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Toilet Replacement Program

350 South Grand St. 
Los Angeles, CA 90054 
tel: (213) 217-6489 
fax: (213) 217-7159 
No Internet Link Currently Available

Please note: This program is no longer active.



The Toilet Replacement Program of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWDSC) employed community-based organizations in the distribution of 100,000 free ultra-low-flush toilets annually to households throughout Southern California.

The goal of the program was to boost water conservation in low-income communities where traditional toilet replacement programs were less effective. In such programs, water agencies provided their customers with rebates to replace their old toilets; however, rebate programs leave out low-income communities where money is too scarce for residents to invest in a new toilet, particularly when rebate checks can take as long as 30 days to be issued.

Under the MWDSC Toilet Replacement Program, the MWDSC and local water agencies provided funding through their conservation programs to CTSI Corporation, which warehoused the toilets and recruited community-based organizations (CBO's) to participate in the program. Once trained in marketing, customer relations, data entry and inventory control, the participating CBO's made the toilets available free of charge in surrounding communities. For each toilet distributed, the CBO wss paid a fixed fee (approximately $25) to be used to cover all costs and to help fund their own programs.

California consumes more than four million acre-feet of water a year, with 66% of that consumption due to residential demand. (An acre-foot is approximately 326,000 gallons of water, or enough to supply the needs of two average families for one year.) Without a long-term commitment to water conservation, Southern California's environmental and economic sustainability are threatened. The toilet replacement program created a reliable, low-cost source for new water by replacing standard toilets using 3-7 gallons per flush with new ultra-low-flow toilets (ULFTs) that only use 1.6 gallons per flush.

With sustained drought periods throughout the West, and an ever-growing regional population, it makes economic sense to the water customers, water agencies and the State of California to support water conservation efforts well into the future.

Program Highlights

Benefits to Community-Based Organizations Participating in the Project:

  • First AME Church created economic development programs such as entrepreneur training and micro loans for small businesses.
  • Mothers of East Los Angeles funded scholarship programs for local high school students, tutorial programs and graffiti abatement programs.
  • In east Los Angeles, a community-based organization was able to qualify for funding to start a child immunization program because of the experience it developed participating in the program.
  • One group is helped to provide low-income housing and employment, and the jobs generated by the program were credited by community leaders with helping to defuse a gang war in 1994.
  • Other groups, such as high schools, senior citizen centers and the Boy Scouts participated by assisting with one-time special events. They were paid a fee for each toilet distributed, using money for special projects or extracurricular activities that might have otherwise went unfunded.
Environmental Benefits: 
  • Old toilets were collected from consumers, stripped of metal and plastic parts and crushed for use as road base, rather than being shipped off to landfills.
  • The program provided a reliable source of new water at a time when agreements to protect natural resources like Mono Lake, the Sacramento River Bay-Delta region and other natural habitats are of great importance.
  • The cost of program was significantly less than the cost of developing new supplies (e.g., building a dam) and is every bit as effective without damaging the environment.

Vital Statistics

Program Management/Partnerships: The Toilet Replacement Program was managed by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWDSC). The MWDSC has entered into partnerships or cooperative agreements with numerous organizations and agencies including the CTSI Corporation, the First AME Church, the Boy Scouts and the Mothers of East Los Angeles.

Budget: $8.3 million in 1996.

Community Served: Low-income residents of Southern California who had not benefited from other water conservation programs, and community-based organizations.

Measures of Success:

  • The program distributed more than 250,000 ultra-low-flow toilets in 2 1/2 years.
  • As a result of the program, more than 10,000 acre-feet of water was conserved annually.
  • Residents participating in the program realized $2 million in savings in water costs.
  • The program earned community-based organizations more than $4 million through participation in the program.
  • Five community-based organizations were founded in east, west, south and central Los Angeles.
  • Some communities demonstrated a 30% participation rate in the program.

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