Austin, Texas — Texas may soon be the second state, after California, to require all toilets sold on and after Jan. 1, 2014, to be 1.28-gpf or less and the only state to reference the Environmental Protection Agency's WaterSense program, which promotes water efficiency and enhances the market for efficient products, programs and practices, in its legislation.
Like the recently introduced Texas legislation, the California HET bill, which is a market transition plan sponsored by the Plumbing Manufactures Institute, passed in 2007, requiring all new construction in the state to use high-efficiency toilets — 1.28-gpf or less — and high efficiency urinals — ½-gpf or less.
Texas House Bill 2667, introduced by House Representative Allan Ritter, is supported by the Alliance for Water Efficiency, a non-profit composed of environmental groups, water agencies and utilities committed to the efficient and sustainable use of water.
In a letter from Mary Ann Dickinson, the Alliance for Water Efficiency's executive director, to Ritter, it is stated that the Alliance supports upgrades in water use efficiency that HETs provide. Since toilets and urinals comprise a large percentage of indoor water use at the national level, increased efficiency has corresponding value in reducing water and wastewater infrastructure costs.
The Texas bill requires that urinals and toilets meet high efficiency standards of ½-gpf and 1.28-gpf. However, heavy-duty urinals could use up to 1-gpf. Toilets with atypical designs, including wall mounted toilets, toilets in correctional facilities, toilets used in the practice of bariatric medicine, toilets in day-care facilities, and toilets with non-tank type bowls could use up to 2-gpf.
The bill requires manufacturers to phase in high efficiency models as follows: 50% by Jan. 1, 2010, 67% by Jan. 1, 2011, 75% by Jan. 1, 2012, 85% by Jan. 1, 2013, and 100% by Jan. 1, 2014. Manufacturers would need to report to building officials the percentage of high efficiency toilets and urinals offered for sale in the state during the phase-in period.
Standards for waterless urinals included in the bill require that urinals have a trap, drain into a drainage system and meet industry standards. The bill requires water supply piping to be installed behind the wall in case the waterless urinals need to be replaced by flushing urinals.
According to the House Research Organization's bill analysis, waterless urinals and devices with the WaterSense label would be exempt from the water efficiency requirements in the bill.
Toilets and urinals with the WaterSense label are tested for performance and efficiency by an independent laboratory, accredited by the American National Standards Institute. Only high-efficiency toilets and urinals that pass this third-party certification process can use this label.
By replacing existing toilets with WaterSense labeled models, a consumer can save 4,000 gallons per year, according to WaterSense's Web site.
Opponents of the legislation argue that the new standards could lead to stoppages along main sewer lines because stronger water flows are necessary to move wastewater through older sewer and drainage lines.
“Plumbers are ultimately going to be the ones not only responsible for installing the low flow units, but they will be the ones consumers go to if all does not go well,” said Jo Wagner, chairperson of the Government Relations Committee and a board member of the Educational Foundation at the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors - National Association, Falls Church, Va., and president of CTO Inc., Harlingen, Texas. “This concerns the industry as a whole.”
The bill does address infrastructure concerns, allowing local governments to opt-out of the HET requirements by passing ordinances if drainage or sewer systems need more water to move waste effectively.
“Some cities are not set up for efficient toilets, especially if there are infrastructure problems under the ground, or the systems are old and piping is in a state of decay,” explained Wagner. “Some testing of the new l.28-gpf is being done in various cities, but not in large enough numbers to give a true picture. We need to look at water conservation as starting below the ground to make sure we have efficient and modern main lines.”
Texas is not the only state to introduce an HET bill. This February, the Washington state Senate introduced HET legislation, however, the bill missed the Senate voting deadline and died this March.