Toilets - saving water

The amount of water used by your toilet can easily be reduced with good maintenance and simple water saving initiatives. Older toilet cisterns with a syphon-flushing system hold between 9 litres and 12 litres of water. Modern toilet cisterns hold about 6 litres of water.

Converting your toilet to a multi-flush (which flushes for as long as the handle is held down) or dual-flush system (long and short flush) can result in savings of up to 20% on your water bill. You can also reduce your cistern volume by placing a bottle or bag that displaces the water into your cistern.

In terms of the City’s new Water By-law, a water closet (toilet) cistern may not exceed 9,5 litres in capacity (Water By-law Schedule 2, Water Demand

Dual flush

To install a dual-flush system a new dual-flush toilet cistern must be installed. This costs in the region of R1 500 for the entire system. Dual-flush systems require higher levels of maintenance than the multi-flush system.

Multi flush (interruptible flush)

This is a simple system that lets you control the flush volume. As soon as you let go of the toilet handle, it will stop flushing. This will save you more than 50% of flushing volume.

An existing toilet can be retrofitted with a multi-flush system. Approximate cost: R60 – R450.

Plastic bottle or ’hippo bag’

Placing a plastic bottle or ’hippo bag’ into your cistern will reduce the amount of water per flush at little to no cost. A hippo bag costs approximately R17.

The container, or bag, should ideally be placed under the ball. If using a plastic bottle container to reduce the water flow, you will need to make a drainage hole on either side of the container, mid-way up, so that the water stored in the container (that takes up space) does not become stagnant. The bottle will need to
be weighted down to stop it floating.

source: SMART Living Handbook

Get practical

Make your own 'hippo' or toilet water saver
Add a hand basin to the top of your toilet and save water
Convert your toilet into a dual flush toilet or
Try this conversion version


Suppliers of water saving products

Toilet leaks

A leaking toilet can waste up to 100 000 litres of water in one year. These leaks raise your water consumption and push you into a higher water tariff bracket, or step, and can be extremely costly.

Testing for toilet leaks

Here are three simple tests to help you find out if your toilet is leaking. You must wait 20 minutes to do these tests if you have just flushed the toilet.

  1. Listen for water trickling into the toilet bowl.
  2. Press a piece of toilet paper against the inside back surface of the bowl. If it gets wet, you probably have a leak.
  3. Put 15 drops of food colouring into the toilet cistern (a). If, after 15 minutes, the water in the toilet bowl colours, there is a leak (b).

Finding the leak

Remove the cistern cover and look at the water level inside.

a)  If the water is at the same level as the flush valve overflow pipe, then the water level is set too high or the float valve is leaking.

b)  If the water is flowing into the overflow pipe, the float valve is set too high or the float valve is leaking.

c)  If the water level is below both overflow pipes, the flush valve is leaking.

Setting correct water levels

Toilet overflow pipes prevent flooding in instances where the water level in your geyser or toilet cistern is set too high. Water is able to run into the toilet overflow pipe, or flush valve overflow pipe, and out of the house.

If water is flowing out of your overflow pipes it means that your water level is set too high. This may be fixed by lowering the float valve setting by bending the float arm slightly downwards (close the stopcock and remove the fitting from the cistern, hold the arm with one hand, while bending it with the other hand – this
will prevent damage to the fittings). If the valve is fitted with a screw-type adjuster, turn the screw to lower the float slightly.

The water level should rise to a level below the overflow and the float valve should close off. If this does not happen, and the water level continues to rise and the cistern starts to overflow again, the float washer needs replacing.

Replacing a float valve washer

  1. Close the stopcock – this will shut off the water flowing into your house.
  2. Remove the split pin and the float arm.
  3. Unscrew the cap.
  4. Remove the plunger using water pressure to push it out (open the stopcock slightly).
  5. Unscrew the brass plunger to remove the washer held inside it.
  6. Fit a new washer. Reassemble the parts (Step 4 to Step 3 to Step 2 to Step 1).
  7. Open the stopcock slowly and check that the float valve closes when the water reaches the full level in the cistern.

 Replacing a flush valve washer

  1. Close the stopcock.
  2. Disconnect the lifting wire from the lever arm.
  3. Remove the split pin and the side float.
  4. Remove the spindle assembly.
  5. Unscrew the bottom fange and remove the washer. Note: Remember which side this washer faced to fit the new washer.
  6. Install a new washer with the sloping side facing upwards.
  7. Reassemble the parts (Step 5 to Step 4 to Step 3 to Step 2 to Step 1).
  8. Open the stopcock slowly and test that there are no more leaks.

source: SMART Living Handbook

Other water topics

Case study: Mrs Zenzele tackles a leaking tap
Save water - fix your own dripping taps
Baths, showers, geysers, taps and washing machines
Gardens, pools, rainwater tanks and grey water

Go green home