The modest toilet flapper is not something that many of us give much thought to. Its simple job is to form a tight seal around the bottom of the toilet tank. Hours of inactivity are interrupted only occasionally when someone pushes the toilet flusher, which lifts the flapper and allows water to flow into the bowl—executing the flush.
Even this simple device needs to work properly, however. Water can leak into the bowl and down the drain if the flapper doesn’t form a tight seal. Recently, members of the facilities department at Millersville University suspected that this was happening in at least some of the toilets in South Village as they saw a spike in water use.
“Water consumption was higher in South Village than what we would expect, and we had numerous work orders for running toilets, clogged toilets and toilets not flushing properly” said Greg Black, Millersville University’s Director of Maintenance and Operations. “Checking the toilet flappers was a good place to start since they can be a point of failure and are a relatively inexpensive fix.”
Between March and early April, the Facilities Department replaced 370 toilet flappers in South Village. This simple fix resulted in a staggering savings of up to 50,000 gallons of water per day.
“The savings were far more dramatic than what we were expecting,” said Black. “Replacing the flappers took about a month and in that time we saw a 65 percent reduction in water use across South Village.”
The University sources most of its water from its own underground aquifer. When water demand is high, a percentage of the water also comes from the Lancaster City Water Department. Water conservation measures like those taken by the facilities department not only help to conserve the water that’s in the aquifer, but also reduce costs by preventing the University from having to purchase additional water from the City.
“Next stop, East and West Village,” said Black. “Now that we’re confident that we have the water-consumption culprit, we’d like to apply the same fix in those residence halls.”