Town Gets Into Toilet Business

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Buzz Walker and Jeff Durbin are flush with excitement about the town’s new toilet replacement program.

“We’re replacing old toilets in houses built before 1991 with the best toilet made and it’s absolutely free,” Durbin, town water resource specialist, said.

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Holding a dead rose, Public Works Director Buzz Walker says the town water department lives by its own conservation recommendations. “We stopped watering the roses out front in October,” he said.

The new toilets use 1.6 gallons of water per flush, a savings of at least 2 gallons over older models. According to a cost-effectiveness study conducted by the town, the average household can operate the new Toto toilet on $45 worth of water a year, compared to $110 for older models.

Out behind the water department is early proof that the program is working a large dumpster with old harvest gold and avocado toilets piled in it. Replacement toilets are cotton white, but people can pay the difference and get a colored toilet if they prefer.

“Ninety-nine percent of all toilets sold today are white,” Durbin said. “Other colors are not real popular right now.”

Elongated bowl and handicapped toilets are also extra.

The chosen toilets are made by Toto, a Japanese manufacturer. They were selected after extensive research and testing.

“The Toto is a very expensive toilet, but we wanted to make sure it was going to last and that there would be no flushing problems,” Durbin said.

“We also did a lot of research on other toilet replacement programs across the country,” Buzz Walker, town public works director, said. “The biggest flaw in the other programs is that they have people go to the store and buy a new toilet and then apply for a rebate. They buy junk because they don’t know any better or because their local outlets don’t handle Toto products because they’re more expensive.”

But water officials believe the extra cost of the Toto is worth it. They say Toto toilets are much more effective than early low-flow models, which often had to be flushed twice.

The ultimate endorsement for Toto toilets is the fact that major hotels in Las Vegas and other places use them.

“Big hotels like the Mirage in Vegas use Totos because they don’t want any problems,” Walker said. “They’re dependable. (Mirage owner) Steve Winn assessed the Toto toilet carefully before installing them because that’s a big expense if you have a problem. They tested them by putting four Big Macs in the wrappers in there. It got all four in one flush 90 percent of the time. I don’t know how much that story has grown since they started telling it, but that’s the myth anyway.”

People who are uncomfortable changing out a toilet can hire a plumber. The town will reimburse $25 of the installation cost when a licensed plumber is used.

Old toilets can be brought to the water department for disposal.

“We’re working with Waste Management,” Walker said. “They provide the hauling and the container, so all we have to pay is a disposal fee at the landfill.”

The toilet replacement program is in keeping with the newly released North Central Arizona Groundwater Report. According to that study, the best way to address northern Arizona’s growing demand for water is not through discovering and developing new sources but to use proven water efficiency and conservation programs to stretch existing supplies.

“It’s called water budgeting,” Durbin said. “You have so much money in your checking account and that’s just like our water. But in the summertime we spend double what we got in our checking account. We’ve got to do everything possible to save our natural resources.”

The toilet replacement program is being funded 60-40 with water department operating funds and money from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

The water department also is offering free soap and massage shower heads in chrome, brass or white and several types of faucet aerators.

For more information on the low-flow toilet replacement program and other water conservation programs, call the water department at 474-5242, ext. 4.

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