LOW FLOW TOILET – WATER SAVINGS ?

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Bowled Over – Do low-flow toilets pose a risk to municipalities with aging water infrastructure? written by Stacy Bradshaw in the November/December issue of Water Canada magazine. 

Excerpts from the article ~

It’s easy to prove the environmental and financial benefits of low-flow toilets.  According to the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), switching from a traditional toilet can reduce water usage by as 70 per cent per flush, for example. But, like any relatively new innovation, the low-flow toilet has been met with both enthusiasm and skepticism. Urban myths overheard at municipal conferences have wastewater treatment plants in rural prairie towns dealing with a flurry of rebates, installations, decreased flow, and backlogs of slow-moving sewage. While experts say the possibility of system failure due to low flows is farfetched, the slow introduction of the low flow toilet does prompt a valid question: What happens when new technology meets municipal wastewater infrastructure that is designed to accommodate the older, high-volume models? Start with the standards. Not all toilets are built the same. With low flow, consumers have a range of choices, including volume (6, 4.8, or 3-litres). To help consumers make informed purchasing decisions, CMHC, the Canadian Water and Wastewater Association (CWWA ), and other housing and municipal partners across Canada and the United States developed the Maximum Performance Testing Program (MaP), a test that uses soybean paste and toilet paper to mimic the real-world demands put upon toilets…  “In Canada you can now buy a toilet with a MaP-certified or WaterSense logo, or both,” says Cate Soroczan, a senior researcher at CMHC, who warns consumers against any non-accredited models… Does lower flow affect infrastructure? Once flushed water enters the system, supplemental flows have the capacity to clear out the lines, says Kevin Reilly, demand  management coordinator and deputy sewage control manager for the Capital Regional District (CRD) in British Columbia. Reilly is also the chair of CWWA ’s water efficiency committee. “Yes, you’re putting less water through the system [with low-flow toilets], but you have lots of residual flow that’s not carrying waste, like showers, dishwashers, and clothes washing machines. I don’t really see any issue with the city  infrastructure,” said Hennessy… When asked about the potential effects on septic systems, Soroczan explains that if you want to expand the longevity of a septic system, you actually want to pump less water through the system. “As far as septic systems go, I think a low-flow toilet will actually benefit them,” said Reilly. The commercial factor However, one good toilet choice may not a happy municipal system make. In February 2012, MaP issued a release stating that until further studies of drain systems in larger buildings are completed, it recommends taking caution in the use of toilets with an effective flush volume of 4.8 litres or less in “non-residential-type” installations, such as factories, schools, and warehouses. Reilly explains that the residential plumbing standards are smaller, and have a steeper pitch, which means they drain faster than a commercial application.  “So really, the big issue is the slope, as well as the pipe diameter,” he says… “Just look at Toronto. They even stopped the rebate program for low flow toilets last year because so many people have already have done it,” says Hennessy. “If the problem was going to rear its head, it would have already happened.”

Link for information on low flow toilets ~ http://www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/article/0,,213021,00.html

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