Water-Conservation Myths, Realities

Jan. 1, 2007
Setting the record straight on plumbing-industry rumors

Over the last 15 years I have heard a number of rumors, claims, and proclamations by people associated with plumbing or water conservation in one way or another. Some have been true, while others have not. And some have been current, while others have been “old hat.” Let’s take a minute and set the record straight on a couple of popular myths.

Myth: “The 1.6-gal. toilet just does not work,” or “The 1.6-gal. toilet is today’s failure that the government forced upon us.”
Reality: The early problems of the 1.6-gal. toilet were acknowledged and corrected by plumbing manufacturers long ago. While the fixtures from 1992 were not stellar performers, by the late 1990s, many manufacturers had abandoned those early designs and were bringing their secondgeneration products to the market. Improved performance and durability yielded satisfied customers. Customer-satisfaction surveys conducted by the water-utility industry proved that.

Remarkably, today’s third-generation fixtures are an improvement over the toilets of the late 1990s. The plumbing industry must be commended for the improvements in fixture flushing performance that have occurred over the last six years. While some “marginal performers” still may be found in the marketplace, consumers, specifiers, contractors, and others can have confidence that they have made good fixture choices because they have access to authoritative information on flush performance that did not exist during the 1990s. Today, maximum-performance (MaP) testing of toilet fixtures is a widespread and important measure of flush performance for tank-type toilet fixtures for residential and commercial applications. For the latest MaP report, consult www.cuwcc.org/maptesting.lasso.

Flushometer-valve fixtures (1.6 gal.) were MaP tested in various valve-bowl combinations. A report on the results of that work can be viewed at www.cuwcc.org/toilet_fixtures/Flushometer-study05-08-23.pdf.

Myth: “The new high-efficiency toilets (HETs) are not a proven product, and we will repeat the problems of 1992 all over again.”
Reality: HETs are fixtures in which the average flush volume is less than 1.3 gal. More than 95 models of HETs are available from 17 different manufacturers. Over the last eight years, many thousands of HETs have been installed in residential and light-commercial buildings in North America. Unlike 1992 to 1994, when 1.6-gal. designs came into the market “untested” by the public, HETs have a solid performance history and exceptional customer satisfaction. They are not a new product. MaP performance data for HETs can be downloaded from the previously mentioned Web site, while a current listing of HETs in the marketplace can be viewed at www.cuwcc.org/toilet_fixtures/HET.pdf

It should be noted that all of the HETs listed in the downloadable documents mentioned in this article are of the tank-type variety. The plumbing industry is introducing flushometer-valve HETs that will be listed and tested in the near future. Expect a wide variety of HET models in 2007.

John Koeller is a registered professional engineer with extensive experience with water-efficient technologies and products. Nationally recognized as a specialist in these fields, he is a consultant to numerous North American water authorities and private-sector firms. He serves with various standards organizations and is an active contributor to various regional and national green-building initiatives.