Tough water policies are common in California — no watering the lawn on certain days of the week; restaurants can’t serve drinking water unless it’s ordered; no hosing down driveways or sidewalks — but the city of Pismo Beach is upping the ante. The city has one of the toughest laws in the state, if not the nation, when it comes to requiring waterless urinals.
Not only does the city mandate installation of waterless — aka flushless — urinals in new buildings, it’s also requiring that existing urinals be replaced with the waterless variety by Valentine’s Day 2016, though there are a few exceptions to that rule. (More on that later.)
Experts say a waterless urinal can save between 20,000 and 45,000 gallons of water per year, depending on the age of the urinal it’s replacing (older models use more water per flush) and how much use it gets.
One example: Sierra Community College in Rocklin replaced 33 conventional urinals with flushless ones. It estimated that will save 1.32 million gallons of water per year. (For comparison’s sake, it takes about 660,000 gallons of water to fill an Olympic-sized pool.)
Not only do they save water, flushless urinals also can cut water bills substantially. The Lucia Mar Unified School District calculated that it would save $1,666 annually on its water bills by switching to flushless urinals at its two Pismo Beach schools.
If results are good, it might make the switch at other schools outside the city of Pismo Beach.
While the city’s ordinance is driving change there, it isn’t the only agency looking to waterless urinals for relief from the drought.
San Luis Obispo County has been requiring waterless urinals in commercial buildings in some areas of the county, but only for new construction and remodels. Other jurisdictions have offered financial incentives — Pismo Beach, in fact, offered rebates until it decided to go with the mandate.
There has also been a flood of studies on the costs and benefits, such as a 40-page evaluation of waterless urinals prepared for the state of Massachusetts. One of the findings: Waterless urinals are not recommended for prisons or dormitories, which experienced “significant problems” attributed to “resident misuse and limited availability of maintenance.”
Also, waterless urinals don’t do well with copper pipes — the ammonia in urine corrodes the copper.
Pismo Beach is taking that into consideration. It allows exceptions to the mandate if a waterless urinal is incompatible with existing plumbing; for financial hardships; and for health and safety reasons.
We aren’t ready to advocate that every jurisdiction require property owners to rip out conventional urinals and replace them with flushless models. But we do believe it makes sense to require waterless or ultra-lowflow urinals — some of which use only a pint of water per flush — for new construction.
Also, large venues with lots of urinals, such as convention centers, theaters and colleges, might want to think about making the change — if they haven’t already.
“We found a much better solution in ultra-low-flow urinals,” Cal Poly spokesman Matt Lazier wrote in an email. “This achieves an 87.5 percent reduction in water use, with no additional cleaning or maintenance requirements ”
SOME INFORMATION ABOUT WATERLESS URINALS
How does a waterless urinal work?
All waterless urinals use basically the same science. Urine flows down the bowl of the urinal past a debris-catching strainer. The urine then passes through a sealing liquid, usually a specially designed oil-based fluid that is able to go through the wastewater treatment plant safely. The different densities of urine and oil mean that the urine sinks through the sealing liquid and the oil floats on top of the layer of urine below.
Do waterless urinals stink?
Waterless urinals should not smell if the sealant liquid is changed regularly.
Are waterless urinals sanitary?Waterless urinals have fewer bacteria than regular urinals. Urine alone is mainly sterile. There are also fewer germs in the bathroom because there is no need to touch a handle to flush the urinal.