High-Efficiency Plumbing Fixtures – Toilets & Urinals (2005)

Published: November 25, 2005

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Advent of Low-Flow Fixtures
Beginning in 1992, a new water-efficiency standard for toilets and urinals became the law in California. The maximum flush volume for each of these fixtures was lowered to 1.6 gallons and 1.0 gallons, respectively. This action closely followed or was coincident with similar requirements imposed by other state and local jurisdictions throughout the U.S. A patchwork pattern of requirements resulted, forcing the plumbing industry to develop and market two separate product lines…those for the “efficient states” and those for “not-so-efficient states.” Consequently, the plumbing industry, the water and wastewater industry, and environmental organizations all encouraged the U.S. Congress to adopt uniform standards for the entire country. (A more complete history of this evolutionary process may be found in separate reports by the U.S. General Accounting Office and by Potomac Resources, Inc.)

The products that resulted from this process were given the various labels of ultra-low-flow, ultra-low-flush, low-flow, and similar. Although most early versions of the toilet fixtures flushed at 1.6 gallons or less, they did not necessarily perform well and, thus, did not always result in satisfied customers and users. To this day, the reputation of some early “low flow” toilet fixtures still exists and influences water conservation programs. As a result of early problems, the plumbing industry embarked upon fresh product development to improve performance and thereby restore customer confidence and satisfaction. By 1997, fixture performance had improved significantly.

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