The Biden administration has restored Obama-era restrictions on water flow rates through shower heads, rescinding changes the Trump administration made to the rule to allow greater consumer choice.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) finalized a rule limiting shower heads to a flow rate of 2.5 gallons per minute (gpm), according to the Federal Register. This restore earlier definitions of the term “shower head” as amended by the Obama administration.
Under the Trump administration the DOE had modified the rule allow for multiple compound heads, each of which was allowed a flow rate of 2.5 gpm, such that, for example, a triple-headed fixture could provide a flow rate of 7.5 gpm. The rule set no total limit on the number of heads or nozzles or total flow.
Different Administrations, Different Rules
In 1992, the DOE implemented flow limits for shower heads limiting flow to 2.5 gpm in order to conserve water.
Following the original 1992 flow-limit rule, shower head manufacturers began producing multi-head fixtures to provide flow rates desired by customers.
The Obama administration closed what it deemed a loophole in the original rule by redefining the term to mean an entire fixture, rather than individual nozzles or heads within a multi-head fixture.
Drawbacks to low-flow shower heads drove consumer discontent, as demonstrated by persistent attempts by manufacturers to circumvent the standards.
Designs that use restrictors to limit pressure, for example, clog more easily than older high-pressure designs, providing poor performance and often requiring frequent replacement. Beyond that, washing and rinsing still requires certain minimum amounts of water and research indicates lowering water flow results in more time required to effectively wash and rinse.
Although some high-end manufacturers’ designs maintain high pressure while reducing flow, resulting in similar performance to pre-restriction shower heads, the less expensive shower heads used in most homes simply require longer showers, defeating the stated purpose of the rule to conserve water.
Experts Oppose Restrictions
Government intervention in such matters as water flow for showers is emblematic of recent federal overreach in which the federal government has increasingly attempted to micromanage minutiae of Americans’ daily lives like water and energy use, says Ben Lieberman, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
“Consumers should be able to decide for themselves what kind of showers they buy and use, and do so free from regulatory constraints”, said Lieberman. “People don’t need the government to protect them from too much water in the shower, they can simply turn the knob down.”
The shower head standards are a naked ploy to extend federal regulation into areas of life America’s founders never intended the federal government to have a say in, says Jay Lehr, Ph.D., a senior policy advisor for the International Climate Science Coalition.
“The federal government hates people exercising their free choice in the market and is doing all it can to restrain them,” said Lehr. “During the years the shower head restriction was previously in force, it had no measurable impact on water use, because people found ways to increase water flow or simply took longer showers.”
Kevin Stone (firstname.lastname@example.org) writes from Arlington, Texas