Connecting Waterpeople

Earlier this month, Donald Trump said low-flow toilets result in increased water consumption, as they need to be flushed several times. The President’s potty talk led to many online comments, but it points to the next area up for deregulation by the Trump administration: water efficiency standards.

WaterSense is a voluntary EPA programme that since 2006 offers US consumers simple ways to save water ─using water-efficient products like bathroom fixtures─ and has resulted in 3.4 trillion gallons of water saved up to 2018, as well as more than $84.2 billion in water and energy bills. According to the EPA, toilets are the main source of water use in the home, accounting for almost 30% of a home’s indoor water consumption.

How much water does it take to flush a toilet, and what is the best way to increase water efficiency in the home? And, of interest to consumers, how does that translate into dollars and cents? The price you pay to flush a toilet depends on the type of toilet, as well as local water and waste water costs, as CBS News points out.

A WaterSense labelled toilet can result in significant water savings: newer toilets use only 1.28 gallons per flush, 20% less that the current US federal standard of 1.6 gallons per flush, in place since 1994 (older models could use up to 6 gallons of water per flush). The EPA estimates that an average family can save $110 per year in the water bill by switching to WaterSense toilets.

But do low-flow toilets do the job, or are they wasting water, as Trump suggests? CBS talked with consumer Reports, who review how toilets handle solid waste. Most toilets meet the testing specifications after flushing them once or twice. Furthermore, based on Department of Energy data, they calculated that the standard 1.6 gallon toilet costs 1.3 cents to flush. Since people flush about five times every day, the estimated cost of flushing the toilet is $24 per person per year.

But the cost of water services is on the rise in the US, as cities are forced to deal with ageing systems, less resources, and extreme weather events. Efficiency is paramount. Now the EPA will be reviewing water efficiency standards following Trump’s directions. Meanwhile, the American Supply Association, one of the organisations involved in the creation of the WaterSense programme back in 2006, supports the current standards programme, calls for research to study the impact of any further reductions in flow volumes and flush volumes on the water system, and calls for upgrading ageing water infrastructure as the measure with the greatest impact on further water use efficiency.

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