Signing of AB715 into law brings us back to the way we were - all over the place.

You may have read that California Governor Schwarzenegger signed AB 715 into law on Oct. 11, 2007. This is the legislation that mandates that all water closets sold in California must be HET by 2014. Beginning in 2010, at least 50% of the water closets sold in California must be HET. The percentages increase each year until they reach 100% on Jan. 1, 2014.

You may recall that HET stands for high efficiency toilet. This is a designation used by the Federal government. Any HET must meet the ANSI/ASME A112.19.2 standard, plus they must flush no more than 1.28 gpf on average.

I have seen it written in various news articles that this lowers the water closets from six liters to four liters. Some have guessed that it is five liters of flush for the HET.

As all of you know, 1.6 gallons is approximately five liters. However, 1.28 does not translate to liters too well. It would actually be 4.85 liters.

What 1.28 really amounts to is a 20% reduction in the flushing volume of a water closet. So, while we started using liters and converted it into gallons, we have left the liters behind and are again using gallons of water.

Backroom Deal?

Some of my colleagues from California have claimed that this bill and agreement between all parties stinks like the smell of Arnold’s cigars. They believe it was a political backroom deal that will again screw the public.

A similar bill was not signed into law by the Governor a little more than a year ago. The new legislation received the blessing of the Plumbing Manufacturers Institute and the various water closet manufacturers.

What nobody likes to state publicly is that the new California legislation is in violation of Federal Law. When the Federal government enacted the water conservation requirements for water closets in 1992 and other plumbing fixtures, the law was preemptive. That means that no other State or local jurisdiction is permitted to enact legislation different from the Federal law.

The reason for the preemptive requirements was to avoid what was occurring prior to the enactment of the Federal law. States were all trying to outdo one another. One state enacted a maximum flush volume of 2.0 gallons, another 1.6, yet another had 1.5 gallons. We were all over the place.

In order to avoid a mishmash of requirements, the Feds said, “We will regulate flush volume. Nobody else has that authority.”

So, since 1992 we have been plodding along with the Feds telling us what the flush volume for a water closet would be. That is, until California thumbed their noses at the Feds and said, “We are going to regulate water closet flush volume and we don’t care what you think.”

The question I have is: “Does anybody care?”

It seems that everyone is just going along with the California legislation. Nobody wants to rock the boat. After all, it is sacrilegious to oppose water conservation in this day and age.

Well, I don’t oppose water conservation, I wholeheartedly support it. But I do oppose California’s legislation, from the simple fact that it violates Federal law.

We live in a land of laws. The hierarchy is very clear: Federal, states, counties, townships, and local jurisdictions. This is something we learned in U.S. History in high school. If the Feds do not give the states the authority to regulate, then they have no right to regulate. The Feds did not give California the authority to regulate water conversation. To the contrary, they said we will regulate it.

California should be doing what any other state would have to do; that is, to have their Federal legislators, Senators and Congressman propose a law to either remove the preemptive part of the law, or change the law to require HET.

As I remember from my history class, when we start ignoring law, we revert to anarchy. I am not in favor of anarchy.

Engineers' Concern

Another part of this California legislation that also is ignored is the concerns of the plumbing engineers. As many of my colleagues complain, we can put everything in the pipe, but we can’t get it out to the public sewer. The manufacturers were only concerned about their products flushing, not what happens once it is in the piping.

Well, I don’t completely agree when I hear engineers say that the manufacturers don’t care. They really do care. They want the plumbing system to work. But they rely on the engineers to figure out how to make them work.

What really needs to happen is a concerted effort to re-evaluate the drainage pipe sizing for newer, water-conserving fixtures. A good example of gross oversizing would be the installation of non-water-supplied urinals. Most codes require the urinals to connect to a 2-inch drain. Well, we only urinate one pint on average. Why would you ever need a 2-inch drain for one pint of water? Heck, the drain could be 3/4-inch.

Those opposed to non-water supplied urinals argue that we need a 2-inch drain for when they fail so we can replace them with a 1-gallon flush urinal. This mentality is harming our plumbing system, resulting in more stoppages and plenty of work for drain line cleaners.

I would venture to say, that for water closets that are HET, we could probably connect 20 fixtures to a 3-inch drain. But that sounds like heresy in the plumbing world. However, it shouldn’t be.

When California, or the Feds, start changing numbers, they should be floating a lot of money for research. That research should be overseen by our engineering societies, such as the American Society of Plumbing Engineers (ASPE) or American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). That is the missing part of the legislation.

Do I expect the Federal government to react to the California legislation? No, not really, they don’t seem to care, either. What I really expect to see is other states copying California. But some may go beyond California to require 1.0 gallon per flush, or composting toilets that are 0 gallons per flush. By then, we will have anarchy