In one of its closing acts, the Trump administration this week finalized two new rules rolling back water efficiency standards on showerheads and laundry machines.
It’s the latest move in line with the president’s yearlong crusade against what he deems as insufficient water pressure in household appliances and bathroom fixtures.
The new showerhead rule, which the Energy Department announced on Tuesday, allows for each showerhead in a fixture to reach the two-and-a-half gallon-per-minute maximum water flow rate mandated by Congress, which set those standards nearly 30 years ago. Previously, a showerhead fixture could only use two-and-a-half gallons per minute regardless of how many showerheads were on it, with the total usage collected cumulatively.
In its second rule, the department also created new product classes for washers and dryers with shorter cycle times. That followed the agency’s October announcement of a new rule allowing for a new class of dishwashers with shorter cycle times and different efficiency standards.
“Today the Trump Administration affirmed its commitment to reducing regulatory burdens and safeguarding consumer choice,” Energy Secretary 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.”
Some environmental advocates, consumer groups and manufacturers criticized the recent rule changes as both unnecessary and potentially harmful to the environment.
“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.”
Joanna Mauer, a senior research manager at the Appliance Standards Awareness Project, wrote that the new laundry rule will allow “certain clothes washers and dryers to use unlimited amounts of energy and water” and “will open the door to very wasteful products.”
“Notably, no one asked for this rule,” she added, saying President-elect Joe Biden’s administration “should move to quickly reverse both today’s rule and the dishwasher short-cycle rule.”
For much of the past year, Trump has taken aim at the water standards governing toilets, showers and other household appliances as part of his broader efforts to roll back regulations.
Speaking to reporters at the White House last December, Trump said his administration would be “looking very strongly at sinks and showers and other elements of bathrooms” at his direction, insisting that “people are flushing toilets 10 times, 15 times, as opposed to once,” and that “they end up using more water.”
He would later tell rallygoers in Wisconsin: “Toilets and showers. You do not get any water.”
Trump spent more time on this topic during a White House event in July centered on his administration’s regulatory rollbacks.
“So showerheads — you take a shower, the water doesn’t come out,” Trump said. “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.”
“Dishwashers — you didn’t have any water, so you — the people that do the dishes — you press it, and it goes again, and you do it again and again,” Trump added. “So you might as well give them the water because you’ll end up using less water. So we made it so dishwashers now have a lot more water. And in many places — in most places of the country, water is not a problem. They don’t know what to do with it. It’s called ‘rain.’ They don’t have a problem.”
His comments echo a long-standing grievance in some conservative circles about these regulations.
“I’ve never flushed a toilet 10 times,” Daniel Savickas, the regulatory policy director for the libertarian advocacy group FreedomWorks, told NBC News earlier this year. “But I think what he’s getting at is the heart of the issue. People do have to run their appliances multiple times because of water efficiency standards.”
Leading environmentalists, however, have said the concerns are bunk.
“I don’t know what product they’re using but I don’t have to run it two or three times,” former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, the Environmental Protection Agency administrator under President George W. Bush, told NBC News earlier this year. “My dishwashers do just fine, thank you. I do it once. My dishes are clean and everybody’s healthy. I don’t know what they’re talking about.”