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WaterSense is partnering with irrigation professionals and irrigation certification programs to promote water-efficient landscape irrigation practices. WaterSense is also partnering with manufacturers, retailers and distributors, and utilities to bring WaterSense products to the marketplace and make it easy to purchase high-performing, water-efficient products.
Program Scope & Objectives:
This specification establishes the criteria for water-efficient new homes under the United States EPA WaterSense® Program. It is applicable to newly constructed single-family homes and townhomes, three stories or less in size. A new home must meet all of the identified criteria to be labeled as a WaterSense home by a Builder Partner of the WaterSense Program.
The intent of this specification is to reduce indoor and outdoor water usage in new residential homes and encourage community infrastructure savings. This specification is not intended to contravene local codes and ordinances. Unless indicated, criteria for individual components do not constitute criteria for a WaterSense label for that component or product category. Individual component criteria are valid only in the context of this specification.
Summary of Criteria
New homes must meet criteria in three areas:
Indoor water use including plumbing and plumbing fixtures and fittings, appliances, and other water using equipment;
Outdoor water use including landscape design and irrigation systems, if installed; and
Program specification process is open for public comments: firstname.lastname@example.org
June 18, 2008: EPA Public hearing – call for comments on existing draft specification. Taking comments and questions on email at email@example.com – more information can be found on www.epa.gov/watersense
Comments will be reviewed and one additional conference all for public comment may be scheduled: Date TBD
Program roll-out, in limited areas, Early 2009.
Water budget – A water budget is used to calculate the amount of water a landscape needs taking into account the inputs and outputs of water to and from the root zone. Inputs, such as precipitation, are subtracted from outputs, such as evapotranspiration, to calculate the water needs of the landscape. Many factors are taken into consideration when calculating a water budget, such as plant type and irrigation system efficiencies. Specific methodology and worksheets will follow the release of this draft specification. Methodology will be based on the Irrigation Association’s “Landscape Irrigation Scheduling and Water Management.”
ET limit (ETo) – ETo is defined as the reference evapotranspiration rate from an extensive, uniform surface of dense, actively growing, cool-season grass with an approximate height of 4.7 inches and that is not short of soil water. Calculation of ET values should be performed using generally accepted equations and methods such as the ASCE Standardized Reference Evapotranspiration Equation (American Society of Civil Engineers, 2005). The Irrigation Association lists sources of ET information at
Hardscape – The part of a house’s grounds consisting of structures, such as patios, decks, retaining walls, and walkways, made with hard materials.
Landscapable area – The area of a site less the building area, driveways, paved walkways, pools and spas, natural water features, and hardscapes such as decks and patios.
Microirrigation system – The application of small quantities of water directly on or below the soil surface, usually as discrete drops, tiny streams, or miniature sprays through emitters placed along the water delivery pipes (laterals). Microirrigation encompasses a number of low-flow, low-volume irrigation systems with any type of emission device, including surface drip irrigation systems, subsurface drip irrigation systems, and pop-up surface microirrigation systems. These systems shall have flow rates of no more than 25 gallons per hour.
Mulching material – Covering placed around plants to reduce water loss and erosion, and to help regulate soil temperature. Permeable artificial turf is considered to meet this definition.
Ornamental water feature – Includes fountains, ponds, waterfalls, man-made streams and other decorative water-related constructions provided solely for aesthetic or beautification purposes.
WaterSense Irrigation partner – These professionals are certified through WaterSense labeled programs for their expertise in water-efficient irrigation technology and techniques. A listing of Irrigation Partners by State can be found at
Extract from Watersense Program
4.0 Outdoor Water Efficiency Criteria
The goal of the water-efficient landscape criteria is to reduce or obviate the need for supplemental irrigation. EPA has developed two options for designing the landscape of WaterSense labeled new homes, builders shall choose and implement one of the options. Option 1 provides a turf allowance and Option 2 allows the builder/landscape professional to design a landscape that is sustainable with a specified amount of water, i.e., a water budget.
The entire yard shall be landscaped to meet the criteria in either option.
4.1.1 Landscape Design
22.214.171.124 Option 1 – Turf shall not exceed 40% of the landscapable area. Turf shall not be installed on slopes greater than 4:1.
126.96.36.199 Option 2 – Develop the landscape design using a water budget approach. The evapotranspiration (ET) limit on the landscapable area shall be no more than 60 percent of the reference ET (ETo) for cool-season grass. For purposes of the ET calculation, the available precipitation shall be no more than 25 percent of the average annual rainfall amount. Turf shall not be installed on slopes greater than 4:1.
Builders keeping a natural landscape that requires no supplemental irrigation would meet the requirements of this option.
4.1.2 Mulching – Non-turf, non-hardscape areas shall include a 2 to 3-inch layer of mulching material.
4.1.3 Pools/spas – If installed prior to owner occupancy, the water surface area shall be deducted from the turf allowance under Landscape Design Option 1 and included as landscapable area under Landscape Design Option 2.
4.1.4 Ornamental water feature – Builders shall not install or facilitate the installation of ornamental water features.
4.2 Irrigation System Design – Irrigation systems, if installed, shall meet the following criteria:
4.2.1 Design and Installation
188.8.131.52 All irrigation systems shall be designed, installed, and audited by a WaterSense Irrigation Partner. A listing of Irrigation Partners by State can be found at http://www.epa.gov/watersense/pp/irrprof.htm
184.108.40.206 Irrigation systems shall be designed to sustain the landscape without creating flow or spray that leaves the property during a minimum continuous operating duration. This will be measured during the irrigation audit and the minimum continuous operating durations shall be 7 minutes for pop-up, fixed-spray sprinklers; 10 minutes for subsurface irrigation; 10 minutes for flood bubblers; 20 minutes for rotor sprinkler heads; and 30 minutes for drip irrigation.
220.127.116.11 Sprinkler heads shall not be used to water plantings other than maintained turf grass.
18.104.22.168 Microirrigation shall be used for planting beds and turf installed in strips of less than 8 feet wide.
4.2.2 Irrigation Controller
Irrigation controllers shall contain the following features:
Multiple programming capabilities – shall be capable of storing a minimum of 3 different programs to allow for separate schedules.
Multiple start times (cycling, cycle/soak, stackable start times) – shall be capable of a minimum of 3 different start times to allow for multiple irrigation cycles on the same zone for areas prone to run off.
Variable run times – shall be capable of varying run times, for example from 1 minute to 1 hour.
Variable scheduling – shall be capable of interval scheduling (minimum of 14 days) to allow for watering on even day scheduling, odd day scheduling, calendar day scheduling, and interval scheduling.
Percent adjust (water budget) feature – shall include a “Percent Up/Down Adjust” feature (or “Water Budget” feature) such as a button or dial that permits the user to increase or decrease the run-times or application rates for each zone by a prescribed percentage, by means of one adjustment without modifying the settings for that individual zone.
Capability to accept external soil moisture and/or rain sensors.
Non-volatile memory or self-charging battery circuit.
Complete shut off capability for total cessation of outdoor irrigation.
These criteria will be revised if and when EPA develops a final specification for weather-based or sensor-based irrigation control technology. Information on the development of a draft specification for these technologies can be found at http://www.epa.gov/watersense/specs/controltech.htm.
4.2.3 Sprinkler Heads – Sprinkler heads shall have a 4 inch or greater pop-up height and matched precipitation nozzles.
4.2.4 Microirrigation Systems – At a minimum, microirrigation systems shall be equipped with pressure regulators, filters, and flush end assemblies.
4.2.5 Schedule – Two seasonal water schedules shall be posted at the controller. One schedule shall be designed to address the initial grow-in phase of the landscape and the second schedule shall be designed to address an established landscape.
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