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Plumbers are subject to a $2,500 fine and suspension of their license if they install new high-flow toilets, but what goes on behind the bathroom door is difficult to regulate. Some people simply put in their own toilet; others have been known to have their low-flow toilet adjusted to higher flush standards. Still others have been known to buy a low-flow for inspection and replace it with an Old Faithful after the inspector leaves.
Representative Joe Knollenberg, a Michigan Republican, has sponsored a bill to bring back the kind of flush that Americans consider their birthright. Paul Welday, Knollenberg's chief of staff, says the current law is "making lawbreakers out of people who just want a toilet that works."
Conservationists insist that the 50 million low-flow toilets installed in American homes to date are responsible for saving an estimated 600 million gal. of water a day. And toilet manufacturers insist that they are finally building low-flow toilets that work. But there are plenty of skeptics. "My brother-in-law had to put turbo chargers on his," says Rick Nelson, 40, a businessman. "It sounds like a bomb going off in the middle of the night." So Nelson paid $175 to have a high-flow Gerber shipped from Windsor to his bathroom in Elk Grove, Ill. "Look, I'm not trying to change the world," he says. "I'm just trying to get a toilet that flushes."