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Inside MWU

Toilet Rebate Program saves 1 billion gallons of water

Posted on Wednesday, April 8, 2015 - 3:28pm

Hand flushing toilet

A cornerstone of Madison’s water conservation initiative reaches a major milestone – one flush at a time.

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There’s nothing all that exciting about a toilet. But 11,000 toilets? That’s another story.
 
In 2009, Madison Water Utility began offering customers a $100 rebate to replace old, water-wasting toilets with EPA-rated high efficiency models. Since then, thousands of Madison homeowners have taken advantage of the Toilet Rebate Program, replacing more than 11,000 old toilets and saving an estimated 1,058,653,187 gallons of water.
 
“That’s a lot of water, and it is a big milestone,” says Madison Water Utility customer service manager Robin Piper. “It’s ten percent of what the entire utility pumps citywide in a year.”
 
1950s-era pink toiletPiper says that old toilets are notorious water wasters. That vintage 1950s pink toilet sitting in the downstairs half bath? It likely uses 5 gallons of treated drinking water with every flush.

“That was just the norm back then. You really didn’t think about it,” Piper says. “We want people to think about it. The Toilet Rebate Program has a dual function – besides saving water, it’s also a way for us to get the conservation message out.”
 
But after years of community interest, the Toilet Rebate Program is showing signs of slowing down. In 2014, just 1,399 toilets were replaced, the lowest number since the program started. Piper suspects that most homeowners interested in taking advantage of the program have now done so.  
 
“We had envisioned this to be a 10 year plan to get as many of those toilets replaced as we could. We want to save another billion – or two billion – gallons.”
 
So the utility is looking at ways to expand the program and hopes to have a plan in place by the summer of 2015. Piper says the effort is about as important as it gets.
 
“We must protect the resources that we have, leave as much water in the ground as we can. And reduce our carbon footprint by not having to use as much energy to pump the water. If we continue to use water at the rate that we had been, we’d be drawing down an aquifer that is not infinite.”
 
Piper still doesn’t expect people to get excited about their toilets, but he says they’re definitely thinking about them a little more.
 
“The program has made Madison more aware. Even on trash collection day you can drive down the street and see a toilet sitting out. Think about what that really means, that somebody actually has taken the step to reduce the amount of water they’re using.”

 


Category: Sustainability

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