County extends rebate program for low-flow toilets

LAWRENCEVILLE - Replacing old toilets saves water, and that logic alone was enough for the Board of Commissioners this week in making their decision to extend the county's toilet rebate incentive program for another year.

The move comes with a $300,000 price tag to cover the program's cost.

"This program is part of our comprehensive water conservation program," said Board Chairman Charles Bannister. "And we believe it is well worth the cost despite tough economic times and tight budgets."

According to Jim Scarbrough, a technical assistant to the director of the Gwinnett County Department of Water Resources, the decision to extend the program was a wise one.

"We're still in a bind," Scarbrough said. "Lake Lanier is still down 14 feet and that's not good. This drought is still going on and the forecast isn't that great over the next month for more rain."

Scarbrough said that through November, 1,500 commodes had been replaced as a result of the program. He said once those are in use for a year, the water savings should total about 9 million gallons annually.

"If you're going to stress conservation, you've got to start somewhere," he said.

Scarbrough also said that Gwinnett water customers can get up to $200 in rebates by participating in the program. He said 1.28 gallons per flush toilets can fetch $100 per john while the 1.6 gallons per flush garner $50 a piece. He said for obvious reasons, the 1.28 gallons per flush models were preferred. He said most of the 3.5 gallons per flush toilets needing replacement come from homes built prior to 1993, when the plumbing code changed. By replacing a 3.5 with a 1.28, individuals can net a savings of 2.22 gallons of water per flush. Multiply that by three or four trips to the bathroom per day and the savings add up quickly, Scarbrough said.

According to county spokesperson Heather Sawyer, a toilet rebate program could become mandatory in all metro counties under a draft water conservation and water supply plan for the Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District. Sawyer said the organizations' draft plans are currently available for public review and comment on the group's Web site - www.northgeorgiawater.com. She also said plan details and rebate forms can be found there.