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Trump administration wants to let it flow with new rules for showerheads

The proposal would loosen regulation that sought to save water.
Image: Donald Trump
President Donald Trump speaks at a news conference in the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House, on Aug. 12, 2020.Andrew Harnik / AP

President Donald Trump has been complaining about government-restricted showerheads and water flow since at least late 2019, and on Wednesday, his Department of Energy proposed to free the flow.

The department wants to change its definition of a showerhead so that models with multiple nozzles that flow at the same time, such as a chandelier-type fixture, would meet the federal guidelines for water flow.

The new regulations would do this by stating that if each nozzle meets the 2.5 gallon per minute limit, it would be legal. The 2.5 gallon limit was enacted in 1994 as a conservation measure, and most showerheads sold in the United States today use 20 percent less than that, according to the Appliance Standards Awareness Project.

Department of Energy spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes blamed shower flow regulation, first signed into law by President George H. W. Bush, on the administration of President Barack Obama. She confirmed that the proposed new rules, which would alter how the heads are tested by the government, were inspired by Trump's concerns.

"President Trump promised the American people that he would reduce onerous federal regulations on the American consumer, and this proposed rulemaking on showerheads does just that," she said by email.

On Dec. 6, during a small-business roundtable, Trump addressed water flow regulation.

"We have a situation where we’re looking very strongly at sinks and showers and other elements of bathrooms where you turn the faucet on — in areas where there’s tremendous amounts of water, where the water rushes out to sea because you could never handle it — and you don’t get any water," he said.

On July 16 on the White House South Lawn, the president connected his water flow concerns to the appearance of his hair.

"You take a shower, the water doesn’t come out," he said. "You want to wash your hands, the water doesn’t come out. So what do you do? You just stand there longer or you take a shower longer? Because my hair — I don’t know about you, but it has to be perfect. Perfect."

On Thursday, Trump said during a visit to a Whirlpool appliance plant in Ohio that he had already rid the nation of federal low-flow showerhead rules, but the proposed rule has not been finalized.

"If you’re like me, you can’t wash your beautiful hair properly," he said. "You waste 20 minutes longer. 'Please come out.' The water — it drips, right? You know what I’m talking — they put restrictors on. I got rid of that. I signed it out. That’s common sense."

The Department of Energy's "notice of proposed rulemaking" Wednesday allows the public to begin weighing in on the idea.

Andrew deLaski, executive director of the Appliance Standards Awareness Project, wrote a blog post about the proposal that explains, "The full device could have as many 2.5 gallon-per-minute showerheads as the manufacturer wants. Get it?"

He wrote that the Department of Energy determined as recently as 2011 that "a showerhead with multiple nozzles constitutes a single showerhead."

In an email, DeLaski said the proposal, which he has likened to an episode of "Seinfeld" in which the characters search for illicit, high-flow showerheads, is ill-timed.

"It's silly," he said. "The country has serious problems, a pandemic, long-term serious drought throughout much of the West and climate change, to name just a few. For the president to be fussing about showerheads is just ridiculous."

He also said by email that well-designed, low-flow showerheads would satisfy most consumers.

"Given all the excellent performing showerheads on the market and the staff at his disposal, you'd think the president could arrange to have a decent showerhead installed at the White House," DeLaski said.