Oregon's Governor Orders Water-Saving Improvements

Credit: Image credit : Jim Choate

Oregon Governor Kate Brown has signed a pair of ground-breaking Executive Orders this week directing state agencies to adopt strong new policies and programs to address climate change, including a big boost for urban water efficiency. EO 17-20 is titled Accelerating Efficiency in Oregon’s Built Environment to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Address Climate Change.  Among the many new directives for efficiency in buildings, the Governor is ordering the Building Codes Division of the Department of Business and Consumer Services to strengthen the state building code to require high-efficiency fixtures in all new buildings. This portion of the order reads as follows:

High Efficiency Water Fixtures. The appropriate advisory board(s) and BCD are directed to conduct code amendment of the state building code to require high-efficiency water fixtures in all new buildings by January 1, 2020.

High-efficiency fixtures carry no cost premium and are currently available in literally thousands of models in the styles and colors sought by consumers. 

The EO further calls for standards for on-site reuse to be adopted for all new commercial buildings:

Increased Water Efficiency in On-Site Reuse. The appropriate advisory board(s) and BCD are directed to conduct code amendment of the state building code to require water efficiency improvements in all newly constructed commercial buildings through standards for capture and safe reuse of water for irrigation purposes by October 1, 2025.

The EO also calls for improved state standards for appliances, raising the possibility of even further water savings. Taken together, these requirements are among the strongest water efficiency initiatives of any state. 

Twenty-five years after president George H. W. Bush signed the Energy Policy Act of 1992 containing the first national standards for water efficiency, states such as Oregon are now blazing the trail to even greater water savings. The Governor’s action comes less than four months after the State of New York gave final approval to its own building code revisions that will require water-efficient fixtures in new buildings. One-third of the U.S. population now resides in jurisdictions where the water consumption of plumbing products in new construction is required to more efficient than the minimum federal standards. As more water-efficient products win acceptance in the marketplace, new state standards can lock in these savings to help consumers and communities save money, protect natural resources, and guard against the effects of a changing climate.