Tom Reynolds BMA CEO

Leaky loos: when truth gets in the way of a scandal

Tom Reynolds, CEO of the Bathroom Manufacturers Association (BMA), hits back at the recent Radio 4 programme on leaking toilets with some facts that the BBC chose to ignore

Last week, BBC Radio 4 broadcast a programme revealing what it called a ‘Leaky Loo Scandal’. It was based on a water industry accusation that dual-flush valves waste more water than they save. For me, the information that was missing from the programme was far more revealing.

The volume of water being lost from supply pipe leakage is nearly eight times what water companies have said is being lost through leaky loos. Despite holding manufacturers’ and consumers’ feet to the fire on water efficiency, only now is slow progress being made on infrastructure leakage after what the water industry watchdog called a “decade of complacency”. This sense of perspective was missing from the broadcast.

Since the issue of leaky loos was first raised with the BMA, manufacturers have been keen to work with water companies to get to the bottom of the issue. We requested samples of the faulty products that Thames Water discovered, so that we could analyse and understand the problem. Our willingness to collaborate didn’t get a mention.

Old products

Those samples took a long while to arrive, but once they did, we discovered two things. A lot of valve failures were on old products, where because of the continuous improvement in materials, design, and reliability have all been enhanced. Research and development are part of manufacturers’ lifeblood and will be ongoing. This was not covered.

The hyperbole and accusatory tone of the BBC’s programme risks driving a wedge between the very stakeholder groups that need to collaborate to reduce the demand on water resources

We also found that many of the failures could be rectified and the valves returned to normal service with a simple and inexpensive repair. Moreover, the faults could have been prevented with a little proactive maintenance. Like any equipment, all toilet mechanisms, including dual-flush valves and old-style siphons, require correct installation and occasional maintenance. Again, that information was missing from the report.

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In my interview with the BBC, I repeatedly reminded the reporter that regulations legally require fittings to prevent the waste, misuse, and undue consumption of water. Reputable manufacturers go to great lengths to ensure this is the case, usually seeking third-party approval that and that, if properly installed, the products comply with regulation. Unfortunately, this was not controversial enough to make the broadcast.

Accusatory

The resulting hyperbole and accusatory tone of the BBC’s programme risks driving a wedge between the very stakeholder groups that need to collaborate to reduce the demand on water resources.

Manufacturers, designers, installers, consumers, and the water industry all need to work together. In the past two decades, bathroom manufacturers have spearheaded public awareness of water-saving products through the Unified Water Label and are leading the fight against wasting water with ever-more-efficient fittings. Dual-flush valves can benefit water efficiency by giving the option of a lower flush volume and have been successful in lowering flush volumes from 13 litres to as little as 2.5.

The BMA is committed to working with all partners to get the message across that ending leaky loos is simple. Compliant products are tested to an international standard and, if correctly installed and occasionally maintained, won’t leak. Manufacturers continuously improve their products and innovate to save water while meeting users’ expectations.

We do this, not because of any exaggerated “scandal”, but because it is right.

Have you heard the latest episode of The kbbreview Podcast? Its a special look at the current level of demand and whether is is likely to continue. Listen using the player before or search ‘kbbreviewin your podcast app of choice

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