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Plumbers are Canada's pipeline to water-efficient homes

April 24, 2014 - Think of the last water-related fixture you purchased for your home. Who helped you decide what to buy? Family and friends? A sales associate at the hardware store? Google?

If you didn’t think to ask your plumber, you’re not alone. Despite the fact that Canada’s 44,280 plumbers are in a unique position to improve water efficiency around consumers’ homes, most don’t receive the training they need to provide informed advice on high-performance, water-friendly fixtures.

Enter the Alliance for Water Efficiency (AWE).

In 2013, thanks to a $60,000 RBC Blue Water Project Leadership grant, AWE launched a pilot program to teach Canadian plumbers about environmental sustainability, high-efficiency technology and water audits.

The Green Plumbers training and accreditation program, developed in Australia, focuses on developing water efficiency awareness, upgrading skills and bolstering plumbers’ role in addressing sustainability challenges. It also has a strong following in the USA where it is delivered by the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials.

“In Australia and the Southern U.S. water is a big deal, so the program is quite popular,” said Kirk Stinchcombe, whose company, Econics, helped deliver the pilot project. “People are literally running out of water, so the awareness is high. In Canada, we haven’t reached this level of interest at a national level yet, but locally there are still many compelling reasons for residents, and plumbers, to become more water efficient.”

With support from the RBC Foundation and from seven local governments and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, AWE held three workshops across Canada, providing training to 128 plumbers. The result? Some 88 per cent of them now expect to recommend and install water saving devices more often in the future. “I really believe in this project, and we’re thankful for RBC’s support in helping us get it off the ground,” said Stinchcombe. “Plumbers are on the front line of water efficiency, and we need them to promote products that not only meet consumer expectations but also save water.”

Launched in 2007, the RBC Blue Water Project is a 10-year global charitable commitment of $50 million to help protect fresh water, now and for future generations. To date, we have pledged over $38 million to more than 650 charitable organizations worldwide that promote access to clean, swimmable, fishable, and drinkable water, with an additional $7.8 million pledged to universities for water programs.

We’ll be announcing the 2014 RBC Blue Water grant recipients on RBC Blue Water Day, June 12, 2014.