2012 Colorado legislation: Proposal to mandate water saving toilets defeated in the Water Resources Committee along party lines

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Patrick Malone):

Rep. Keith Swerdfeger, R-Pueblo West, joined fellow Republicans in their reluctance to support a government-mandated type of toilet. He said conversations with a representative of the Pueblo Regional Building Department led to other objections. Swerdfeger said he has no doubts that toilets with 1.28-gallon flush capacities are basically as effective as the 1.6-gallon models that are the present flow limit, but he worries that the lower flow would not sufficiently move solid waste through below-ground sewer lines.

“The technology’s good, the intent is good, but we also have some unintended consequences below the toilet,” Swerdfeger said. He expressed concern that costly, premature replacement of sewer lines could result.

“We have some research that really disputes that,” said Sen. Angela Giron, D-Pueblo…

She said Republicans ignored the work of the Interbasin Compact Commission, which last year — after years of development — released a far-reaching strategy aimed at meeting the state’s agricultural and urban water demands in the future. The commission’s recommendations included elements as basic as low-flow toilets and water-conserving shower fixtures and as ambitious as massive water storage projects…

Jay Winner of Pueblo, who serves as the Arkansas River basin’s representative on the IBCC, shared Giron’s frustration. Resistance from Republican lawmakers who represent agricultural areas baffled him. He said the 20,000 acre-feet of water that the measure is estimated to conserve is that much less that will be available for agricultural use.

Winner characterized the Republican opposition to the toilet restriction as dismissive of the IBCC’s work and recommendations. “Toilets are an easy step toward conservation. What happens when we bring a tough project like storage forward?” Winner said. “Is this just a waste of time for the IBCC? This vote does not give the IBCC a vote of confidence. I think it’s a blow to the IBCC.”

More coverage from Joe Hanel writing for The Durango Herald. From the article:

The panel shot down two bills Tuesday that sought water savings from toilets. Republicans expressed concerns about increased regulations and the effects on rural communities that depend on generous flushing from Front Range cities to fill eastern Colorado rivers.

The vote was a setback for the Interbasin Compact Committee, a group the Legislature created in 2005 to find a peaceful solution to the state’s West vs. East water wars. The IBCC last year endorsed strict statewide plumbing standards for a variety of appliances. The bill that failed Tuesday focused only on toilets, setting a 1.28 gallons-per-flush standard for new toilets sold in stores, tighter than the national standard of 1.6 gallons.

IBCC member Taylor Hawes urged legislators to vote “yes” to send the IBCC a message that its work matters, especially because the panel is proposing other options that are even more politically unpalatable. “This is the easy path. We have much, much harder choices in front of us,” Hawes said.

The bill failed on a 5-5, party-line vote Tuesday in the Water Resources Review Committee, with only Democrats supporting it. Had the bill succeeded, it would have received a powerful endorsement from the committee in January, when the Legislature begins its 2012 session…

The committee also turned down a bill to allow people to use “graywater” – domestic water that already has been used once in the house – for toilet flushing. [Sen. Ellen Roberts] sided with Democrats and voted for the bill, but the 6-4 tally was short of the supermajority the bill needed to get the water committee’s endorsement.

More 2012 Colorado legislation coverage here.

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