Dallas Is Going to Spend $7.6 Million to Buy People Toilets

LowFlowToiletsFlickr.jpg.jpg
The Rebuilding Center
If you live in Dallas and your house or apartment is more than 22 years old, and if your commode uses 3.5 gallons or more per flush, the city would like to give you a free, low-flow toilet. There's no catch. No strings. Ninety bucks of porcelain, yours for the taking.

The city's "New Throne For Your Home" program has given away some 72,600 units in its seven-year existence on the premise that it's cheaper to buy people toilets than to build a new reservoir. According to Dallas Water Utilities Director Jody Puckett, it's worked. She credits the program with reducing water consumption by 326 million gallons per year. (How much is 326 million gallons? About half the 789.6 million DWU used on its record day in 2000, or enough to water Tom Hick's yard for around 26 years, based on his usage in 2011.)

The savings were significant enough that the Dallas City Council this morning kicked another $7.6 million into the program, good enough to buy 17,500 commodes each year for the next five years.

The proposal didn't pass without without controversy. Councilwoman Jennifer Staubach Gates, who ultimately supported it, declared during a committee briefing yesterday, "I'm having trouble giving people free toilets with taxpayer money."

That's the philosophical objection. But what of the cheeks-on-the-seat reality? Gates said she's heard -- second-hand, of course -- that users of low-flow toilets often have to flush twice to clear the bowl, thus eliminating promised water savings.

She was satisfied by Puckett's characterization of the claim as "an old myth from 15 or so years ago" and a personal testimonial: "I don't flush twice with my toilet."

Councilman Rick Callahan wasn't so easily convinced.

"I'm not sure we've got the proper metrics in place to measure [water] savings," he said this morning as the council prepared to vote on the toilet program. He's spoken with constituents -- homeowners, apartment dwellers, businesses -- and they "all seem to be of the mindset that everyone's having to flush twice."

"I've replaced mine when I remodeled my restrooms, and I'm finding that to be a problem," he said. The reason Dallas Water Utilities hasn't fielded any complaints in the past? "Most people don't want to bring that up in public like I just did."

Puckett and Callahan's divergent experience probably has more to do with the nature of their bathroom usage than with flaws in the toilet design. The standard on which the EPA certifies low-flow toilets dictates that they have to move a minimum of 350 grams -- about three-quarters of a pound -- in a single flush.

For most bathroom trips not made by Rick Callahan, that's easily powerful enough to do the job.

Even if the toilets do require the occasional double flush, studies pretty consistently find that toilets do reduce a household's water consumption, even if it's sometimes slightly less than advertised.

Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.


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28 comments
bmarvel
bmarvel topcommenter

Utterly useless as toilets. But they make nice planters.

mewkins
mewkins

One feller sits on a toilet and says, "that water is cold". Another feller sits on the same toilet and says, "that water is cold and deep".

bryanr01
bryanr01

"about three-quarters of a pound." I can honestly say I've never thought about turd weight before.  I'll have to weigh myself before and after, just to see if I meet EPA standards. 

haskovez
haskovez

I went on consumer reports a couple of years ago and found the top rated 1.2 gallon per flush toilet.  I went to lowes and bought it I think it was around $200.  I got it installed, and got the rebate from the city for $90 back.  The thing works great I have had no problems with it and haven't had the double flush issue.  So having used this program I have to say it was great for us and yeah we did replace a 3.5 gallon per flush toilet with the 1.2 gallon per flush.  So from the city's perspective I would be a data point to justify the program.  Now if they weren't kicking $90 in on the cost of my toilet I probably would have kept the old one.


On the other hand if you are getting the full toilet from the city instead of taking the cash rebate on a really good one's maybe the one's they are buying for $90 are crap (vs a more expensive one that actually has some power on the flush).

roo_ster
roo_ster

I remodeled both bathrooms and went out of my way to preserve the perfectly fine pre-1980 toilets.  These have tanks in excess of 3.5gal.


Y'all can keep the damnable 1.6gal flush abominations.

J_A_
J_A_

Nothing worse than a weak flush

lakewoodhobo
lakewoodhobo

Can we make the toilets black? It's Vonciel's favorite color.

lftay
lftay

This program, because it is voluntary, isn't really objectionable.  The problem with DWU and most other water systems is they are always looking for regulatory ways to cut water usage, e.g., onerous watering restrictions, mandating low flow toilets and showers that people are unhappy with, conservation education programs etc.  These create large, inefficient bureaucracies and increase the power of the state over the people, which is great for the bureaucratic empire builders and the fascists among us, but not so great for everyone else.  

But there is a much better / more efficient way to get people to conserve water: Price it correctly.  Obviously, a base level of water usage should be cheap for each household, because people need water to live.  But beyond that, it should be priced high enough to encourage conservation.  Even Tom Hicks would want to conserve water if the bill for egregious usage was high enough.  Start pricing excess water usage so he gets a $100K water bill every month and watch how fast his usage adjusts.  And if it is so important to him that he will keep using that much water, then he essentially self-funds free low flow toilets and showers for everyone who wants one, which seems to be a win-win for everybody.

Hulon_Pate
Hulon_Pate

I got two free toilets in my home from the city of Dallas. Works great. 

primi_timpano
primi_timpano topcommenter

Couldn't we save much more by paying to pave Harlan Crow's lawns?

P1Gunter
P1Gunter

The King of the Hill episode on low flow toilets immediately comes to mind. Hank Hill is not a big fan of them or charcoal. He got the first one right.

MikeWestEast
MikeWestEast

I always flush every public toilet 3 times, especially after these low volume things appeared.  First to make sure it works, second after human side and third after the paper input.  Get caught once in a situation with a faulty toilet and you'll adopt the same process.  First flush also identifies leaking pipes or flanges, another frequent issue.  I would be surprised if any water savings are real.

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

I'm all for water conservation, but these things are horrible.  You have to flush them three times to get all the shit down the drain. 

WylieH
WylieH

So... most of the increased water demands at Dallas Water Utilities are coming from other municipal customers of the system.


Why is the responsibility of the City of Dallas, and the City of Dallas alone, to fund a conservation measure that benefits Dallas Water Utilities.... shouldn't the other 31 cities and towns served by the system pick up part of the tab?  And shouldn't we put pressure on other system customers to increase their retail water costs and implement watering restrictions comparable to those in Dallas BEFORE simply writing checks to buy people free toilets?


Who has the contract to supply the toilets?

Montemalone
Montemalone topcommenter

In my reading on this subject I came across stories indicating that low flow toilets can lead to plumbing problems is old houses. The lack of water to allow the waste to flow away and down the sewer means it tends to sit on the cast iron waste lines, and rot them away from the inside.


TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

Fluoridated water ruins these toilets.

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

It takes a big man to admit that, Rick. A big man.

jesdynf
jesdynf

"not made /by/ Rick Callahan"

alteredjustice
alteredjustice

@MikeG4936 lol, this dude is trying to convince us that having a plunger in the bathroom is a biohazard. It's not like you're keeping it on the kitchen table.

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

@MikeG4936 

I worked on  a project with a  toilet manufacturer.  They said that if the legislation had been 2 gallons per flush there would not have been a problem.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz


Here I sit

my buns a flexin'

Giving birth

to another Texan


-- graffiti over public toilet.



Everything is Bigger in TexAss!



P1Gunter
P1Gunter

I wondered about the contract myself. Its Dallas so someone is getting paid.

That said, if the cut off is 22 year old buildings Dallas will have the vast majority of those. Then the inner ring suburbs. Once you get to the outer ring burbs I doubt you will find that many.

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@Montemalone

I briefly lived a rental that had an older model low-flow commode in the master bath. The type that was there had two flush modes. (I don't need to explain that, right?) The day we moved in the landlord told us to always use the "number 2" mode when we flushed precisely because of this issue. 

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