Best Management Practice: Faucets and Showerheads

Most Federal buildings have faucets in restrooms, kitchens, and laboratories. Many Federal installations have showers, including barracks, family housing, recreation facilities, and locker rooms. Significant opportunity for water savings exists for these fixtures when upgrading to efficient technology and employing conservation practices.

This page outlines faucet and showerhead best management practices across the following areas:


Federal guidelines mandate that all lavatory and kitchen faucets and faucet aerators manufactured and sold in the U.S. after January 1, 1994, must use no more than 2.2 gallons per minute (gpm). In addition, metering faucets (those that, when activated, dispense water of a predetermined volume or for a predetermined period of time) must discharge no more than 0.25 gallons per cycle (gpc). Federal guidelines also mandate that all showerheads manufactured and sold in the U.S. after January 1, 1994, must use no more than 2.5 gpm.

High efficiency faucets and showerheads are available on in the marketplace. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) WaterSense Program released a specification for residential bathroom lavatory faucets and faucet accessories (e.g., aerators or laminar devices) requiring a maximum flow rate of 1.5 gpm or less, a 32% decrease in flow rate over Federal guidelines. Only lavatory faucets intended for private use (i.e., residential housing, barracks, and other dwelling units like hotel guest rooms and hospital rooms) are eligible for the WaterSense label.

To address lavatory faucets intended for public use, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) A112.18.1/ Canadian Standards Association (CSA) B125.1 Plumbing Supply Fittings specifies that public lavatory faucets (all faucets other than those defined as private above), other than metering, must have a maximum flow rate of 0.5 gpm.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) WaterSense Program released a specification for showerheads requiring a maximum flow rate of no more than 2.0 gpm. The WaterSense specification for showerheads also includes performance requirements. All WaterSense labeled showerheads must meet minimum spray force and coverage specifications.

Federal sites are required to purchase WaterSense labeled or equivalent private faucets and showerheads per the Instructions for Implementing Executive Order 13423.

If your facility still uses older faucets and showerheads, or uses faucets with flow rates greater than 0.5 gpm in public restrooms, there is a significant opportunity to save both water and energy costs.

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Operation and Maintenance

To maintain water efficiency in operations and maintenance, Federal agencies should:

  • Establish a user-friendly method to report leaks and fix them immediately.

  • Encourage cleaning or custodial crews to report problems.

  • Test system pressure to make sure it is between 20 and 80 psi. If the pressure is too low, high-efficiency devices won't work properly. If it is too high, they will consume more than their rated amount of water.

  • Install expansion tanks and pressure reducing valves and reduce water heater settings where appropriate to prevent temperature and pressure relief valves from discharging water.

  • Correctly adjust and maintain automatic sensors to ensure proper operation. Sensors must be calibrated to ensure water use only when washing hands and not be triggered by users passing in front of the faucet.

  • Encourage users to take shorter showers. Place clocks or timers in or near showers to allow users to track their timing better.

  • Post energy/water awareness information to encourage efficiency from users.

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Retrofit and Replacement Options

The following retrofit and replacement options help Federal agencies maintain water efficiency across facilities:

  • Avoid retrofitting existing inefficient showerheads with flow control inserts or flow control valves (designed to restrict flow or temporarily shut off flow of water, respectively). Flow control inserts and flow control valves may increase risks of thermal shock and scalding and may not provide adequate flow in some Federal facilities, particularly those with low water pressure.

  • When installing new showerheads, choose models with a WaterSense label, which have flow rates of no more than 2.0 gpm. Verify that the hot and cold water plumbing lines are routed through an auto-compensating mixing valve (either thermostatic or pressure balancing) designed for the flow rate of the showerhead. This valve prevents against significant fluctuations in water pressure and temperature if designed for the flow rate of the showerhead and can reduce risks of thermal shock and scalding. Check with a local plumber and, if necessary, install an auto-compensating mixing valve designed for the flow rate of the showerhead you plan to install.

  • For kitchen faucet retrofits, install aerators or laminar flow devices that achieve a flow rate of 2.2 gpm.

  • For lavatory faucet retrofits in public restrooms, install faucets or faucet aerators or laminar flow devices that achieve 0.5 gpm flow rate, required by plumbing codes.

  • For lavatory faucet retrofits in private restrooms (residential housing, barracks, hotel guest rooms, and hospital rooms), install WaterSense labeled high-efficiency lavatory faucets or faucet aerators or laminar flow devices.

  • Install temporary shut-off or foot-operated valves with kitchen faucets. These valves cut off the water flow during intermittent activities like scrubbing or dishwashing. The water can be reactivated at the previous temperature without the need to remix the hot and cold water.

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The following resources provide guidance on water best management practices.

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Case Study

The Huntington Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center implemented an award winning faucet and showerhead water efficiency programPDF in 2007. The efficiency improvements save the medical center more than 1.5 million gallons of water each year.

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