorization to fully achieve its potential. ENERGY STAR®, the equivalent fully authorized energy efficiency program, has been instrumental in transforming the way we use electricity.

AWE believes the WaterSense program should be fully authorized and funded by the government to certify the efficiency of plumbing, water treatment and irrigation products and to promote the use of such products. We are working to introduce and support such authorization in existing and new legislation.

Click here to learn more about WaterSense, and AWE's advocacy efforts on behalf of the program.

Tax-Exempt Rebates for Water Efficiency and Conservation

Rebates from energy utilities are tax-exempt, but not rebates from water utilities, whether they be for drinking water efficiency, wastewater, or storm water programs. Because water utilities cannot process tax-free rebates, they often provide 1099s at the end of the year to customers that have received $600 or more in water rebates. This tax liability serves as a disincentive to water efficiency retrofit programs and other worthy efforts to encourage sustainable water use.

AWE is spearheading a coalition of non-profit organizations, water providers and others to advocate for an amendment to the tax code giving water rebates the same status as energy rebates, and are working with partners to pursue additional solutions. Thanks to this group’s efforts, 34 members of Congress recently submitted a letter to the IRS requesting this change, and many communities have issued a resolution voicing support for a solution. We encourage your community to issue a resolution; please visit our Legislative Watch page for the latest introduced bill and access to a sample resolution.

Removal of Barriers to Debt Financing Efficiency Programs

A primary barrier to accessing capital markets for public utility investments in water efficiency programs, green infrastructure and other centralized water solutions is a lack of clarity around the accounting rules for doing so. The Governmental Accounting Standards Board requires that utilities must control assets they capitalize. Water efficiency programs are currently not viewed as meeting this requirement, despite the fact that they create new water supplies. As a result, most utility funding for water efficiency comes out of operating cash, which strains budgets and often reduces investment.

AWE is working with several partner organizations, including Ceres and the WaterNow Alliance, to create clarity around strategies to successfully debt finance efficiency programs and pursue possible paths to amend the rules that govern accounting practices. Learn more about this issue in this report.

Strong Codes and Standards to Embed Water Efficiency from the Start

Standards and codes for plumbing, equipment, appliances, and green building are key to advancing the development of water efficiency and in assuring the longevity of water savings. They ensure sustainable water use is embedded into our buildings and communities from the very beginning.

AWE participates in all of the key codes and standards-making organizations to ensure that the most water-efficient and cost-effective practices, products, and technologies are recognized.

You can support this important work by calling your representatives to voice your support for water efficiency, by participating in our WaterSense and Water-Efficient Products Committee for members to develop positions on codes and standards, and by donating to the Alliance for Water Efficiency.