Commode Control 

Flushing furor may be over

Flushing furor may be over

A few years ago, the federal government figuratively kicked down every bathroom door in this great land and dictated how much water we Americans could use to flush our commodes. I know it sounds crazy, but you can look it up. I’m talking about the National Energy Policy Act of 1992, which says that all commodes made or sold in the United States may use no more than 1.6 gallons of water per flush.

If you ask me, this law was a skid mark on the porcelain of American history. Since the law took effect in 1994, Americans have learned that, despite what politicians may think, 1.6 gallons of water just isn’t enough to do the main job a commode is supposed to do—if you know what I mean, and I think you do.

Well, there may be light at the end of the drainpipe. Rep. Joe Knollenberg, a Michigan Republican, is sponsoring legislation that would repeal the commode regulations, along with water-saving standards for faucets and showers and for urinals in commercial buildings.

Urinals? Who’s flushing urinals? When I’m in a public restroom, I operate flush handles with the soles of my shoes. Urinal handles are too high up for that, unless you’re some bad-ass kickboxer. In fact, I doubt that any man has ever flushed a public urinal.

It has been estimated that by 2010, the stingy 1.6-gallon commodes would save 2 billion gallons of water a day, two times the daily water consumption of New York City. I’ve got a better idea: Turn off the water to New York and give the rest of us back our 3.5-gallon-flush commodes. We’re tired of double- and triple-flushing, we’re tired of using the plunger, and we’re tired of scrubbing skid marks off the side of the bowl. Americans ought to be getting up and going to work every morning, not wasting time clearing out clogs in their toilet bowls.

“This [1.6-gallon flush law] is not just something of value to people who live in the desert,” says Edward Osann, a spokesman for the National Resources Defense Council. “The reasons [for the standard] are as valid now as they were in 1992.”

Well, I hate to argue with a capital-E Environmentalist, but I’m pretty sure regulating commodes from sea to shining sea was a lame idea in 1992. I’ve been known to follow the old water-saving plan of, “If it’s yellow, let it mellow; if it’s brown, flush it down.” But for cryin’ out loud, do I need the FBI checking the size of my toilet tank? I say, if it takes a 55-gallon drumful of water to send my commode contents down to the waste-treatment plant, that’s my business.

Just for kicks, let’s assume you’re a militant water-saver. Do you really want to start your savings plan at the commode? According to plumbing giant American Standard, you could save two gallons of water just by getting out of the shower 30 seconds sooner. You could save even more by turning off the water between toothbrush rinses.

I figure these potty-policy wonks are descendants of the puritanical Boston folk who, in 1845, passed a law that said Bostonians couldn’t take a bath unless they were doing it under doctor’s orders. The city fathers did this because they thought bathing was unhealthy and sinful to boot. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Since we’ve got more criminals than we can possibly ever catch, we ought not be making criminals out of folks who won’t give up their big-flushing commodes. But right this minute, there’s a plumber in South Nashville with a backyard shed full of black-market commodes. He smuggles American Standard 3.5-gallon units from Canada, a truckload at a time, and sells them as fast as he can get them. He says the codes inspectors know that he’s installing the bootleg potties in new houses; they just look the other way.

Play out this scenario to its logical conclusion, and you’ll have federal agents arresting local codes inspectors, their supervisors, and so on up the municipal hierarchy. It’ll be like a snake eating its own tail.

Geez, can’t we all just get along? I say repeal the federal commode law, and put all the enforcement people to work picking up trash along the Interstates.

Visit Walter’s Web site at Or e-mail him at


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Sign Up! For the Scene's email newsletters

* required

Latest in Columns: Stories

  • Savage Love

    Dan Savage's advice is unedited and untamed. Savage Love addresses everything you've always wanted to know about sex, but now you don't have to ask. Proceed with curiosity.
    • Jul 3, 2008
  • A Symphony of Silliness

    America finally falls for the boundless comic imagination of Eddie Izzard
    • Jun 19, 2008
  • News of the Weird

    ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: Two men from the class of ’08 did not graduate from Duke University in May.
    • Jun 12, 2008
  • More »

All contents © 1995-2014 City Press LLC, 210 12th Ave. S., Ste. 100, Nashville, TN 37203. (615) 244-7989.
All rights reserved. No part of this service may be reproduced in any form without the express written permission of City Press LLC,
except that an individual may download and/or forward articles via email to a reasonable number of recipients for personal, non-commercial purposes.
Powered by Foundation