Low-flow toilets on a roll in S.F. 

click to enlarge KOHLER CO. VIA AP
  • Kohler Co. via AP

This is The City that knows how to save water — with toilets.

High-efficiency toilets that use less water have been readily available to San Francisco water customers tired of gigantic bills caused by their current bowls.

And a program that offers high-efficiency toilets to low-income residents wishing to swap out their existing plumbing for water-saving models will be continued for another 2½ years.

Most toilets installed before 1994 — that is to say, most toilets — use 3.5 gallons per flush. High-efficiency toilets, with a flush volume of 1.28 gallons or less, can save a family of four 20,000 gallons of water a year, or about 16 percent of their total use, according to the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.

The SFPUC is aiming to cut city water usage by 4 million gallons a day by 2018. Toilets account for about 30 percent of a household’s total water use, the agency estimates, and San Franciscans use roughly 64 million gallons of water a day total, according to the SFPUC’s Water Conservation Report.

More than half of San Francisco’s water is used by residential customers.

Since 2010, 6,252 water-efficient toilets have been installed in low-income households participating in The City’s Community Assistance program, according to the SFPUC. In the last fiscal year alone, 2,656 toilets were replaced with high-efficiency models.

The $5.3 million program was scheduled to end June 30 but will continue until 2015.

Many cities and counties across California, including Marin and Contra Costa counties and Redwood City, have toilet-replacement programs designed to reduce water use.

In San Francisco, new high-efficiency toilets are the law. All toilets installed after July 1, 2011, are required to have maximum flush volumes of 1.28 gallons per flush.

While they cannot get a new toilet for free, other residential customers and all commercial customers can apply for rebates of up to $300 for the installation of high-efficiency toilets. A total of 6,152 residential and commercial customers received rebates for installing high-efficiency toilets in the last fiscal year.

About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has worked as a reporter in San Francisco since 2008, with an emphasis on city governance and politics, The City’s neighborhoods, race, poverty and the drug war.
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