Although the design of the siphon-flush toilet hasn’t changed all that much since it was invented in the 19th Century, there was an attempt in the mid-1990s to reduce the amount of water that toilets used after water conservation laws went into effect throughout the United States. Until then, toilets could use up to seven gallons of water with each flush. This wasn’t a small amount by any means, and it added up when one considers how often a toilet is used. Since a seven-gallon flush wouldn’t adhere to the aforementioned water conservation laws, new toilets were introduced in 1994 that only used 1.6 gallons of water whenever they were flushed. These were known as low-flow toilets, and although they were more conservative than the toilets that came before them, many people argued that the smaller amount of water wasn’t enough to fully empty a toilet of excrement. They were, by all accounts, a huge flop. People held onto their pre-1994 toilets as long as they could and even bought older models at garage sales to avoid the dreaded low-flow toilets.
The introduction and early failure of low-flow toilets happened nearly twenty years ago. Since then, the low-flow toilets that inspired so much hatred have been redesigned and actually work quite well. In fact, some of the latest models work even better than some pre-1994 toilets even though some have cut their water usage down to 1.1 gallons per flush.
All technology requires some fine-tuning before it can be truly useful, and low-flow toilets were no exception. The biggest complaint of the early low-flows was that they couldn’t completely flush solid waste with a single flush. Many modern toilets have a dual-flush option that provides different flush modes for solid and liquid waste, effectively addressing the chief complaint of low-flow toilets.
To the average person, seven gallons may not sound like that much water, but by switching to a modern low-flow toilet, a household can save thousands of gallons of water every year. Many would argue that this is worth having a less-powerful toilet, especially since modern technological advances will ensure that most people won’t notice a difference until they have to pay their water bill.
By Nick Wert
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