Federal Government Has No Business in Your Bathroom

Published December 1, 1999

It is no great secret that over the years Washington has gotten more intrusive in the daily lives of the American people. The 1990s may go down in history as the “Decade of Intrusion” by Uncle Sam, capped by passage of federal legislation mandating the size of the flush and flow in American bathrooms.

If you ever needed evidence that the federal government has gotten too big and run amok with regulators, consider that Washington mandates that all toilets in the U.S. shall consume no more than 1.6 gallons per flush (gpf), and showers shall spray no more than 2.5 gallons per minute.

Talk about your micromanagement! Since when did we need politicians in Congress to tell us how much water was appropriate to rid our bathrooms of waste material?

Hmmmmm. On second thought, maybe they know more about this subject than we realize.

How could it come to this, you wonder? In 1992, Congress passed the Energy Policy Act. A coalition led by do-gooding environmental extremists came together to add the little-known water usage component to a very complex, sweeping piece of legislation.

Seizing their opportunity, the water crusaders were successful in banning certain types of toilets, faucets, and showerheads. The ban was to be phased in over a period of time, during which the American consumer’s choice on such personal matters would be restricted. It must have seemed so satisfying to the big-government crowd.

Now, however, the phase-in period is over. Every American involved in remodeling or new construction, commercial or residential, must use only those bathroom fixtures that pass flush-and-flow muster.

Despite environmentalist claims to the contrary, most consumers think the plan is all wet.

The list of dissatisfied and frustrated Americans includes plumbers, remodelers, landlords, homebuilders, developers, and, most importantly, consumers. My office has heard from thousands of them, and their message is clear:

“Get the federal government out of my bathroom!”

If the proponents of big government have their way, toilets and showerheads will be only a beginning. Currently, bureaucrats at the Department of Energy are considering a ban on top-loading washing machines, fluorescent lamps, central air conditioners, and certain types of dishwashers. Oh, how good they will feel when they have dictated the size, shape, and use of everything that consumes energy!

But where will it stop? With my bill, H.R. 623, the Plumbing Standards Improvement Act of 1999. With this common-sense bill, we can stop the regulators in their tracks. This legislation will allow consumers to purchase whatever type of bathroom fixture they choose and the market provides.

Yes, we can and should save water. But tiny toilets and trickling showerheads are not the answer.