June 07, 2018

Duckworth, Van Hollen Introduce Bill to Modernize Nation’s Aging Water Infrastructure


[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) today introduced legislation to bring our water infrastructure into the 21st century by investing in critical research to make our water infrastructure systems safer, more reliable and more efficient. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Plumbing Research Act would re-establish a laboratory within the National Institute of Standards and Technology to promote innovative technologies that improve public safety, system reliability and water efficiency in modern homes and businesses. Modern plumbing codes are based on antiquated standards that fail to reflect technological advancements and can lead to serious health risks such as Legionnaires’ disease. Companion legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives by U.S. Representative Matt Cartwright (D-PA).

"The calendar may read 2018, but if you looked at our nation’s water infrastructure, you would think we were still in the 1930s. Across the country, nearly century-old premise plumbing infrastructure design and construction standards are not only inefficient, but they put public health at risk as well," said Senator Duckworth. "The NIST Plumbing Research Act invests in research that will lay the groundwork for an overhaul of our water infrastructure systems so we can update them for the 21st century."

“Every day new and improved technologies are developed that have revolutionized home and building construction, especially in the area of plumbing. But we must ensure that our safety and sustainability standards incorporate these advances – this will both conserve water resources and save consumers money. This legislation will allow NIST to research the best way to do just that, opening the door for more efficient and sustainable water use across the country,” said Senator Van Hollen.

“Access to clean water impacts nearly every aspect of our daily lives. It is crucial that our water fixtures and plumbing work in unison to conserve fresh water and reduce water utility costs while still meeting the daily water needs of our homes and offices. The plumbing that carries this water has unfortunately not experienced the same technological advances as water fixtures have. In fact, the research that serves as the basis for U.S. plumbing development is woefully outdated. As a result, even newly built plumbing systems are often inefficient and inappropriate for current fixtures and appliances. By investigating the safety, security, and efficiency of our plumbing and fixtures, this bill will ensure that families and businesses will have consistent and clean water sources,” said Representative Cartwright, who introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

Plumbing infrastructure has a direct impact on construction costs, water usage and public health and safety. The failure to develop modern plumbing codes based on current standards and research has real consequences for families whose unnecessarily large pipes result in using stagnant water that is at greater risk for breeding harmful water-borne diseases, including Legionnaires’ disease. The NIST Plumbing Research Act would address this by directing NIST to re-establish a federal laboratory to conduct research of “premise plumbing” to promote new and innovative technologies that improve public safety, system reliability and water efficiency in modern homes and businesses. Ultimately, NIST’s research would inform a comprehensive upgrade of U.S. plumbing structure, design and construction standards.

The NIST Plumbing Research Act has been endorsed by the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials, Plumbing Manufactures International, AEC Science & Technology, LLC, The Alliance for Water Efficiency, American Society of Plumbing Engineers (ASPE), American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association (ARCSA), American Supply Association (ASA), Canadian Institute of Plumbing and Heating (CIPH), The Cast Iron Soil Pipe Institute, Copper Development Association, Inc. (CDA), Energy Management Association, High-Performance Buildings Coalition, International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO), International Code Council (ICC), Mechanical Contractors Association of America, The Mechanical Service Contractors of America, Mechanical Hub, National Institute of Building Sciences, National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association, Plumbing Contractors of America, Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors—National Association, The Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors National Association (SMACNA), Water Quality Association (WQA).