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Proposal to Change Policy for Apartment Water Use

Release Date: 09/08/2003
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Contact: Cathy Milbourn 202-564-7824 /

(09/08/03) As part of the celebration of the 30th Anniversary of the passage of the Clean Water Act, EPA has taken several steps to promote water efficiency, an important part of drinking water protection, particularly in dry and drought-stricken areas. To help apartment dwellers save water, EPA is proposing to change the regulatory policy on apartment buildings in order to encourage property owners to bill residents only for their actual water usage.

“Water efficiency is one of the four pillars of our strategy to make the nation’s water infrastructure sustainable,” said G. Tracy Mehan III, EPA’s Assistant Administrator for Water. “We have seen that consumers use less water if they are billed not on just a flat rate but on what they actually use. Americans can save substantial amounts of water through water efficiency programs -- helping to make them aware of how much water they are using and the cost is one of the steps to produce environmental benefits.”

Water meters, used to measure consumption, are necessary to conduct this usage billing, and “submeters” may be needed for the 15 percent of Americans who live in apartments. One way to encourage more residential submetering is to remove the potential regulatory burden currently faced by apartment building owners who install submeters and bill tenants separately for water.

EPA is proposing to revise its current policy regarding submetering of residential properties. Under the Safe Drinking Water Act, the national primary drinking water regulations apply to public water systems (PWS) that have its own water source, treat or sell water.

EPA has previously issued guidance stating that any building or property owner who meets the definition of a PWS and receives water from a regulated public water system, but bills tenants separately for this water, is selling the water and is independently subject to safe drinking water requirements. As a way to promote full cost and conservation pricing to achieve water conservation, the Agency now proposes to change the policy as it applies to a limited aspect of submetering and direct billing of residential tenants.

The 60 day comment period on this proposed policy change began when it was published in the Federal Register on Aug. 28, 2003. For more information on water efficiency, go to: .

To help ensure that water efficiency gains recognition in the marketplace, on Sept. 4, G. Tracy Mehan, III, announced that the Agency is planning a national program to promote water-efficient products to consumers. Water use has gained national attention with more than 36 states expecting to experience water shortages over the next ten years even without drought conditions.