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1.6 Gallon, Low-consumption Toilets

The need to conserve water has pushed governments everywhere to look for every means possible to reduce the amount of water used by the customers of municipal water companies. Since toilets account for a major amount of the water used year round, many of the municipal programs and new laws have focused on how to make a toilet flush with less water.

Before the 1950s, toilets typically used 7 gallons or more for each flush. By the end of the 1960s, toilets were designed to flush with only 5.5 gallons, and in the 1980s the new toilets being installed were using only 3.5 gallons. Today, a new toilet uses no more than 1.6 gallons of water in the U.S.

While some states mandated the 1.6 gallon toilet standard some years ago, in 1995 the National Energy Policy Act (H.R. 776) went into effect and mandated 1.6 toilets for the entire U.S. In addition to dealing with radioactive waste disposal and metallurgical coal development, the federal law also determined in an obscure part of the Act what kind of toilet you can have in your bathroom. By U.S. federal decree, new toilets must flush with no more than 1.6 gallons of water, less than half the amount they used in the '80s..

How much water does your toilet use?

At first, manufacturers tweaked the valves and floats in the tank to reduce the water used without making any changes to the tank or bowl. The two most common adaptations were to install a flush-valve flapper which closes before all the water escapes the tank (early-close flapper) or to install a plastic bucket, or toilet dam, which retains some water in the toilet tank behind the dam, thus lowering the volume of flush. Some manufacturers switched to low-capacity tanks with a standard flapper, and others chose to utilize new pressurized flush technology.

Since the 1995 mandate went into effect, there have been numerous outcries from the public regarding the poor flushing of many models of toilets that have been available. Many of the articles published in the newspaper have been based on anecdotal accounts of problems. But a recently published report by the Water Resources Research Center at The University of Arizona is supported by research. This report concludes that, despite the skepticism that greeted their introduction and a history of early problems, most low-consumption toilets are doing their job. Unfortunately, the research also shows that, over time, a significant fraction of the anticipated water savings is lost due to poor toilet design and performance modifications. Some of the modifications are inadvertent on the part of homeowners.

Jim Henderson and Gary Woodard, then with the Water Resources Research Center at the University of Arizona, studied 170 households which participated in a Tucson Water rebate program to encourage replacement of older toilets with 1.6 gallon low-consumption models. Toilets studied were purchased between 1991 and 1992, just a few years after the low-consumption toilet was introduced into the American market.

The report was prepared for the Water Conservation Office of the City of Phoenix Water Services Department, and the U. S. Bureau of Reclamation. The researchers installed special devices called data loggers on these homes to monitor the amount of water used by the then seven-year-old toilets. Combined with surveys of more than half of the households, the study revealed some problems with the aging toilets. The report confirmed the worst fears the water industry has had about these products -- that long-term savings are not reliable.

Nearly half of the low-consumption toilets in the study had problems with high flush volumes, frequent double flushing and/or flapper leaks. The average flush volume for all of the toilets was 1.98 gallons of water per flush, or about 24 percent higher than the 1.6 gallon maximum they were designed to use. About a quarter of the households had at least one low-consumption toilet that averaged more than 2.2 gallons per flush.

Visit the University of Arizona Water Resources Research Center to read or download the full report.





The situation has improved

Seeing is believing

St. Thomas Creations Quattro Flushing Technology

Watch this video of how St. Thomas Creations Quattro Flushing Technology can swallow large quantities of toys, food, golf balls, etc. HOWEVER, just because a toilet can flush away such things does not mean you should do so in your own home. A toilet is meant to flush away human waste and water; problems are more likely to develop beyond what you can see in the toilet bowl. Clogs are more likely in the pipes between the toilet and the city sewer line in the street.



Can a low-consumption toilet
conserve water AND work right?

The answer is a resounding yes, according to an independent survey. Owners of Sloan FLUSHMATE-equipped pressure-assist toilets give the product extremely high marks when it comes to solving the low consumption performance problems. 92% of customers surveyed were satisfied with pressure assist, according to the survey, which was conducted through the mail by Palatine-based Accountability Information Management, Inc., a market research firm. A one-page questionnaire, which contained a cover letter and the survey, was sent to a random total of 5,000 FLUSHMATE customers who supplied warranty cards on the product. Sloan FLUSHMATE, the world's leading manufacturer of pressure-assist technology, sponsored the survey. As an incentive, customers were offered a full year extension on their warranty date, which was noted on the survey. The response rate was an extraordinary 68%.



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