18 trillion gallons of water have been saved during 20 years of low-flow toilet regulations.
AMERICANS HAVE SAVED MORE THAN 18 TRILLION GALLONS OF WATER — roughly the volume of Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay—by embracing low-flow toilet technology over the past two decades since the U.S. enacted the 1992 Energy Policy Act (EPAct) that mandated less water per flush, according to the Alliance for Water Efficiency (AWE). That's hard to imagine, but it is enough water to fill 27 million Olympic size swimming pools.
Since 1994, when the 1992 EPAct legislation took effect, innovative toilet technology has transitioned the nation from a water-guzzling 3.5 gallons per flush (gpf) to a low-flow 1.6 gpf toilet diet and, more recently, toward high efficiency 1.28 gpf models. In the process, the amount of water consumed has been reduced by more than half, with usage rates down by 54 percent and 63 percent, respectively. These savings have been impactful, as toilets represent the single largest source of water consumption in a home, accounting for nearly one-third of residential water use, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
In addition, today’s commercial fixtures are squeezing even more performance out of each drop, offering 1.1 gpf toilets that yield a 31 percent savings over standard 1.6 gpf toilets, and urinals that operate with a meager 0.25 gpf, and cut water use by as much as 87 percent over standard urinals.
“As we mark the EPAct’s 20th anniversary, it’s important to appreciate the significant water usage efficiencies that smart plumbing technology has brought our nation,” says Jay Gould, president and CEO of American Standard Brands. “As much of the nation faces the worst drought in half a century, it is heartening to look back upon twenty years of this successful water conservation policy and realize the enormous volume of water saved by highly efficient plumbing products.”
The estimated 18.2 trillion gallons in cumulative water savings that has resulted from the use of low-flow toilets highlights how water conservation policies, such as the 1992 EPAct, impact and help sustain the nation’s water supplies, noted Mary Ann Dickinson, president and CEO of Chicago-based AWE, the national nonprofit organization dedicated to the efficient and sustainable use of water.
“These toilets help save an estimated 4.6 billion gallons of water each and every day in the U.S.,” said Dickinson. “When you add in the further water reductions achieved by high efficiency 1.28 gpf toilets, the savings are even more outstanding. Water is the critical resource issue of our time, and smart water conservation policies work to ensure that we have sustainable supplies for the future."
The Road to High-Performing Toilet Technology
During the early 1990s, when water use restrictions first took effect, plumbing product manufacturers struggled to produce low-flow toilets that could effectively remove all waste with only 1.6 gallons of water, prompting frustration among users who resorted to counterproductive double-flushing. However, by 1998, toilet manufacturers had successfully modified flushing systems to remove waste using less water.
As the first decade of low-flow technology drew to a close, a flushing evaluation system would be introduced that changed the industry. Maximum Performance (MaP) testing was implemented in 2003 to measure the amount of solid waste removed per flush. This independent testing program inspired toilet producers to strive for the highest rating of successfully flushing 1,000 grams (2.2 lbs.) of solid waste.
In 2006, to drive even greater water savings, the EPA created WaterSense, a partnership program modeled after the EnergySTAR labeling program to help assure consumers that products will conserve and perform as promised. WaterSense-certified toilets use 20 percent less water than low-flow models, while providing strong flushing power. Commode makers were motivated to create high efficiency toilets (HETs) that used only 1.28 gpf while delivering strong flushing performance.
The American Standard Champion PRO series toilets are a perfect example. Offering a powerful flush that can easily remove 1,000 grams of solid waste, the Champion PRO models use only 1.28 gpf, meeting the rigorous WaterSense-certification standards.
Water Savings throughout the Bathroom
Toilets aren’t the only bathroom products constantly evolving and being held to more stringent water usage requirements. All American Standard bathroom sink faucets use only 1.5 gallons per minute (gpm) and are WaterSense-certified for using 32 percent less water than standard 2.2 gpm styles, without sacrificing performance. Further supporting the use of water saving faucets, the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) reported that almost half of the designers responding to its annual 2014 Kitchen and Bath Design Trends survey specified water-saving faucets and fixtures in 2013. Forty-four percent predicted that the demand will grow for water-saving bathroom products throughout 2014, according to the NKBA.
To support its belief in water savings in the entire bathroom, the company conducted a real-life test in 21 homes in the Atlanta suburbs in 2010. The study measured pre- and post-water usage after WaterSense-certified toilets, bathroom faucets and showerheads from American Standard were installed in the residences. Water savings ranged from 20 to 25 percent, plus lowered energy costs and water bills. In a follow-up survey performed in early 2014, residents reported continued satisfaction with the performance of their water-conserving faucets and fixtures, specifically citing the excellent flushing power of the HETs installed in their homes.