US President Wants to Roll Back 25 Years of Water Saving Toilets and Showers

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©. Pa Bagley, Salt Lake Tribune

Billions of gallons of water may be wasted because of this.

When the President of the United States proposed changing the rules on light bulbs, he was really maintaining the status quo by stopping the new rules applying to specialty bulbs. But now he's talking toilets, about rolling back the standards on how much water toilets can use per flush, and this is a very big deal. This is no maintaining the status quo; it's rolling back twenty-five years of work.

“People are flushing toilets 10 times, 15 times as opposed to once. They end up using more water.”

This is, first of all, patently not true; sometimes people have to flush twice. After Republican president George H.W. Bush brought in the 1.6 gallon flush rule in 1992, people complained. Some smuggled toilets in from Canada, which had not changed the rules yet. But that was a very long time ago, the toilets have got a lot better, and people have mostly got used to them. In 2006 we wrote about how toilets are tested and how new toilets could handle a 900 gram dump on a single flush, when the average male poop was 250 grams.

All that rain, going to waste!

© All that rain, going to waste!/ Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images

Toilets used to use up to six gallons of water per flush, totalling up to 30 percent of household water use. The President says this isn't a problem: "For the most part, you have many states where they have so much water that it comes down — it’s called rain — that they don’t know, they don’t know what to do with it.” But this isn't true either; the water used in our toilets is from the municipal water supply system, where it is collected and filtered and purified and inspected and then piped to our homes. This costs a lot of money, and is reflected in our water bills. Living on Lake Ontario, I never worried much about my use of water; then I learned that the City's biggest user of electricity was cleaning and pumping water to the reservoirs. And others do not have such a convenient source; according to Bloomberg:

But 40 of 50 state water managers said they expected water shortages under average conditions in some portion of their state over the next decade, according to a 2014 report from the Government Accountability Office.

The President doesn't like the rules about sinks and showers either, saying:

"We have a situation where we're looking very strongly at sinks and showers and other elements of bathrooms where you turn the faucet on — and areas where there's tremendous amounts of water, where the water rushes out to sea because you could never handle it, and you don't get any water."

But the water from our bathrooms doesn't rush out to sea, it goes to sewage treatment plants which again, have to deal with the waste. This is also expensive.

Unlike with light bulb rules, where the benefits are so obvious and immediate, I suspect that if the water rules change then people will take advantage of them to get glorious high-pressure showers like I used to love; the rules now limit shower heads to 1.8 gallons per minute in California (2.5 GPM federally) but Amazon is full of illegal 10 GPM heads, screaming GET FULLY ENERGIZED WITH THE WORLD'S #1 TOP SELLING HIGH PRESSURE SHOWERHEAD, THE ORIGINAL SHOWERBLASTER HIGH PRESSURE SHOWER HEAD WITH OVER 5000 SOLD!

They will happily buy toilets where you are pooping into a lake of water and never need a brush. And toilets last a long time; even after 25 years since the rules changed, many people still have old ones. I have seen some still in use that are over a hundred years old.

And because of this, billions and billions of gallons of water will have to be collected, treated, pumped, recovered and cleaned for years to come. Only in America.