Republican lawmakers flush invoice requiring low-flow plumbing fixtures

A law mandating efficient toilets, faucets, and shower heads could reduce annual water use by 16,000 acre-feet.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) The eastern finger of Deer Creek Reservoir continues to recede as Main Creek becomes a narrow band of water during extreme drought conditions on Monday, July 12, 2021. An estimated one-third of the reservoir’s capacity is used for toilets in Utah annually.

In one year, Utah toilets flow 51,000 acres of water, enough to fill one-third the capacity of Deer Creek Reservoir.

That’s the “eye-opening” statistic that Senator Jani Iwamoto highlighted Tuesday when he proposed a bill that would require more efficient toilets, faucets and shower heads in new home construction, and said annual water use would be reduced by 16,000 acre-feet by 2030 . That’s enough water to supply 30,000 households.

“Utah is the only state in the Colorado Basin that has not implemented a similar standard or allows communities to issue regulations that require these fittings,” said the Democrat in Salt Lake City of the Legislative Water Development Commission. “This is one way of addressing our scarce water supply. And let’s be honest, there is no more water left, so we have to do something with our existing water supply. “

Utah is facing both explosive housing growth and dwindling water supplies due to climate change, she added. Iwamoto’s action would have an impact on installations for new build and renovation of residential bathrooms. Building codes would be amended to set the maximum flow rate for toilets at 1.28 gallons per flush; for faucets at 1.5 gallons per minute; and for shower heads at 2 gallons per minute. These exceed the current standard by 20%.

While highly efficient faucets are generally no more expensive than less efficient ones, their ruling drew opposition from Republican lawmakers such as MP Casey Snider of Paradise, who said he prefers tiered water prices to encourage people to reduce water use.

“I am concerned that the government is telling me what type of toilet I can have in my house,” said Snider. “I’m worried what it can do to the Great Salt Lake.”

Snider argued that reducing the amount of water used in the bathroom will result in less water going into the depleted Great Salt Lake, which takes up most of the purified wastewater from the Wasatch Front.

The commission voted 5 to 4 in favor of the bill, but the move still failed because four members of the Republican House of Representatives voted against it. The vice chairman of the commission, Rep. Joel Ferry, R-Brigham City, voted in favor.

The tepid support for the law frustrated water conservation advocates such as Utah Rivers Council Executive Director Zach Frankel, who witnessed the demise of many water conservation policies.

“This shows how much the water saving in the Statehouse is hostile,” said Frankel on Tuesday. “I sat through almost 10 hours of committee discussion on water today and they didn’t allow a second of public input. That is in part why there is so much basic ignorance about water up here. They refuse to listen and learn to save money. “

Despite failing to get the commission’s official blessing, Iwamoto plans to submit the bill to the Senate at the upcoming session.

“This is a critical time and this change will make a difference,” she said. “As we see in Monroe [in Sevier County], the city council voted to suspend construction because there is no water. It’s a scary time and we need serious solutions. “

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