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Product Guide

Water-Saving Fixtures: An Updated Selection

A roundup of products designed for water conservation that starts at the tap

The Flute low-flow kitchen faucet from Peerless uses turbocharge technology to aid rinsing.

Since the 1980s, consumers have had access to water-efficient fixtures like low-flow toilets, faucets, and showerheads. By January 2023, 15 states and Washington, DC, had enacted plumbing efficiency standards that were stricter than the federal requirements.

The Alliance for Water Efficiency provides a state-by-state scorecard summarizing efforts across the nation:

  • California is the only state requiring water utilities to plan for climate change.
  • 18 states allocate revenues to fund water efficiency and conservation initiatives.
  • 16 states provide funding for water reuse programs.
  • 13 states have rate structures that promote water efficiency.
  • 19 states require coordination between local land use and water planning agencies.

More advanced water conservation measures are available individually, from super-low-flow toilets to recirculating showers. Let’s explore some of the latest water-conservation fixtures on the market today.

Low-flow bathroom faucets

In the U.S., conventional kitchen and bathroom faucets must use no more than 2.2 gallons per minute (gpm). Faucets that meet WaterSense’s energy efficiency standards must use no more than 1.5 gpm, a 32% decrease in flow rate over the federal requirement. These faucets save even more.

kitchen faucet
Grohe Essence

Grohe’s Essence ($280) ducks just under the WaterSense limit, with only 1.2 gpm of flow while you’re wetting the razor or toothbrush. The single-hole, single-handle faucet also has a ceramic disc for drip-free and leak-proof performance—no more dripping spigot to drive you insane at night—most of the available ultra-low-flow faucets clock in at 1.2 gpm.

modern faucet
Kholer modern faucet

Kohler’s Honesty (K-24857-4-CP; $570) widespread WaterSense-certified bathroom sink faucet uses only 0.5 gpm with a flow rate of 60 psi, matching the water pressure of a conventional 2.2 gpm faucet.  The Kohler Parallel single-handle faucet has a 0.5 gpm flow rate for under $350. American Standard offers the Colony 4-inch center-set single-handle faucet for $180 and 0.5 gpm.

Chinese companies, such as Meijie Faucet, offer extensive lines of residential and commercial…

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6 Comments

  1. telemark12 | | #1

    Has anyone verified if "low-flow" actually equals "less water used"? Anecdotally, whenever I use a dribble faucet, it takes longer to get clean. What's the point of cutting the flow rate in half if it takes three times longer to wash?

    1. Trevor_Lambert | | #2

      The only application for low flow that makes any sense is in a shower. The fact they've become ubiquitous in other applications, like kitchen and bathroom faucets, is infuriating. I've even seen bath tub faucets with low flow restriction. I have a utility sink whose only purpose is to fill a bucket, and it takes 3 times as long as it needs to. Same amount of water.

      edited to add: I was not considering toilets, because they don't have a flow. Low volume flush toilets are a good idea, and while some early models had performance issues, I think that's rare on modern offerings.

  2. dan7210329 | | #3

    Think how much for informative articles like this would be is the writer took the time and care to describe - not just the do's but also the don'ts. Like what telemark12 and Trevor describe. Don't we all know someone who bought a low-flow toilet that "don't flush" or is crazy noisy? Lest not to appear to be the curmudgeon, I recommend everyone consult a consumer reports publication - to get the true dope on good vs lousy new products. Don't rush to the big box center and get the discount cheap product unless you're sure it can do the job. Many are built lousy; just a few are of great value.

  3. user-7513218 | | #4

    The critique of low-flow fixtures is valid. Many users find them frustrating due to their slower performance. During a recent ten-day trip to the UK, I experienced a significant difference in water flow and pressure, particularly at lavatory faucets, which was quite refreshing--I loved it.

    Reflecting on past experiences, I remember when the first low-flush toilets came out and made a business of trafficking illegal toilets, purchasing them in Mexico, and selling them in Los Angeles. Occasionally, I even replaced new installations in my own homes to give homeowners (after the building inspection) the pleasure of a complete and effective flush. Fortunately, modern low-flow toilets have significantly improved. For instance, my Kohler toilet uses minimal water while still ensuring the bowl is thoroughly swept clean with each flush.

    However, when it comes to showers, I do miss the more generous flow of water. Despite these challenges, I understand the importance of water conservation and the worthy advancements that have been made in low-flow technology--replacing volume with atomization and force.

    It's essential to balance environmental considerations with user satisfaction. While I may not consider myself a green builder or a staunch environmentalist, I acknowledge the progress in low-flow fixtures and their role in sustainable building practices. My assignment was an update on the lowest of the low-flow fixtures.

    If you want the rest of the story and my private, personal opinion, let's meet for a beer and talk about it :-)

  4. vpc2 | | #5

    I would avoid plastic pipe especially in a kitchen faucet where most water is consumed in the house. Plastic micro/nano partials are a bigger issue than what was thought just a year or 2 ago.
    I would also avoid houses with plastic pipes for water distribution.
    A real issue still being found to be a major problem with very difficult solutions.

    1. Expert Member
      MALCOLM TAYLOR | | #6

      vpc2,

      I share your concerns about micro-plastics, but doesn't selectively avoiding plastic parts in fixtures only make sense if the entire distribution system from wherever the water comes from isn't plastic?

      By far the biggest source of ingested micro-plastics come from drink packaging - especially water bottles.

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