City could add toilet replacement to the cost of selling a home

Santa Cruz County Sentinel staff writer

SANTA CRUZ, CA - 1/11/03- The cost of selling homes could be going down the toilet.

Next week, the Santa Cruz City Council will consider requiring home sellers
to install new, low-flow toilets, showerheads and other bathroom fixtures
that are more than 10 years old.

The decision, while it would be made by the Santa Cruz City Council, would
affect every home and business owner that receives water from the Santa Cruz
Water Department. That's 90,000 customers from Santa Cruz to Capitola.

The idea behind the proposed law is to reduce the amount of water locals use
by getting rid of outdated bathroom fixtures.

"The plumbing fixture ordinance is the single most effective action we can
take to reduce customer demand for water," said Bill Kocher, director of the
city's water department. "We estimate, after 10 years, this regulation will
decrease system water consumption by 100 million gallons per year, or about
2.5 percent."

Ten other water districts statewide already have such rules. Locally, Santa
Cruz County is also in the process of passing such a law.

If the council approves the law, the Water Department would continue to
offer its toilet rebate program, which reimburses homeowners for the
replacement expense.

In Santa Cruz the typical single-family home, with an average of three
people, uses 75 gallons of water a day. The city would like to see that fall
to 66 gallons through the use of low-flow fixtures, said Toby Goddard, the
city's water conservation coordinator.

Goddard said the other effect of the law would be to keep water rates lower
for everyone by reducing the need to look for new sources of water.

Under the ordinance, which the council will consider Tuesday, all
residential, commercial and industrial buildings sold would need to be
retrofitted with low-flow toilets, showerheads and urinals. Toilets
installed in offices and homes before 1992 use anywhere from 3.5 to 7
gallons of water per flush. Low-flow toilet use 1.6 gallons of water per

Toilets can cost anywhere from $100 to $1,000, said Phyllis Moore, a
salesperson at Bay Plumbing Supply in Live Oak. By law, all toilets sold now
are low flow. The city's toilet rebate program finds that the average cost
of a toilet replacement is $150. The cost of replacing a urinal is $200, and
the city's rebate program would refund $150 of that to the homeowner.

If the law passes, the city would ensure that a low-flow toilet was
installed by sending in a plumbing contractor or Water Department official
to inspect each house before sale.

The City Council will discuss the issue at its 7 p.m. session Tuesday, held
at City Council Chambers in City Hall, 809 Center St.


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