GSA's Richard Russell Federal Building Initiates Water Conservation Measures

November 1, 2002

The General Services Administration (GSA), DOE's Atlanta Regional Office, and FEMP have teamed to improve the restrooms in the Richard B. Russell Federal Building by replacing inefficient restroom fixtures with water conserving fixtures. Some of the new fixtures installed include 1.6 gallons-per-flush (gpf) toilets, 1.0 gpf urinals, 1.0 quart-per-handle-activation handwash faucets, and low consumption flushometer valves.

The new fixtures were installed in the second floor restrooms of the Russell Building during August 2002, and is scheduled to be completed during September 2002. GSA and DOE will then conduct a user survey to gather responses on product performance. The survey will examine maintenance issues and user preferences. Based on the user survey responses, GSA plans to upgrade restrooms on all 23 floors of the Russell Building.

The United States uses about 4.8 billion gallons of water every day to flush waste, and tremendous amounts of water and energy are wasted using inefficient faucets. Toilets and urinals account for nearly one third of a buildings "water consumption" the potential for savings from water conserving fixtures is significant. Unless a building is relatively new or has been refurbished recently, chances are that excess water is going down the drains of older-model toilets and urinals. Current Federal law requires that residential toilets manufactured after January 1, 1994 must use no more than 1.6 gpf. Commercial toilets manufactured after January 1, 1997 must use no more than 1.6 gpf and urinals must use no more than 1 gpf. Federal guidelines also mandate that all lavatory and kitchen faucets and aerators manufactured after January 1, 1994, must use no more than 2.2 gallons-per-minute. If a building still uses older faucets, there is a significant opportunity to save both water and energy costs.

In 1992, an overwhelming majority of the U.S. Congress supported the adoption of national standards for water conserving plumbing fixtures. As part of the Energy Policy Act (EPAct), the standards mandate specific flush volumes and flow rates for plumbing products.

EPAct was adopted in part to promote the conservation and the efficient use of energy and water. The Act requires minimum water efficiency standards for plumbing equipment including toilets, showerheads, faucets, and urinals. These high performance plumbing fixtures substantially reduce water consumption, wastewater production, environmental damage, and water utility costs.

National water efficiency plumbing standards are necessary because:

  • Fresh water is a finite resource and a valuable commodity;
  • The capacity of streams, lakes, and estuaries throughout the country to assimilate wastewater is being severely burdened;
  • It is expensive to develop and treat new water sources and build the additional water and wastewater treatment facilities needed to process increased wastewater loads; and
  • Water conservation through the use of efficient plumbing products helps keep water rates affordable for consumers.

Curbing nationwide water consumption can yield significant environmental benefits and energy and cost savings. Even in communities with an adequate supply of water, the cost of collecting, transporting, and treating water and wastewater can place a heavy burden on utilities and consumers. A continuing Federal role is appropriate because only the Federal government can control the importation of devices from outside the United States and only the Federal government has purview over interstate shipment of plumbing hardware.

Water is one of our most vital and precious resources. Water efficiency measures can conserve important water resources and reduce operating costs.

For more information, please contact Yolanda Frinks of DOE's Atlanta Regional Office at 404-562-0628 or yolanda.frinks@ee.doe.gov, or Stephanie Tanner of DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory at 202-646-5218 or stephanie_tanner@nrel.gov.