The goals of the 1992 Energy Policy Act were laudable as they attempted to resolve many issues including the conservation of our most precious natural resource, clean water. Specifically the Act required that all residential and commercial building s switch to low flow toilets over the course of the next few years.
The success of the policy is undoubted as cities and residents across the United States used significantly lower amounts of water to dispose of waste. Unfortunately, there are also a few problems associated with the low flow toilets.
As mentioned, low flow toilets use considerably less water in their operation than the toilets that were available prior to 1992. Older toilets had used 3.5 gallons or more per flush while the new mandate specified a maximum 1.6 gallons per flush. The results were significant with cities like San Francisco saving over 20 million gallons of water per year.
Unfortunately, the results reported by the city of San Francisco were based on a simple mathematical calculation and not on a real world measurement. Critics point out that the inefficiency of low flow toilets caused people to “double or triple flush” minimizing or eliminating the actual water savings. Modern low flow toilets have mostly resolved this problem.
Another significant disadvantage of low flow toilets is that they do not force the solid waste far enough into the drainage system. This fact is a problem for both homeowners and city governments. The accumulation of solid waste in drainpipes can lead to backups, blockages and burst pipes. The introduction of power flush toilets has solved this problem for most homeowners.
As with most government mandates, good intentions are not always matched by adequate information. Environmental engineers were well aware of the problems with low flow toilets before the government administrators acted. Fortunately, the plumbing industry was able to develop at least two types of low flow toilets that addressed the issues.