A bill to change the maximum water consumption level of toilets from 1.6 gallons per flush to 3.5 gpf has been reintroduced in Congress. The legislation was pulled from consideration in 1998 after failing to reach a vote.
U.S. Rep. Joe Knollenberg revived HR-623, "The Plumbing Standards Improvement Act of 1999," to amend the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1992 by repealing the 1.6 gpf requirement. The EPAct also had standardized maximum flow rates throughout the United States for showerheads, faucets, toilets and urinals.
The Michigan Republican introduced the topic to Congress in March 1997 after receiving complaints from his constituents about poor flushing.
"That number '1.6' is an arbitrary number," said Frank Maisano, director of communications for Knollenberg's office, in 1997. "We did research and couldn't find any scientific basis for that number."
A study completed in early 1998, supported by toilet manufacturers and water conservation groups, concludes that the majority of consumers who use 1.6 gpf toilets are satisfied with their toilet's performance.
Twenty-four industry organizations signed a statement earlier this year supporting the EPAct. The document cites recent droughts as good reason for the low-flow standard.
"With over half of all indoor residential water use taking place in the bathroom, improved water efficiency in new toilets is central to most water conservation efforts," the study states.
Among the organizations signing that statement are the American Supply Association, the American Water Works Association, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors - National Association, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Plumbing Manufacturers Institute.
"The opposition is very organized and powerful," said Trent Wisecup, a spokesman for Knollenberg's office. "We have not been able to organize the support in favor of the legislation. We're dealing with consumers all over the country."
Manufacturers also have released letters and statements criticizing the legislation. Moen sent a letter to Supply House Times, stating that it opposes the legislation for several reasons including a potential rise in energy and water treatment costs.
The Moen letter also states that a uniform flow requirement enables manufacturers to keep production costs down, and repeal of the standard would drive up product costs to builders, wholesalers, contractors and ultimately the consumer.
Despite the opposition to Knollenberg's legislation, the demand for outlawed 3.5 gpf toilets has been great.
The EPAct made it illegal for manufacturers to make or sell 3.5 gpf toilets in the United States, but Canadian wholesalers can still sell them for retrofit or remodeling projects. Contractors who purchase 3.5 gpf toilets in Canada and bring them into the United States don't break the law until they resell the toilets or install them on new construction projects.
Sid Awerbuck, owner of Veterans Plumbing and Supplies in Windsor, Ontario, said he has seen steady increases in sales of 3.5 gpf toilets for two years.