Low-income In San Diego? You Could Get A New Toilet For Free

San Diego County Water Authority is installing low-flow toilets in low-income San Diego homes for free. Many conventional toilets use 1.6 gallons of water or more per flush. If it’s running between flushes, it could be wasting up to 200 gallons an hour. Over four days, that’s enough to fill a swimming pool.

6,000+ Free Low-Flow Toilets Installed for Local Residents

More than 6,000 high-efficiency toilets have been installed free of charge for income-qualifying residents and those in under-represented communities across the region through a grant-funded program run by the San Diego County Water Authority.

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Water Authority Helps Low-Income Customers With Water-Saving Devices

The San Diego County Water Authority has secured $3 million in grant funds to install water-saving devices  — water-efficient toilets and smart irrigation controllers — in underrepresented communities across the region, bolstering the agency’s long-running efforts to enhance water affordability.

The Water Authority will use the money to install 7,300 high-efficiency toilets and smart irrigation controllers covering about 4,000 locations, saving more than 6,000 acre-feet of water and helping enhance water efficiency and affordability for vulnerable customers. The funds are from the California Department of Water Resources’ Urban Community Drought Relief Grant program, designed to advance Governor Gavin Newsom’s strategy to adapt California’s water supply for a hotter and drier future.

Safe, reliable, affordable water

“This is another big step toward our goal of ensuring that everyone in San Diego County has access to safe, reliable and affordable water,” said Water Authority Board Chair Mel Katz. “Helping customers improve water efficiency ultimately saves them money and protects our most precious natural resource.”

In 2022, the Water Authority secured $25 million to cover overdue residential water bills resulting from the economic impacts of COVID-19. The Water Authority also operates an industry-leading asset management program designed to avoid the extreme costs of emergency repairs on large-scale water lines. And, the agency is advocating in Washington, D.C., for federal funds to defray the cost of generational upgrades to local dams and reservoirs.

Water-saving devices

The Water Authority’s Water-Use-Efficiency Direct Installation Program is designed to save residents money on water costs. To be eligible for the direct-install program, residents in manufactured housing communities, multifamily and single-family homes must be a customer within the Water Authority service area. Details and how to participate: or call 888-272-8394.

Reduce water use by 60%

The direct-install program conserves water by replacing inefficient toilets with high-efficiency models through professional installation at no cost to participants. According to the U.S. EPA, the replacement of older toilets with high-efficiency models can reduce water use by up to 60%.  The initiative also includes installing smart irrigation controllers at no cost and providing education on outdoor water-use efficiency. Smart irrigation controllers can make irrigation schedule adjustments more convenient and water-efficient by using local weather data and landscape conditions to tailor the amount, frequency, and timing of landscape watering.

The grant funds will extend the life of the Water Authority’s existing program that has installed 2,213 water-efficient toilets over the past 12 months. The program is funded and implemented through a partnership between the Water Authority, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and San Diego Gas and Electric.

Low-Flow Showers Are Back in Spotlight Amid Water Shortages, Drought

People in California are not noticeably dirtier than other Americans, and yet residents of the country’s most populous state use less water than many of their fellow citizens to bathe, wash their hands, and flush their toilets.

Showerheads in California use a maximum of 1.8 gallons of water every minute; Texas residents, on the other hand, are inundated with 2.5 gallons, the most the Environmental Protection Agency allows. California’s toilets use no more than 1.28 gallons per flush even though the federal cap is 1.6.

The Water-Energy Program works toward increasing water efficiency throughout the region by focusing on replacing inefficient fixtures with state-of-the-art water-saving devices in disadvantaged communities. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

Water-Energy Program Helps Low-Income Families Achieve Savings

The San Diego County Water Authority’s water-energy partnership with San Diego Gas & Electric is seeking $1.8 million in additional funding through 2026 to continue saving water and energy for thousands of income-qualified residents across the San Diego region.

For more than 25 years, the Water Authority’s Water-Energy Nexus Program, or WEN, has maximized energy savings while supporting water efficiency in the San Diego region. SDG&E and the Water Authority have worked together to trim water and energy use and costs in one of the longest-running partnerships of its kind in California. As part of its role, the Water Authority funds the installation of water efficiency devices for eligible customers and communities.

Water savings benefit the entire region

Adding water efficient upgrades will help meet long-term regional conservation goals. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

Adding water-efficient upgrades will help meet long-term regional conservation goals. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

Toilets account for nearly 30% of a typical home’s indoor water use. The WEN Program increased water efficiency by replacing inefficient fixtures with state-of-the-art water-saving devices in disadvantaged communities.

“The Water Authority is committed to helping the San Diego region make the most of our water supplies through a variety of innovative programs,” said Kelley Gage, director of the Water Resources Department at the Water Authority. “Through our partnership with SDG&E, we extend help to families that might not be able to afford these environmentally friendly upgrades without support.”

SDG&E’s Energy Savings Assistance Program installs both water- and energy-saving measures in single-family, multifamily, and manufactured homes. The Water Authority reimburses SDG&E for water-saving devices installed by its contractor, Synergy Companies. This partnership has received funding to continue through 2025.

Installation of high-efficiency toilets and irrigation controllers is a collaboration with SDG&E’s Multifamily and Manufactured Housing Programs, which was recently approved for four more years of funding.

Financial barriers to long-term conservation removed

Removing upfront costs helps all residents benefit from water efficient fixtures ih the home. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

Removing upfront costs helps all residents benefit from water-efficient fixtures in the home. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

Low-income residents are sometimes unable to participate in water and energy conservation programs due to the upfront costs. The Water Authority’s program invests in water-efficient upgrades upfront. Adding funding capacity for additional retrofitting will help meet long-term conservation goals.

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