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Too-thirsty toilets won't get water in DeKalb, Georgia
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution - June 01, 2008 - by Ty Tagami

Wary shoppers know all about kicking the tires on used cars and squeezing the fruit at grocery stores.

But are they ready to lift the lids on toilet tanks?

Home buyers in DeKalb County GA should get used to the idea, now that a new measure to cope with the historic drought is in effect.

Any house built before 1993 and sold beginning Sunday has to have "low-flow" toilets that swallow 1.6 gallons of water or less per flush. The volume is usually stamped on the underside of the lid that caps the water tank.

Older toilets? No water service.

Some prospective buyers are worried about the mandate.

"This low-flow thing has been a very, very hot-button issue for all my clients in DeKalb County," said real estate agent Ryan Graham.

Graham, who is with 9 Mile Trolley, said at least one client expedited closing a sale to avoid dealing with it. Other buyers want assurances they can obtain water service if they purchase an older house, he said.

The "inefficient plumbing fixtures replacement plan" requires sellers to disclose when their toilets, faucets and shower heads are not up to today's water-sipping standards.

County officials picked 1993 because low-flow toilets became mandatory in new construction around that time.

DeKalb still has as many as 165,000 pre-1993 houses, but no one knows how many have been retrofitted with low-flow devices.

The crackdown is part of the county's new water-conservation plan. Gov. Sonny Perdue ordered water providers to reduce consumption by 10 percent from a year earlier.

Starting in January, nearly all buildings sold in DeKalb -- not only houses -- will have to comply with the low-flow mandate.

The county law says new owners of old homes who apply for water service must attach a certificate confirming the house is outfitted with water-saving toilets and fixtures. A licensed plumber, home inspector or an inspector from the DeKalb Department of Watershed Management can provide the certificate.

The toilet mandate should mean work for plumbers. So far, demand hasn't surged, said Ted Zurn, the president of the Plumbing and Mechanical Association of Georgia.

A friend selling a house asked for a deal on three toilets, the Chamblee plumber said, adding that he would have forgotten about the mandate otherwise. "I haven't noticed any bump in our business yet because of it."

The DeKalb Association of Realtors opposed the requirement, concerned about the effect it would have on clients. Graham, the real estate agent, said he's been warning his clients about it and recommending to sellers that they get the installation.

Graham said there is a lot of confusion and uncertainty. For instance, one of his clients made a purchase contingent on the seller completing installation. But when Graham sought assurance from the county that the work was adequate and water service would be provided after the property changed hands, he said he got no clear response. "We're not getting the warm and fuzzy reassurances from the county at this point," he said.

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