Austin, Texas — Residents of Austin, Texas, can save money and water by replacing their large capacity toilets with a high efficiency, 1.28-gpf toilet through the city's Free Toilet program or Toilet Rebate program. To qualify for either program, residents must receive their water from Austin or an eligible metropolitan utility district.

Both water conservation programs were created to help residents replace large capacity toilets, 3.5-, 5.0- and 7.0-gpf models, with high efficiency toilets, according to Dan Strub, conservation program coordinator at the Austin Water Utility. Both programs give residents the opportunity to replace up to three toilets per home, and toilets being replaced must have been installed before 1996. Neither program replaces 1.6-gpf toilets.

“We have given away 68,230 free toilets through the end of FY 08, for a daily savings of 1,377,000 gallons,” commented Strub. “We have rebated 48,492 toilets through the end of FY 08, for a daily savings of 1,117,000 gallons. The water saved by replacing a single toilet will save the average household $61.40 a year in water and wastewater charges.

“This has been a very successful program throughout the years and has saved water and money,” added Strub.

Austin's Toilet Rebate program, which began in 2003, allows residents to choose from a list of brands with approved models, carrying the EPA WaterSense label, including American Standard, Briggs, Caroma, Crane, Cascadian, Duravit, Foremost, Gerber, Glacier Bay, Greentide, Jacuzzi, Kohler, Mansfield, Medyag, Niagara, OPS, Pegasus, ProFLO, Quality Craft, Seasons, Sterling, Toto, Tynan, VitrA, Vortens, WaterRidge, Tangshan Ayers Bath and Zurn. Residents purchase and install the toilets and then send in a completed application and a copy of the receipt to the City of Austin to receive the rebate.

Niagra Ecological toilets are offered through the Free Toilet program that began in 2004. Residents participating in this program pick up their toilets at a local branch of wholesaler Ferguson Enterprises in Austin.

“This is a great program for us, the city, and saves money down the line,” said Russell House, outside sale representative at Ferguson. “It is the right thing to do in this day and age. This type of program is the wave of the future; Austin is getting ahead of the game by replacing toilets.”

Residents participating in the current Free Toilet program can install the high efficiency toilets themselves or hire a plumber. When hiring a licensed plumber, residents can apply for a $60 per toilet installation rebate. In order to receive this rebate, a resident must submit to the City of Austin the installation receipt with the plumber's license number, work performed and the home address where the toilet was installed.

The Free Toilet and Toilet Rebate programs originate from water conservation ordinances that began in the 1990s, prohibiting the installation of toilets with more than 1.6-gpf. Since this mandate affected only current toilet installations, Austin's Water Conservation Division created a toilet replacement program, offering rebates to homeowners replacing their large-capacity toilets. When it was discovered that low-income residents might not be able to replace their toilet through the Toilet Rebate program, the WCD created the Free Toilet program. In 1996, the program was made available to all residential customers regardless of their income level.

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