Toilet Talk: Eco-Friendly Toilets

A simple, effective way to conserve water at home is replacing your ten-year-old toilet.

| July/August 2004

The humble flushing lavatory is the watershed of modernized society. However, there may be a dirty little secret hiding in that older-model water closet: It could be swallowing almost a third of all the water used at home—more than any other appliance or fixture. At the rate of three to seven gallons per flush, each person could be washing up to 35 gallons of potable water down the john every day—about 127,000 gallons a year.

Americans already consume three times as much water as Europeans and seven times that of the rest of the world, according to the World Resources Institute. The old porcelain potty and its guzzling ways are enough to make anyone flush—with embarrassment. Yet you need not eliminate indoor plumbing and build an outhouse. By replacing your old fixture with a newer, low-flow one, you can reduce your home water use by 20 percent.

Changing out an old toilet will even save tax dollars by minimizing water and sewer infrastructure use and deferring capital expenditures on replacements and expansions. Your local water district may pass the savings along to you in the form of toilet replacement rebates, special purchases, or financial assistance, thus lowering your out-of-pocket expense even more. And don’t forget to check with your local recycling services; some take porcelain or plastic.

Best of all, upgrading to a new toilet helps the environment. If all U.S. households were to install water-wise toilets and other fixtures, water use would decrease by 30 percent, saving an estimated 5.4 billion gallons per day—or almost 2 trillion gallons a year-according to the American Water Works Association (

Ultra-low flush toilets (ULFs)

Unsure of the age of your commode? Peek under the tank lid to find the date stamp. Anything installed before 1994 may be suspect; after that date, federal law required ultra-low-flush (ULF) toilets in all new installations.

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