President Joe Biden’s administration is reversing a Trump-era rule approved after the former president complained he was not getting wet enough because of limits on water flow from showerheads.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) said efficient showerheads are the norm, so the rule change will have little practical effect. Nearly all commercially made showerheads comply with the 2013 rule, despite the lies spouted by the former president.
While publicly talking about the need to keep his hair “perfect”, Trump made it a personal issue to increase water flow and dial back longstanding appliance conservation standards — including for lightbulbs, toilets and dishwashers.
The change represented one of many attempts by Trump Republicans to dismantle national energy efficiency standards program that save the average U.S. household $500 a year on utility bills.
The reversal is part of Biden’s broader commitment as part of his assertive climate agenda to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions 50-52 percent below 2005 levels by 2030—doubling the current U.S. climate targets.
Noah Horowitz, director of the Center for Energy Efficiency Standards at Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), New Jersey environmentalist Lisa McCormick, Andrew deLaski, the executive director of the Appliance Standards Awareness Project, a coalition of environmental consumer groups supporting strong efficiency standards.
Since 1992, federal law dictated that new showerheads should not pour more than 2.5 gallons (9.5 liters) of water per minute. As newer shower fixtures came out with multiple nozzles, the Obama administration defined the restrictions to apply to what comes out in total. So if there are four nozzles, no more than 2.5 gallons total should come out among all four.
The Trump-era rule, finalized in December, allows each nozzle to spray as much as 2.5 gallons, not just the overall showerhead.
“The Trump administration sent decades of progress on water and energy efficiency for U.S. showers down the drain with a radically irresponsible and illegal rule for showerheads,” said Lisa McCormick, a New Jersey environmentalist. “The Department of Energy (DOE) developed the wasteful rule in response to a series of baseless claims from then-President Trump, typically offered as applause lines during his election rally speeches.
“Despite a steady stream of complaints from Trump, who claimed efficient showerheads don’t deliver enough water, the reality is that consumers may choose among thousands of showerheads for sale in today’s market that deliver an ample spray and a satisfying shower experience without wasting water or energy,” said McCormick. “Appliance standards are a key part of cutting our energy waste, reducing pollution, and saving the planet. We have the technology to create appliances and plumbing fixtures that don’t use unnecessary water and energy, and the cleanest form of energy is the energy we never use in the first place.”
“By cynically changing the way a showerhead is defined, Trump’s DOE would have allowed the sale of wasteful models that use virtually unlimited amounts of water, setting up consumers for higher utility bills and frequent cold showers,” said McCormick. “Not only is he all wet, but everyone knows that Trump is a four flusher who makes empty boasts.”
McCormich noted that removing limits on shower water flow would also increase the amount of energy used to heat the water—which also means increasing the amount of pollution from a gas water heater onsite or at the power plant supplying an electric one.
With roughly 200 million showers taken every day in the U.S., the financial and environmental impact could become significant—and especially harm low-income Americans and communities of color that already experience significantly higher burdens when it comes to water and energy bills and energy-related pollution.
The Alliance for Water Efficiency and dozens of water and wastewater utilities objected to Trump’s showerhead definition change, estimating it could increase national water use by 161 billion gallons per year.