By Sal Gattone, PMI Board of Directors President, LIXIL
As we’ve discussed many times in this forum, access to safe water is crucial, but its connection to sanitation is often overlooked. In my column this month, I want to emphasize how interlinked these two issues are, and how poor access to one can lead to problems with the other.
Access to safe water and sanitation is a basic human right, yet more than 2 million people in the United States don’t have access to these fundamental necessities. This issue impacts public health, water sustainability, and the integrity of our country’s plumbing systems. When communities don’t have proper access to clean water, they’re forced to use unsafe water for drinking, cooking and sanitation. Conversely, poor sanitation systems pollute our water resources and environment, exacerbating the effects of climate change.
Many believe that as a highly developed country, America has universal access to reliable water and wastewater systems. However, millions of people live in a different reality. Vulnerable populations in the U.S., such as low-income groups, people of color, recent immigrants and tribal communities, are more likely to consume unsafe water and have inadequate sanitation access than the average American. For decades, the needs of these underserved communities have been overlooked. Unfortunately, for these communities, wastewater and sewage in their backyards and streets are a common sight.
Many cities and towns have aging water and sewer systems that urgently need repair and replacement. Historically, there hasn’t been enough investment in infrastructure and resources to improve access to water and sanitation facilities for underserved communities. The lack of investment disproportionately impacts these communities, as they often don’t have the resources to build or maintain their own sanitation facilities.
Most of the time, the issues faced by communities are specific to their landscape and cannot have a generalized solution. For example, in Lowndes County, Alabama, high clay content prevents effluent from traditional systems, such as septic tanks, from draining properly (tinyurl.com/3vcjm8tk). In Hawaii, thousands of residents aren’t connected to a central sewer system and have to rely on outdated septic systems or cesspools to treat their wastewater (tinyurl.com/3rsnc7n5). Many of these systems can lead to contamination of groundwater and surface water, posing major public health risks.
Another impact of poor water and sanitation is high water bills for households. Families spend unrealistically high prices for safe and reliable drinking water services and end up using more water to dispose of waste, contributing to higher water bills.
Improving access to water and sanitation for vulnerable communities in our country will require a collective effort from all stakeholders. The public and private sector can engage with these communities to understand their needs and concerns better, and design solutions that are tailored to their specific circumstances. Together, we can promote best practices and technologies that help improve the efficiency, safety and sustainability of our plumbing systems. Ultimately, we need to work towards raising awareness of the importance of safe water and sanitation, and mobilize support for action.
By Kerry Stackpole, FASAE, CAE, PMI CEO/Executive Director
2022 was a banner year for travel, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. More than 1.8 million people passed through Transportation Security Administration checkpoints. When you consider that about 111,000 people did the same in 2020, the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic becomes strikingly clear. According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), 391 million travelers entered the United States in fiscal year 2022. If you’ve been in an airport security line recently, you may feel like they are all on your flight.
In a place that seems to garner the most news coverage – the southwest border of the U.S. – CBP reports that encounters with individuals in January 2023 were at their lowest level since February 2021, the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to CBP, 128,410 individuals were encountered and processed at southwest ports of entry in January 2023 compared to 221,675 in December 2022, down 42%. CBP says that about 25% of those individuals had at least one prior encounter in the previous 12 months. Encounters with citizens of Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela fell by 95%. Beyond the seasonal drop, CBP credits “the success of the measures announced by the [Biden] Administration on January 5, 2023, expanding safe and orderly lawful processes for migration while applying consequences to those who do not avail themselves of those processes.”
You do not have to be an international expert in immigration or labor economics to see the benefits of a well-engineered immigration policy or the massive costs associated with a dysfunctional one. National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) President Jay Timmons makes the point that “research and development—the cornerstone of innovation and our industry’s success—depends on access to the best and brightest from across the world.” America needs a strong workforce and immigrants seeking that work by entering the country legally have long been the impetus for innovation and American progress. According to the NAM’s Chief Economist Chad Moutray, 367,000 new manufacturing jobs were created in 2022, alongside 779,000 manufacturing job openings for durable and non-durable goods firms at the end of last year.
For plumbing fitting and fixture manufacturers, there are multiple challenges. Having sufficient human resources to build products and having trained plumbers to install them are two sides of the same coin. Understanding plumbing mechanics – the technological innovations in place and steadily growing – requires math and science knowledge, as well as hands-on skills. According to recent research conducted by PMI member LIXIL, the U.S will have a shortage of about 557,000 plumbers by 2027, escalating the negative economic impact to the U.S. economy by billions of dollars.
Where will we find the talent we need? The interests and desires of the newest generation are the heart and soul of engaging fresh minds in the work of our industry. My colleague Cindy Sheridan, president of the Plumbing Heating Cooling Contractors – National Association, makes the point that “young people want to work in industries that are making the planet a better place.” Few industries better illuminate opportunities to make a meaningful difference for our planet than dreaming, designing and delivering innovative, water-efficient, plumbing fixtures and fittings delivering clean, safe water to communities around the globe.
PMI’s Rethink Water initiative is bringing focus to this important message. If you want to make the planet a better place, ensuring clean, safe, and reliable access to water for future generations is a great place to start. Climate change and drought have made the threat and risk to human life real for tens of millions of people. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports in 2020, 2 billion people – yes with a B – lacked access to safely managed drinking water services, which are defined as drinking water from a water source located on premises, available when needed, and free from fecal and priority chemical contamination.
Bringing the world’s advocacy and industry groups together to address water issues might feel overwhelming until you read about Autumn Peltier, who at the time was a 13-year-old water advocate from the Anishinaabe tribe of Canada. She addressed the United Nations General Assembly at the International Decade for Action event titled “Water for Sustainable Development 2018–2028.” Perhaps you’ve seen Mari Copeny, who first garnered notice as “Little Miss Flint” for the letter she wrote to then President Barack Obama requesting a meeting to discuss the Flint water crisis. She garnered the attention of President Obama when he later visited Flint, Michigan.
Educating one another and illuminating the importance of collaboration will lead to our collective success in assuring access to clean, safe water in the future. Improving infrastructure, repairing water service pipe leaks, eradicating lead service lines, and identifying risks and remedies to assure clean, safe water in the face of man-made and natural disasters are all on the table and will require collective ideation and solutions. As Nelson Mandela once noted, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” Let’s go to work.
By Judy Wohlt, PMI Communications Team, Valek and Co.
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) and a state legislator recently took steps that align with Plumbing Manufacturers International’s position on legacy product replacement – a priority of PMI’s Rethink Water initiative. PMI recommends the replacement of up to 26.1 million toilets in California that use more than 1.28 gallons per flush, which is the standard for both Title 20 and WaterSense toilets.
MWD’s comments to the California Energy Commission – submitted formally in Docket 22-AAER-O5 relating to Title 20 requirements for toilets – parallel PMI’s advocacy for a broad, statewide legacy toilet replacement effort.
The water district noted that single-family residential customers have been slow to adopt high-efficiency toilets. “There is still much ground to cover to bring current 1.6 gallons per flush (gpf) toilets to the current code of 1.28 gpf,” stated MWD, a large regional water agency that delivers about half of Southern California’s water.
Steps to secure funding for toilet replacement efforts are being formalized, too. In March 2023, California Assemblymember Buffy Wicks amended AB 1072, a bill she is sponsoring that would require state budget funding for low-income residential customers to install water-efficient conservation devices, such as WaterSense toilets. The bill would prioritize assistance to community water systems with the greatest risks to water supply security, according to the bill’s summary report.
In March, PMI submitted a letter supporting AB 1072 to Wicks and the Assembly Committee on Water, Parks and Wildlife, urging the committee to advance the bill. The bill was advanced on April 24.
“The water district’s comments and the funding bill are significant – and good news for PMI and the plumbing manufacturing industry,” said Jerry Desmond, PMI’s California government affairs consultant.
PMI, MWD note further issues for the CEC to consider
PMI’s comments submitted to the CEC through Docket 22-AAER-O5 in March reiterated the association’s support for legacy product replacement and called out potential infrastructure risks associated with lowering flow rates, such as poor drainline carry performance. MWD noted its success with toilet rebate programs and incentives and shared new water use data that shows the opportunity to do more.
PMI stressed the potential public health risks associated with lowering toilet flush rates below WaterSense standards and specifications. Drainline carry performance requires adequate water to flush solids out of a toilet bowl, into a drainline, and through to a sewer line. Lower flush rates would likely cause more toilet clogs and double flushing as well, according to PMI.
The current WaterSense specification of 1.28 gpf delivers an ideal balance between water savings and sufficient flushing, washdown and drainline carry, especially since current water infrastructure is designed for much higher flow and flush rates, PMI noted.
In its comments to the CEC, MWD discussed its long history of successfully providing incentives that residents and businesses have used to improve water efficiency beyond plumbing code requirements.
The water district reported that between 1991 and 2007, it supplied more than 2.5 million rebates and incentives for residents to replace inefficient toilets with units that used 1.6 gpf. Between 2006 and 2017, MWD provided over 900,000 rebates for citizens to purchase 1.28 gpf toilets. Since 2014, MWD has provided rebates for almost 400,000 1.0 gpf residential and commercial toilets but noted that single-family residential customers have been slow to adopt these toilets. PMI estimates that 26.1 million 1.6+ gpf toilets remain in use in California.
In its comments, MWD also discussed its partnership with Flume Data Labs, which monitors water use in single-family homes across the service area. From January 2020 through December 2022, Flume analyzed almost 24 million flush events and found a 2.0 gpf average and 1.6 gpf median.
In the next couple of months, Desmond anticipates that the CEC will release its recommendations on whether to lower California’s flow rates or take other steps and will ask for additional public comments. PMI will remain actively engaged.
In the meantime, PMI is advocating for AB 1072 to move forward to secure additional funding for water-efficient conservation devices, including toilets, for low-income residents and disadvantaged communities, he added.
By Judy Wohlt, PMI Communications Team, Valek and Co.
This year’s PMI CEO Thinking Forum will deliver an immersive leadership experience with expert storytelling, role playing, and a trek through a key historic battleground along New York’s Hudson River.
To take place Sept. 18-19 on the grounds of the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, the forum will provide practical tools to achieve high team performance by applying historical lessons to current challenges facing the plumbing manufacturing and allied industries.
For CEOs and those who think like CEOs
Open to PMI member company CEOs or executives, the forum provides a “can’t miss” opportunity to connect face-to-face with industry peers to explore solutions to mutual challenges. Mark your calendar with this important networking event! It’s a valuable opportunity to connect with peers for one or more executives from each PMI member company.
Past forum participants have praised the program as “highly valuable and a great time investment” because of the way it applies learnings from history to practical challenges. “The forum provides executives with a necessary pause in their hectic schedules for strategic reflection,” said PMI CEO/Executive Director Kerry Stackpole. “It gives them valuable time to focus on personal development and to gain new perspectives. Our West Point venue is the ideal place to do that.”
Lessons grounded in Duty, Honor, Country
At the inspirational venue of the historic Thayer Hotel at West Point, participants will learn lessons grounded in the U.S. Army leadership philosophy of “Be, Know, Do” and the West Point values of “Duty, Honor, Country.”
Considered to be battle- and boardroom-tested leaders, Thayer Leadership’s elite faculty of emeritus military officers will lead the forum and serve as coaches and mentors to PMI member executives. They will share their experiences and leadership techniques during an interactive leadership development process that will help participants translate knowledge into action.
Explore lessons from the past to solve today’s leadership challenges
This event will include a session on Leading High-Performing Teams followed by a “staff ride” experience that will allow participants to walk where George Washington and his staff prevented the British from seizing the Hudson River. PMI member executives will hear expert storytelling and participate in role playing to analyze this historical event and actual terrain, explore lessons from the past, and apply those lessons to today’s leadership and business challenges.
Participants will explore the ideas of sharing purpose, creating alignment, and building, nurturing and protecting company culture. A series of practical exercises will provide PMI member executives with ready-to-use, proven skills to engage and empower their own teams. Attendees will learn why the values and culture of an organization drive all aspects of internal and external success and will develop valuable mission statements to provide a clear purpose for their teams.
At the conclusion of the forum, participants will take away high-value information to better lead teams in a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) world, bring values to life, and motivate teams through an empowered workforce.
Enjoy a beautiful, historical setting and hotel
PMI CEO Thinking Forum participants will stay at the Thayer Hotel on the West Point grounds in the beautiful Hudson Valley for two nights. During their stay, attendees can walk in the footsteps of famous military heroes. At the West Point museum, they can learn the story of West Point’s origins, its role in the Revolutionary War, and about the graduates who have shaped the nation. For more than 200 years, the U.S. Military Academy, considered one of the country’s most treasured landmarks, has been producing leaders of character prepared to provide selfless service to the army and nation.
Learn more about the PMI CEO Thinking Forum and register at safeplumbing.org/ceotf.
By Judy Wohlt, PMI Communications Team, Valek and Co.
Paige Riddle, director, market management, Viega, was looking for a way to get more involved with Plumbing Manufacturers International. So, she jumped at the chance to accept the open co-chair position on the PMI Advocacy/Government Affairs Committee.
She’s eager to apply her big-picture perspective and expertise in analyzing plumbing industry market trends to the committee’s work, especially with the PMI Rethink Water initiative and water efficiency in general, she noted. Riddle now shares co-chair duties with Troy Benavidez of LIXIL, taking the place of former co-chair Lowell Lampen of Kohler Co., who joined the PMI Board of Directors.
“I’m excited to see how we can work together as an industry organization to advance the topics important to us,” she said. “How can we look at the plumbing industry as a whole from the piping systems behind the wall to the fixtures in front of the wall and make a case for how we think about water going forward?”
Keen to dig in, speak up
While this is her first role on a PMI committee, Riddle said she’s ready to dig into learning more about how the PMI Advocacy/Government Affairs Committee can help influence legislative issues, such as states considering flow rates below WaterSense levels.
She also plans to follow the best advice she has ever received. “Speak up – everyone’s opinion is valuable. I have a different perspective with my broad market experience. It’s helpful to have a good mix of big-picture folks, technical people, and others on these committees,” Riddle said.
Her goal to become more involved in PMI has been building over the years, she noted. Riddle has enjoyed attending the past four PMI Manufacturing Success Conferences. In the last couple of years, her participation in the PMI Aspiring Leaders Program – now known as the PMI Inspiring Leaders Program – piqued her interest in PMI’s inner workings.
Riddle promotes PMI within her organization by sharing association information with her team regularly, including the PMI Market Outlook reports that they find particularly helpful, she said. She hopes to send a member of her team to attend the “great” PMI Inspiring Leaders Program this fall, Riddle added.
With a 15-year career at Viega working in various roles, Riddle started as a market analyst after college and moved into product management on the PEX product line. She moved to Germany to work at the company’s global headquarters for three years to collaborate with her Viega counterparts in India and Southeast Asia on new business developments.
Riddle moved back to the United States to take on her current role in market management. She analyzes the needs of commercial contractors and other customers in Viega’s business verticals – or segments – of commercial, residential, industrial and marine.
Ready to become a PMI committee leader?
PMI is always looking for individuals who wish to make important contributions to the plumbing manufacturing industry by leading a PMI committee. It’s not too early to begin the process of stepping into a leadership role in 2024, or even sooner, as the PMI Industry Marketing Committee needs co-chairs now. Learn more about PMI committees (safeplumbing.org/about-pmi/committees) and submit a committee leadership application (tinyurl.com/yynsz4dr).
By Judy Wohlt, PMI Communications Team, Valek and Co.
Legislative activity affecting plumbing manufacturers continues to heat up across the country – particularly on appliance efficiency, consumer data protection, greywater use, and PFAS. Plumbing Manufacturers International Technical Director Kyle Thompson currently keeps a careful eye on 110 state bills that could impact PMI members.
New appliance efficiency bills in Colorado and Hawaii
Several states are addressing appliance efficiency standards, with some proposing flow rates that would go below WaterSense levels. PMI has been successful in persuading Colorado and Hawaii to adopt some of the association’s recommendations on flow rates, fixture definitions, and manufacturer deadlines.
Colorado HB 1161 would expand the appliances and fixtures subject to current water- and energy-efficiency standards to include certain faucets and urinals, spray sprinkler bodies, and tub spout diverters, Thompson reported.
The proposed bill would have required both WaterSense listing certification and Title 20 compliance for public lavatory faucets, which isn’t possible, he explained. The flow rate for Title 20 compliance is 0.5 gallons per minute (gpm) while WaterSense has a minimum flow rate of 0.8 gpm. “The flow rates of either one are fine, but you can’t certify a public lavatory faucet to both,” he said.
The latest draft of the bill, amended on April 14, no longer includes the Title 20 flow rate requirement for public lavatory faucets. In addition, Colorado committee members extended the deadline allowing plumbing manufacturers to sell their current inventory of plumbing fixtures not meeting the new standards from Jan. 1, 2024, to Jan. 1, 2025. An amended draft of the bill passed the House and was introduced in the Senate on April 15.
In Hawaii, HB 194/SB 691 proposes to set flow rates for water closets and urinals to California’s standards. PMI, along with the Hawaiian Plumbers Union, successfully advocated for an amendment to increase the flush rate for wall-hung urinals from 0.125 gallons per flush (gpf) to 0.5 gpf – to match the WaterSense flush rate for urinals.
Iowa becomes sixth state to pass consumer data protection law
In March, Iowa became the sixth state to pass a consumer data protection law – joining California, Colorado, Connecticut, Utah and Virginia. With no comprehensive federal data privacy legislation in place, affected plumbing manufacturers must follow the various state laws.
“Plumbing manufacturers doing business in multiple states need to be aware of any irregularities in these laws, so they can adapt their data protection policies accordingly,” Thompson said.
He noted that Iowa’s bill, SF 262, essentially follows the bill model set up by Virginia. To fully protect their businesses, PMI members will likely follow the more stringent requirements of the California Consumer Privacy Act, which took effect on Jan. 1, 2023, Thompson added. For example, both the Virginia and Iowa laws do not allow private citizens to sue a business for data breaches, while California’s more stringent law allows citizen lawsuits.
Greywater challenges in Massachusetts
PMI has expressed concerns about Massachusetts HB 280, a bill that would establish plumbing code regulations for reusing greywater for toilet flushing and would mandate greywater recycling in new multifamily construction projects in the state.
On Feb. 16, the bill was referred to the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure. PMI plans to submit comments to the joint committee once a hearing is scheduled.
PMI supports the use of greywater in toilet flushing when specific water quality parameters are met, Thompson said. In its next letter to the committee, PMI plans to explain that HB 280 does not specify a minimum or maximum requirement for residual chlorine, Thompson said. PMI also remains concerned about the potential negative impact that non‐potable water may have on plumbing product performance, customer expectations, and public health and safety.
To protect people who are immunocompromised or have wounds, PMI recommends the bill require a separate potable water supply line be installed for bidets or similar personal hygiene devices that spray water directly on an individual, Thompson said.
EPA proposes new rule for PFAS and drinking water standards
On March 14, the Environmental Protection Agency released the proposed National Primary Drinking Water Regulation (NPDWR) for PFOA and PFOS – with four additional PFAS to be reviewed for potential regulation.
Some refrigerants contain PFAS, so the regulation would impact PMI members that use those refrigerants to manufacture water coolers and water stations.
The EPA published the four additional PFAS, including PFNA, PFHxS, PFBS and HFPO-DA (GenX), in its Final Fifth Drinking Water Contaminant Candidate List, Thompson said. The EPA proposes a regulation to limit any mixture containing one or more of those four PFAS. Water systems would use a hazard index calculation – an established approach defined in the proposed rule – to determine if the combined levels of these PFAS pose a potential risk, according to a March EPA news release.
Currently, several state standards and guidelines have been established for multiple PFAS compounds at varying levels. The EPA’s proposed standards would be stricter than any of those state regulations, Thompson said.
PMI seeks task force members to draft water-efficiency policy brief
PMI is seeking members for a new task force to draft a policy brief to the PMI Board of Directors on how to address state water-efficiency bills going forward. If you’re interested in joining the task force, contact Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Judy Wohlt, PMI Communications Team, Valek and Co.
Two Plumbing Manufacturers International members recently published coloring books to encourage girls to learn about plumbing as a profession.
“Tubby Time,” created by LIXIL employees, tells the story of Jamie, a little girl ready for tubby time – her favorite time of the day – who finds there’s no hot water. Her mom calls a plumber, who happens to be a woman, and curious Jamie quickly becomes a junior plumber, toting her lunchbox around like a toolbox.
“My Mom Is a Plumbing Superhero,” published by the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO), features real-life plumbing superhero Judaline Cassidy, a professional plumber who advocates for increasing the number of women in the trades and is founder of the nonprofit Tools & Tiaras Inc. Inspired by Cassidy’s 25-year career, the book creatively brings to life what it’s like to be a plumber building a modern hygiene infrastructure, reported an IAPMO news release.
“We wanted to present the plumbing profession in a positive light and plant the seed early in kids. They’re curious and want to know how things work,” said Betty Jo Davis, leader, channel marketing – single-family builder, LIXIL. She co-wrote “Tubby Time” with Mary Rose Debor, sales training content specialist with LIXIL. Rigo Velez, senior graphic designer, LIXIL marketing communications, designed the illustrations.
Shifting unhelpful perceptions, boosting diversity
With so few women in the plumbing field and a high demand for plumbers, many companies and industry associations have stepped up efforts to diversify the plumbing ranks and change perceptions about who can become a plumber. In 2022, only 3.5% of plumbers were women, according to Zippia data.
LIXIL created “Tubby Time” for elementary school-age children. The book portrays women and persons of color working in the profession. “We wanted Jamie to be a brown child to support diverse representation in the plumbing field,” Debor said.
Davis and Debor credit their LIXIL colleague Troy Benavidez, co-chair of the PMI Advocacy/Government Affairs Committee, with ensuring the book addressed biases parents may have about their daughters or sons pursuing a plumbing career. As a result, the book ends with Jamie asking her mom if she can be a plumber when she grows up and her mom replying, “Of course! It’s a very important job that helps keep our home safe. If that’s what you want to be, you can!”
IAPMO’s coloring book follows a similar theme, illustrating how plumbers do crucial work – whether making service calls to homes and businesses or installing advanced water technologies and systems. The book highlights the variety of work Cassidy completes, such as putting together large water piping systems, digging trenches for pipes, and installing toilets, faucets and showerheads.
Both books depict how plumbers are vital to society, helping to deliver clean, safe water to the public. LIXIL listed “Five Reasons to Consider a Career in Plumbing” at the end of the book, including job security, good earning potential, and no four-year degree required.
“The bottom line is that we desperately need more plumbers and, therefore, must find creative, unique ways to fill this shortage,” said IAPMO CEO Dave Viola in a news release. “Collaborating with Judaline is the perfect opportunity to convey to young girls and women — as well as career counselors, youth leaders, and parents — that plumbing careers are purposeful, meaningful and lucrative.”
View and print a coloring book version of “Tubby Time” for free on LIXIL’s website (tinyurl.com/2p83az82).
IAPMO’s 32-page book is available as a free PDF download, and qualifying organizations can order printed copies from IAPMO by visiting the IAPMO website (tinyurl.com/3px599xj).
Become a sponsor of the PMI23 Manufacturing Success Conference, and gain the opportunity to play your company video in front of all the meeting’s attendees. The number of times you will have their attention depends on the sponsorship level – platinum, gold or silver. Sponsors also receive one or more complimentary conference registrations; visibility across all of PMI’s communication platforms, conference signs and materials; and more.
Platinum, Gold and Silver Sponsorships of the PMI23 Manufacturing Success Conference, Oct. 23-26, at the Lotte Hotel in Seattle, all highlight your company’s name and logo to conference participants.
Event Sponsorships are available for keynote speakers, conference lunches, the PMI reception and dinner, registration, and AM/PM coffee breaks. Through these activities, attendees will get to catch up with each other and build relationships, thanks to the sponsors’ generous support of the plumbing manufacturing industry. Each event is limited to one sponsor only — so sign up soon!
All sponsorship levels spotlight your company and signal to the rest of the industry that your team is an important part of our mutual success.