California's new toilet police


Toilet police At the Beltane Fire Festival, Edinburgh. Photo by Dan Ridley-Ellis via Flickr

Last Thursday in my local newspaper The Chico Enterprise-Record there was an editorial about saving water through bureaucracy: Editorial: Toilet police don’t want job. It was was of those “only in California” type things about a new law with good intentions, but eye rolling implementation that only policy wonks could dream up.

I agreed with the complaint about bureaucracy part, but the editorial came off as saying water use and water conservation wasn’t all that important an issue, and that gave me cause to introduce the PDO to local readers as well as something I learned about toilets in Australia when I visited there, adopting for my home and office, and wrote about in A green product worth recommending. Here’s my letter to the editor, where I crammed as much into the 250 word limit as I could, and following that, the reaction from the editor.

Outsmart the toilet police

Chico Enterprise-Record Posted:   01/11/2014 09:52:52 PM PST

I read your Thursday editorial on the “toilet police” with amusement, but also with concern. Saving water is an important issue, especially since the Pacific Decadal Oscillation flipped to cool phase in 2008. We are now seeing effects manifested as cooler, drier, winters, with little rainfall; yes, drought.

Visiting Australia in 2010 (where low rainfall is much like California), I noticed that all toilets were “dual flush” with two buttons; number 1 and number 2. Number 1 uses 50 percent less. Seeing drought coming here, I’ve since retrofitted my home and office toilets to dual flush. It’s easy to do, and under $25 at any home improvement store.

The value to dual flush toilets is not only saving water, but also saving on your water bill. Since California Water Service Company seems hell bent on raising rates to cover pensions (because we’ve used less water, providing lower revenue), here’s your chance for payback by reducing water consumption even more.

Since California greens routinely challenge more reservoirs, and state government planned poorly to meet growth, this next drought will likely be harder than the big one in the 1970s, the last time the Pacific Decadal Oscillation was in cool phase for an extended period. In 1977, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation switched to a warm phase, and the drought eased, but 1985 to 1991 saw another drought.

Here’s your chance to get ahead of the bureaucrats before the “toilet police” come knocking. Meanwhile, pray for El Niño in fall 2014.

— Anthony Watts, Chico


Here’s the reaction from the editor – he made it his Sunday column.

David Little: Save water without toilet cops


For those of you that want a dual flush toilet retrofit, here is what they look like.

The kit is pretty simple, and assembles without any need for tools. Pictorial instructions in English and Spanish are provided.

Price? Less than $20, and at that price it will pay for itself in a few months, depending on usage. This system is guaranteed for five years, so I’m pretty sure I’ll not only get my investment back, but a significant return on it. Plus, my kids like it and they were fascinated watching dad replace this thing and now having a pushbutton 1/2 instead of a handle.

Want one? Available here at Amazon Get it, highly recommended.

Update: For those that like the traditional handle rather than the button, see this model.


And finally here’s everything you ever wanted to know about the Pacific Decadal Oscillation:

And the WUWT reference page for that and other oceanic oscillations:

Hopefully, per this ensemble NINO 3.4 SST Anomalies Forecast, we will be out of La Niña soon:

National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) – Climate Prediction Center – Click the pic to view at source

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I had a new ADA toilet installed last year & it had the dual flush already installed Anthony. Lift up the handle for 1 & push down for 2. Great idea & it still works great. By the way it’s a Jacuzzi brand toilet.

Peter Miller

It is amazing how the ecoloons’ militancy against building new dams has spread throughout the western world. The idea is that this is supposed to conserve water – as with most ecoloon arguments I could never figure out the logic: if the water is not saved in the dam, it will flow out into the ocean – so how is that conserving anything?
In the southern UK, the building of five major dams was announced a few years ago to ensure the adequacy of future water supplies during drought periods, and then along came the ecoloons and so, no dams. Lots of rain there over the past two years, so no problem until at least the summer of 2015.
The ten day forecast for Chico shows no rain, the 25 day forecast shows rain on the 29th of this month and on the second and third of February. However, that far forward is just a wild guess, like most official climate predictions.
Have a happy drought in California, doubtless climate change/global warming/whatever will be the cause most quoted by 97% of ‘climate scientists’.

In Ireland we have had these for 2/3 years as standard. Good idea!

I am somewhat bemused that you don’t have these already as standard. In the UK I remember seeing my first one over 20 years ago. As more people have installed water meters the savings of the dual flush system become obvious;
Mind you it would be a useful step forward if ‘grey’ water could be used for toilet flushing. UK water is cleaned to a very high standard and it seems a shame to flush it down the toilet

I have e-mailed this post to my technical friends and will do a blog post on it.

Robert Clemenzi

I recently had to replace the toilet – the tank on the back broke and would no longer hold water.
Since the old versions are no longer available, I tried one of the new low flush versions. It uses much higher velocity to empty the bowl. So much higher that it sucks water out of the other toilet on the same floor. Apparently, the internal (in the floor) plumbing in new homes uses different connections to prevent this. But older homes that uses the old fixtures have this problem with the new toilets.
I am sure that this is just another government “unintended consequence”, but government regulations should not require you rip up the floor and have new plumbing installed if you just need a new toilet!!!

Chuck L

Anthony, I live in the Northeast, I can’t imagine living in a state where the legislators are loons, taxes are high, red tape abounds, regulations are Byzantine, and there are droughts, floods, earthquakes, mudslides, and fires. More power to you for living there but why not try one of the nearby states? I mean for crying out loud, Jerry Brown got elected governor, again!

Bloke down the pub

These fittings have been standard in UK for some time now. One word of caution though, the old style ballcock and siphon cistern when it got old would start to overflow and would thus show it needed a new washer fitting. These new fangled gizmos, when they fail, let a steady stream of water flow into the pan. This can easily go unnoticed and result in the loss of a lot of water until you notice it in higher water bills.


David Little wrote …
When your words are immortalized by a printing press, I must admit that many times I wish I had a do-over.
He could start by cutting his latest by about 2/3s. Diarrhea of the keyboard.

Chuck L

Curious, why is my last comment in moderation? Thanks,

Chuck L

Never mind, I see it.


Like many technologies, this one was introduced before it was ready. Too many low-flush toilets failed to work with high-flush colons.


well as an Aussie I can tell you most public toilets that DID install them have disabled the one flush, and now just use the one larger volume of water
because it wasnt enough water to FLUSH the dam paper.!
thats multiple brands in multiple public toilets I ve used all over the state, in the last couple of years. and we really DO know about drought:-)
for home users its just far easier to not flush for urine for 3 or 4 uses.
if you cant tolerate the smell or are overly fastidious..too bad.
easy enough to get the washing machine water into buckets and use over 2 or 3 days as required anyway.
what clothes wash water you dont save to buckets should be going onto the garden anyway,
so should shower water, if you have any above ground connector you can divert to yard use.
bugger the council etc you just do it n dont tell anyone

Lance Hilpert

Be sure and read ALL the one star reviews on this turkey of a flush controller before buying it.
Burned in AZ
REPLY: Not sure why that would be. Mine work great. – Anthony

Mike Ozanne

“it is amazing how the ecoloons’ militancy against building new dams has spread throughout the western world. The idea is that this is supposed to conserve water – as with most ecoloon arguments I could never figure out the logic: if the water is not saved in the dam, it will flow out into the ocean – so how is that conserving anything?”
If there’s no water you can’t use it, therefore, rationing , therefore it is “conserved”. You aren’t supposed to point out that any civilised area with a coast line has no excuse to lack cheap, plentiful water. God, let the proles lose faith in “water poverty” and there’d be no end to the green bullsh1t they’d stop believing in….

Dual flush here in Oz for last 20+ years. Ours isn’t as sophisticated as the one illustrated above, and probably not as robust. My sons managed to break ours on a regular basis, now moved on to breaking their own. Then the flush has to be operated by pulling the lid off, or the whole thing starts to leak and gets turned off at the wall. End result is the same – improved water conservation.

Funny, a recent article on here said that there’s plenty of water and that it’s all just a UN scare tactic to control population (or something).

Ian W

That ensemble NINO 3.4 SST Anomalies Forecast has been calling for an El Nino for the last year or so. The metrics it uses do not seem to be able to cope with the large cold pools that have developed in the mid-Pacific. I expect that when the PDO reverts back to warm the ensemble NINO 3.4 SST Anomalies Forecast may start to work as intended.

Here in South Africa we also have droughts . Dual flush is about 10 years old , but older flush systems used a float to hold the flush valve open . About 20 years ago , I simply punctured the float , so now you hold down the lever as long as you wish to flush . Releasing the lever stops the flushing , short or long as necessary , and costs zero .


At its heart, this is a story about water shortages and government failure. Readers might appreciate this from yesterday’s Wall Street Journal …
To this day, the Hetch Hetchy System is a headache for the city. In 2002, after the system’s maintenance had been largely neglected for six decades, San Franciscans were pressed by the city to authorize $3.6 billion in bonds for repairs and modernization. That debt rose quickly to $4.3 billion.
The environmental fight also goes on. In the 1980s, encouraged by federal studies, President Reagan’s Interior Secretary, Donald Hodel, wrote: “Maybe, with imagination, good will, and perseverance, we will be able to reclaim the national park land under the water of Hetch Hetchy Reservoir.” As if channeling James Phelan, then-San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein objected, proclaiming Hetch Hetchy to be San Francisco’s “birthright.”

Rick Bradford

Time to go drop a deuce…..


I flush away to my heart’s content. I harvest rainwater from my roof. Lots of it around lately.

As a fat Aussie I usually have to use the big flush, regardless of the nature of my ablution – my wife complains if I don’t! 🙂


I am all in favor of not wasting resources and being efficient, but it is tricky with toilets and sewage systems. The pipes are all designed with a certain amount of flow in mind to make sure it all “flows”, and when you cut down on the water, you end up with blockages that can be VERY expensive to repair. And it is VERY expensive to change the plumbing to deal with lower flow rates. I have read of several European cities where the sewage people have to run a lot of water from fire-hydrants into the sewers on a regular basis to avoid blockages. They don’t save much water at all, when you consider the need for external flushing, and they just make people miserable with the imposition of lo-flush toilets that don’t work well.
Also, many water systems are loathe to spend money on infrastructure improvement/maintenance projects to deal with water loss from leaks, because of the high cost and disruption, so the loss of supply in older systems can be a significant factor driving water conservation efforts. I believe that these situations just put off the inevitable and fool people into thinking that they don’t have to do the hard work.


Low flush might save water but if the sewers aren’t designed for it then it causes more problems than it solves as the system gets more blockages.

Can I endorse a couple of comments above from those of us who have had dual flushes for some time. The components can be quite cheap and ‘plasticky’ and are not that robust especially if you have children. Its worth trying to get a good quality system as trying to fix one that’s broke is going to be expensive.

California does have dumb dam policies that result in water flowing into the ocean during abundant water years, and droughts in lean years. These are utterly stupid policies in a state blessed with mountains and innumerable valleys.
My proposed remedy, posted before, is to build a transcontinental canal to transport flood waters from the eastern states to the parched western states. This would be similar in size and scope to the Erie Canal, in New York State. Energy used in pumping the water would be partially recovered by existing hydroelectric plants at Glen Canyon and Hoover dams.

Tom in Florida

ozspeaksup says:
January 12, 2014 at 5:14 am
“what clothes wash water you dont save to buckets should be going onto the garden anywa”
Not so sure this is a good idea. Known as grey water, clothes wash water contains bacteria and chemicals. Dumping grey water onto the ground is illegal in Florida.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

Put in a dual flush two years ago. Flushing with a button is cool, but the number 1 flush uses just as much water as my lever-driven low use toilets the way I have them set up. The number 2 button uses twice as much and nearly completely empties the tank. Now it seems as if the button mechanism requires less maintenance than the conventional flushers, but other than that I don’t see any benefit to adopting the technology.

LOL, automating No.-1 and No.-2 flushes, more economic stimulation by regulation demanding unnecessary technological fixes.
“If it’s YELLOW it’s mello, if it’s BROWN flush it down!”
I was born and raised in Santa Clara, California (family was eponym of Coffin Road) and taught water conservation at my mother’s knee. Now I am surrounded by the largest body of potable water and pay per gallon for disposal – the logic still works.


OK if the stronger flush is as fulsome as it always used to be. In the UK we have some dual flush toilets with a choice between low and reaaally low. Sometimes they’re just called “lo-flush” and out comes a pitiful trickle.
If you want to avoid embarrassing situations where your guests stay locked in the toilet for twenty minutes waiting for it to refill and flushing furiously I’d research it very carefully or stick with what you have.
Best to check the flow rate/capacity you already have and ensure the high version of the new dual flush is at least that high.
I consider the proliferation of the exclusively lo-flush versions as being yet more nannying from Eco-loons…following the lead of the safety loons who come up with ideas like the spring-loaded, 200lb fire doors that slam in your face wherever you go in a new-build UK flat and which are a legal requirement. They are so intolerable, they eventually get propped open permanently, making the safety situation worse.

I installed two dual-flush toilets for my parents. They love theirs. The reason why they bought new toilets was because the new ones sit higher. The spent about $125 each on the toilets at Lowe’s hardware. Also budget $25 for other parts you might need. If you have an old toilet, consider replacing because, believe me, the new ones are easier to use. And toilets really are not that hard to install.

In re: low volume flushes and high volume colons. My Euorpean Ifö commode is ~30 y.o., ain’t been stopped yet, nor ever repaired! Unfortunately parts will be hard to come by and replacement will be with a stool built to a different, American, standard off-set from the wall.


I would be interested in finding out if this device will work in an older “high flush” toilet from the 1980’s. I have such a toilet in my basement bathroom that gets occasional use. I’ve tried similar low-flow flush devices in that toilet, but invariably I had to adjust the device to near maximum water use as it seems that toilet needs all the water it can get for any kind of proper flush.


Water conservation as a blanket policy over the entire planet is Green nonsense.
Water doesn’t leave the planet and despite natural circulatory cycles such as the PDO that leads to localised droughts as Anthony mentions, it’s raining cats and dogs in most major cities.
Water is the next big part of our lives the globalists want to completely control and it’s tied into their eco fascist tyranny.
Central to the alarmists’ false claims of runaway feedback is the extra water evaporation that traps heat, this leads to extra precipitation (in their models). How they can possibly claim the need for water conservation as part of global warming is ludicrous. Then again I guess, drought is global warming, more rain is global warming, storms are global warming, lack of storms is global warming etc.
There is nothing unusual or unprecedented about the jetstream at the moment, Sudden Stratospheric Warmings caused by 11 year solar cycles in conjunction with Rosby waves modulated by the QBO are likely the cause and they’ve happened many times before in history.
There is zero correlation with global warming, particularly as the Arctic ice sheet is approaching normal and well above years around the 2007 minimum with less ice that didn’t have this jetstream pattern, so the ‘less ice, more heat absorbtion and thus less heat differential and weaker oscillating jetstream’ theory doesn’t hold water ( see what I did there).


In Hungary we use artesian water (which is mineral water as well!) to flush the toilet. As you might now my country is located in the Carpathian basin where the climate is continental with hot summers and cold winters. And there are droughts in the summer.
There are two main rivers (Danube and Tisa), but because of the environmentalist and political crap we can’t buid a damn dam on those rivers (there are only 2 dams on Tisa which were built in 1958 and 1973). So we can’t use the river water for irrigation, and because of that we deplete the undergroud water.
So anyway, installing dual flash on toilets is a way to spare water and money (since in Hungary water is expensive), but there are other techniques as well like the dry toilets.
There are three generations of these toilets:
First-generation toilets were the latrines or backhouses of our grandparents. These toilets were smelly and very polluting due to anaerobic fermentation (absence of air).
Second-generation toilets developed in the 20th century are mainly characterized as source-separating Scandinavian-type toilets. To minimize the frequency of the required emptying of the waste, urine is first separated from the faeces: this is the toilet’s most important characteristic. Urine, which represents about 90 % of the excreta, is diverted to a separate storage tank while the faeces are collected in a main compartment. To reduce their volume, these are usually dried with a heating element.The dried faeces and the urine are then commonly used in the garden and/or for agricultural use.
Third-generation toilets differ from the others on how they work, biologically. Smell is inhibited thanks to the addition of a litter composed of plant matter that is rich in cellulose. This is the basis of the biolitter toilet or BLT. In this toilet, plant cellulose biologically inhibits the enzymatic reactions in the excreta that are responsible for the odours. This can only work in the presence of urine. To prevent anaerobic fermentation (with the consequent odours), the toilet’s receiving capacity cannot be expected to exceed the volume of one week’s production. Therefore, the emptying of the container is more frequent.Before reuse for agricultural or gardening purposes, the BLT’s effluent must be composted in a two-stage process, over a two-year period. The compost thus obtained is suitable for all plants, without any health risk. (Source:
Here is link of the website:
It is quite useful.
I think it is a very good idea to develop a biolitter toilet, because it can spare a lot of water, avoids water contamination (there is no need to waste energy by cleaning contaminated water). But it also provides good fertiliter that puts back the nutrients, which were taken out by crop production, to the soil.

PaulH @ January 12, 2014 at 6:47 am
“I would be interested in finding out if this device will work in an older “high flush” toilet from the 1980′s.”
No, it will not. Low volume flush valves on “traditional” toilets will only dilute the urine and will not provide enough water to trigger the syphon action that fully clears the bowl. If you want a low volume flush you will need a low volume flush toilet.

On Catalina Island where I live, 90% of the toilets use salt water straight off the ocean. Since most of the world’s population lives within a short distance of the ocean, maybe it’s something to think about. (Modern plastics materials can handle the corrosion factor).


Off topic and I’ll gladly be blacklisted for it.
[snip – no need to be blacklisted, but it is wildy off topic. Why not simply post it in a relevant thread – Anthony]

Tom J

‘The value to dual flush toilets is not only saving water, but also saving on your water bill. Since California Water Service Company seems hell bent on raising rates to cover pensions …’
Chicago’s doing the same thing. The city has always gotten its water from stations out in Lake Michigan. The suburbs got their water from wells and were always envious of the superior quality of the lake water. Well, that changed quite a while ago and the suburbs now get their water from Lake Michigan. But it’s through the city. Chicago is brokey broke broke: a combination of the pensions and the lavish investments in a failed attempt to entice the Olympics to come here. So, to help make up the deficit Mayor Rahm Emanuel (Obama’s former Chief of Staff), besides a red light camera and parking ticket (including to handicap parking placard holders) spree, has significantly increased the price the suburbs (which obviously can’t vote in the mayoral races) pay for Lake Michigan water. My bill has more than doubled since 2002.
‘Since California Water Service Company seems hell bent on raising rates to cover pensions (because we’ve used less water, providing lower revenue), …’
That’s what will finally break the whole thing, and probably nothing else. When all the exhortations to conserve, reduce, lower our living standards, and so on, reduce the tax money that goes into the Treasury this whole environmental religion will start to collapse. It will have become the parasite that destroyed its host.


I have some low end Kohl toilets I installed about 8 years ago and if you
push down the handle 1/2 or 3/4 and release it within a second or so it
gives a small flush but if you push all the way or hold for 2-3 seconds,
it empties pretty completely. Pretty cool.

tom s

I have no interest in leaving pee in the toilet. I flush with the old version. I want water in the pipes leading out of my house…it’s they way they were intended to work. Water is never created or destroyed, just moved and phase-transferred. I’ll keep my flusher. Thanks though!

Curious George

As Anthony (and also many government officials) stated, pensions are a growing problem. I saw a simple proposed solution:
1. Effective immediately, retirees are allowed to cross on a red light.
2. On January 1st, 2018 it becomes mandatory.

Ian L. McQueen

I encountered two-position flushes in Japan when I first went there in 1970 and quickly realized the wisdom of their design. (The flush for #1 lasted as long as the lever was held active; for #2, the entire tank was used for a flush.) They were well established at that time, so it seems that they were in common use by then. I saw the Toto company name on the majority of toilets, so they may have invented them. I believe that other countries have just copied them (or Toto expanded to other countries).
Now the washing toilet has quickly established itself in new installations in that country, so the two-position flush may actually be vanishing. Since the washing toilet heats the seat and the wash water, the electrical consumption increases.
One thing that travel teaches is the differences in toilet design and usage…..

Tom S, I pay 5¢ per gallon for disposal. I doubt your pipes are below street header level, IOW “water [always full] in the pipes …”
Tom J, I live seven miles north of the Door County Peninsula.


Wouldnt more dams and reservoirs help with all that nasty sea level rise?

Dodgy Geezer

I am steadfastly and deeply AGAINST this myth of ‘saving water’.
Water cannot and is not being ‘saved’. It runs in a cycle. What is being saved here is the water company’s infrastructure and distribution network. If people use less water, then the water companies simply need to make less reservoirs and less pipework. The amount of water in the world stays the same.
Making less reservoirs and less pipework is very bad. It means that there is no slack in the system when a drought comes. What should be being done is building adequate reservoirs to meet drought conditions. We should all be using LOTS of water to FORCE the water companies to invest in enough infrastructure.
People who ‘save’ water are simply encouraging ‘green’ mistakes, and will end up with a water distribution network which is not fit for purpose.

I see two problems here:
Firstly: The main drains have a very gentle slope and were designed expecting a certain amount of water, relative to the solids that are to be carried away. If lots of people use low-flush toilets then there is not enough water for the solids to be carried away. The water drains off and the solid matter starts to decompose and smell.
My understanding is that in Germany low-flush (and dual-flush) toilets have been common for a long time, so lots of people have them and the above problem has happened. Hence in some German cities in the summer street-washing lorries go out at night to flush down the drains.
Secondly: This seems to me to be a flap-valve toilet. Until recently in the UK these have not been permitted under building regulations* because they waste so much water.
Virtually any failure in a flap-valve system leads to water leaking out into the toilet bowl.
However the most common cause of a leak is not a failure but the fact that system is used with … water. Over time scale from the water builds up on the outlet and the flap-valve fails to seat properly, leading to a small but constant trickle of water.
Historically all toilets in the UK were of the syphon type which are *much* less likely to waste water.

Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7

I’m curious whether anyone actually measures the water savings from so-called low-flush toilets or whether savings are simply claimed based on model outputs. When we bought our house it had conventional (I think 2.4 gallon) toilets. We’ve since remodelled two bathrooms and had to install 1.6 gallon units.
Without going into indelicate details let me just say that a single flush doesn’t get the job done reliably for what is known as “solid waste”. I frequently end up requiring two flushes, which by my reckoning is 3.2 gallons. On several occasions we’ve had to have “flush training” sessions for our children after a spate of what we call “overflow events”. My explicit instructions were that unless you could see the bowl clear completely and see water running freely into the trap at the end of the flush cycle, flush a second time. It’s also true that a lot of flush valves close before even the nominal 1.6 gallons have drained from the tank. I issued further explicit instructions about holding the handle down until the tank was completely empty. I may be wasting water, but I find that infinitely preferable to clearing clogged toilets and cleaning up overflows.
That being said however, I do agree a user-selectable flush option is an obvious common-sense approach to the issue (which of course means it will never come out of government — why go for a solution that is cheap, and easily retrofitted to older toilets when you can mandate totally new ones). If we could just combine that with going back to the larger tanks, I bet my actual water use for toilets would go down.