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$100 Toilet Rebate Program could save more than a billion gallons of water

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Special promotional content provided by Madison Water Utility

There is nothing exciting about a toilet—but 18,218 toilets? That’s another story.

In 2009, Madison Water Utility began offering customers $100 rebates to replace their old, water-wasting toilets with EPA WaterSense models. Since then, thousands of people have taken advantage of the Toilet Rebate Program, replacing more than 18,000 old toilets and saving about 1.2 billion gallons of water.

“Think about how many times a day the toilet in your home gets flushed. It’s one of the biggest ways we use water,” says Madison Water Utility Public Information Officer Amy Barrilleaux. “Around 30 percent of all the water used in a home is really just flushed away.”

Old toilets are notorious water wasters. That vintage 1950s pink toilet sitting in the downstairs half bath? It likely uses 5 gallons water with every flush.

“We’re talking about clean drinking water that is rigorously tested for health and safety. We really don’t want to waste it. That’s why it’s important to look at switching to a WaterSense toilet that only uses 1.28 gallons a flush,” explains Barrilleaux. ”It’s so important that Madison Water Utility will give you a $100 bill credit to make that switch.”

It’s not just homeowners that Madison Water Utility is trying to reach. Old water-wasting toilets can be seen in businesses, restaurants and bars across Madison. That’s why Madison Water Utility recently expanded its rebate program to include all buildings – from hotels to apartments to restaurants and shopping centers. The Toilet Rebate Program’s $100 bill credits are first-come, first-served until funding is exhausted. Non-residential customers can apply for up to twenty $100 bill credits per address.

Barrilleaux notes that the Toilet Rebate Program has saved participants $5.7 million in water and sewer costs over the last decade, and she points out that replacing old toilets is about more than conserving water.

“It’s not just the water, but the energy it takes to pull the water out of the ground and pump it out to all the homes and businesses in our community. That is a second resource that we’re saving,” she says.

Madison Water Utility customers can find more information about Toilet Rebate Program here.

Help for low-to-moderate income homeowners

“It looks so nice. It really does!” remarks 72 year-old Gloria LeMay, as a plumber finishes installing her new WaterSense toilet.

Gloria Lemay

For LeMay, the new toilet is just part of two days of excitement. Local non-profit Project Home is replacing her toilet, fixing a tub faucet leak, installing new windows and repairing a broken ceiling fan in her condo.

“It’s so it’s wonderful. I’m getting things fixed!”

The leak repair and high-efficiency toilet come courtesy of the Home Water Conservation Program, a new partnership between Project Home and Madison Water Utility aimed at helping low-to-moderate income residents improve water efficiency in their homes. It is the first program of its kind in Wisconsin.

“When you’re talking about fixing plumbing leaks and replacing toilets, which are big water users, those are areas where you can make a real impact,” says Jason Hafeman, outreach manager for Project Home. “Everyone has those situations in their home. It’s a matter of being able to take care of that for people and bring down their water usage.”

LeMay bought her small condo when she retired ten years ago, but it wasn’t long before small home repairs, like the leaky tub, started piling up.

“I knew over time, it was wasting water. I tried to fix it myself, and forget that!” she laughs. “And my son said, ‘Mom, I can’t fix that. I don’t know what to do.’ When you’re retired, and you don’t have a lot of money, a lot of times you don’t know where to call.”

In its first year, the Home Water Conservation Program assisted more than 85 low-to-moderate income community members with home projects and repairs focused on saving water, including the installation of 39 high-efficiency WaterSense toilets.

“Water conservation is part of energy conservation too. Water bills, energy bills, those are things we all have. If we can bring down the ratio of income going to those bills, for that person, it makes a huge difference,” Hafeman says.

The Home Water Conservation program has been renewed for 2021. Madison residents can call Project Home at (608) 246-3737 to see if they qualify for the program.