NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Federal Toilet Law Irks Many

January 18, 2000

In 1992, environmentalists joined forces with toilet makers to support a new federal law requiring that every new toilet must use only 1.6 gallons per flush -- compared to the 3.5 gallons used by the old models. At that time, 17 states had adopted the new 1.6 gallon maximum and toilet makers decided it was in their interest to have a uniform national standard.

Environmentalists argue that the 1.6 gallon requirement conserves water. The problem with the new models is that they often don't do the job after only one flush, so the user has to repeat the process once or twice -- using up more water than the old models used.

Consumers aren't pleased and they are calling for the federal government to get out of their bathrooms.

  • A 1998 survey by the National Association of Homebuilders found that 72 percent of their members consider the new toilets a problem.
  • After running comprehensive tests for six months on more than 150 makes of 1.6 gallon toilets, Bob Bellini, vice president of Varsity Toilets in Flushing, N.Y., reported that 145 models weren't up to his standards and only five were.
  • Builders and remodelers are reportedly combing through junk yards in search of the old 3.5 gallon models.
  • Officials of a plumbing company in Windsor, Ontario -- just across the border from Detroit -- report a steady stream of buyers from the U.S. purchasing 3.5 gallon models.

U.S. Rep. Joe Knollenberg (R-Mich.) is sponsoring legislation that would end the fine for manufacturing a forbidden toilet as well as the local enforcement that blocks new homes and remodeled bathrooms from passing inspection if they have 3.5 gallon toilets.

Environmentalists intend to fight the bill.

Source: Editorial, "Forbidden Flushes," Wall Street Journal, January 18, 2000.


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