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Milberger's Nursery and Landscaping
3920 North Loop 1604 E.
San Antonio, TX 78247

Open 9 to 6 Mon. through Sat.
and 10 to 5 on Sun.

Three exits east of 281, inside of 1604
Next to the Diamond Shamrock station
Please click map for more detailed map and driving directions.

Click here

Express-News Weekly Column

Saturday, August 17, 2002
Submitted by Calvin Finch, Ph.D., Manager, Conservation Division, Water Resources & Conservation Department, SAWS, and Horticulturist


I don’t know which of the following three conclusions I have expressed riles up the readers of this column more:


1)      No one should feed the deer unless you are willing to fence them up and treat them like livestock. We have too many deer for the land to support in the San Antonio area.


2)      Everyone’s cats should stay in their own yard. We have a leash law and the cats are destructive to birds and unpleasant in the garden.


3)      Low-flow toilets work just as well as high-flow toilets.


If you do not agree with me on the first and second conclusions, write letters to the editor or call me on Gardening South Texas (308-6687), but if it is the third conclusion you disagree with, you have a chance to express your opinions on the SAWS website, . We hope people with both positive experiences as well as negative experiences complete the survey. To encourage you to take the time we will have a drawing among every fifty people who reply for a water efficient washing machine or a gift certificate to your favorite nursery. Once you are on the website, go to “Conservation” and then “Low-flow Toilet Survey.” We will use the information to advise SAWS customers which toilets work the best and how to maintain them. In other surveys and tests the following low-flow toilets were identified as good performers: American Standard Cadet, Toto CST 703, Mansfield Alto, Western Pottery Aris, St. Thomas Marathon, and Universal Rundle Atlas. In our toilet distribution program (call 704-7354 for more information), SAWS provides St. Thomas Marathon and Universal Rundle Atlas brand low-flow toilets. Remember that since 1994 all toilets sold are low-flow models. They use 1.6 gallons per flush instead of 3.5 to 7 gallons. This saves, on average, 11,000 gallons per year per toilet.


Eddie Wilcut, a SAWS Conservation staff member, is our toilet guru. The following is some guidance he offers in selecting the right toilet and maintaining it:


All toilets were not created equal. There is no denying that there have been problems associated with low-flow toilets. However, these problems have everything to do with design and little to do with the amount of water used in the flush. Contrary to many beliefs, you do not make a low-flow toilet by simply adding a smaller tank to an existing bowl. The bowl is the most crucial component. A toilet bowl must be specifically designed to operate with a certain amount of water. There are many that try to reduce their amount of water use by adding a brick or other device to the toilet tank. Often times all they manage to succeed in doing is to reduce the performance of the toilet.


Over the past ten years great strides have been made in toilet design technology. There are many, many brands and models of toilets that function as they should, however, there are still some toilets manufactured even today that do not function as they should. When looking to purchase a new toilet it is important to do your homework. There have been many surveys conducted, and there is a lot of information available on the Internet for those in the market for a new toilet. Do not rely solely on price as the deciding factor. Often times, people look for the biggest bargain only to find out that they didn’t really get what they wanted. Conversely, higher price does not necessarily relate to performance either. Remember you will be using this toilet many times a day over many, many years. It warrants a little effort in choosing the right one.


The following are a few of the things you may want to consider when choosing the right low-flow toilet for you:


Trapway size – Size does matter! Smaller trapways (the hole where the water exits the bowl) can cause unnecessary blockages. When testing toilets the minimum standard that must be achieved is to flush a 1 - inch ball. There are toilets on the market with trapways that measure 2 inches or better.


Glazing – Almost all toilets have that nice shiny glazed finish, but where does that glazing stop? Some manufacturers save a little by scrimping on the glazing in unseen areas. The lack of glazing in the trapway can result in turbulence and diminished flushing capacity.


Water spot – The water spot is the area of the bowl actually covered by water. A small or shallow water spot can result in problems when it comes to maintaining cleanliness in the bowl and clearing the bowl in one flush.


Flush design – When it comes to gravity-flush toilets, there are toilets that employ a siphon-jet system, a slotted rim system, or a combination of the two. In the siphon-jet system a jet of water adjacent to the trapway pushes the waste through the trapway and into the drain. In a slotted rim system water exits the tank through slots underneath the rim of the bowl, creating a vortex and forcing the waste into the trapway. A common complaint with some siphon-jet systems is the inability to properly clean the sides of the bowl.


Once you have chosen your new toilet and have it installed, it is important that you properly maintain it. Like cars, toilets need regular tune-ups too. Some common problems that can and will occur without proper routine maintenance follow:


Continuous flow of water into the bowl – Water running into the bowl on a continuous basis will occur at either the overflow tube or the flapper. Water flowing through the overflow tube is most likely the result of an improperly adjusted or malfunctioning flush valve. If the water level is not such that it enters the overflow tube the leak is coming from the flapper. Flapper leaks often result in the occurrences of “phantom flushes,” where the toilet automatically begins to refill the tank when a flush has not taken place. If you suspect that you might have a flapper leak it is best to add food coloring to the water in the tank. If the color bleeds through to the bowl before the toilet is flushed it is time to replace the flapper. Hardness of the water and in-tank bowl cleaners can greatly shorten the life of flush valves and flappers. It is important to check these regularly and to replace or adjust them as necessary. As a good rule of thumb, it is recommended that you replace the flapper in your toilet once a year. If you use an in-tank bowl cleaner you may want to consider replacing the flapper every six months. Defective flappers can result in the loss of thousands of gallons of water each year.


Bowl is slow to empty – A toilet bowl that is slow to empty or experiences a weak flush can often be attributed to partially blocked rim jets or a partially blocked siphon-jet. This can usually be remedied by clearing the holes of scale or debris with a small piece of wire.


Blockage – Blockage is the most common toilet ailment. A plunger can correct most blockages; however, it is recommended that goggles be worn to protect against unsavory splashes.


Leaky seals – Most toilets have several seals that can leak or break. The trick is to find the leaking seal and tighten or replace it.