The city of Lake Alfred is offering rebates to residents who replace older toilets with newer, high efficiency ones.
LAKE ALFRED — John Deaton has a mission: he’s urging people in Lake Alfred to go buy a new toilet, particularly if their home was built before the late 1980s.
But Deaton doesn’t work for Home Depot, Lowe’s or a home building supplier. He’s actually Lake Alfred’s public works director, and his goal is to ensure that the people who flush help conserve water while they’re doing it.
“It’s a water conservation project, and it offers customers a chance to help conserve water by changing out their old high flow toilets to a low flow toilet,” Deaton said. “We’re offering a rebate program with the assistance of the Southwest Florida Water Management District.”
Swiftmud and the city of Lake Alfred are teaming up on this one, to offer Lake Alfred Utilities customers rebates of up to $100 for replacing their older toilets and faucet aerators. Newer water-efficient toilets use 1.6 gallons per flush or less, while high efficiency toilets use 1.28 gallons per flush — a lot of water being saved, said Robyn Felix, media relations manager for Swiftmud.
“It’s a project we’ve had since 1991,” she said. “Water is still a limited resource in Florida, so we always want to encourage conservation. And with this particular project, we’re eyeing the potential savings of 7,600 gallons per day, or 2.8 million gallons a year.”
That would be the savings if 1,300 Lake Alfred homes eligible in the city’s service area participate. To get the rebate, customers need to live in Lake Alfred or the surrounding service area, and the toilets must be made and installed before 1995 and use 3.5 gallons of water or more per flush. The rebate program will also include faucet aerators, which will be handed out at no cost to single family and multifamily customers who attend some upcoming town hall meetings promoting the rebate program.
“If anybody wants to apply for it, they just contact the Public Works Department in Lake Alfred,” which is at 515 W. Haines Boulevard and can be reached by calling 863-291-5275, Deaton said.
Why is it important for people to replace older toilets? Deaton said older models, installed in houses built before 1989, are simply likely to use more water than newer models.
“What’s important is the amount of water that goes through it,” he said. “It takes more water to flush the older toilets than the newer ones. It reduces the water usage, which is where we get the conservation from. Homes built before 1989 are more likely to have a higher flow toilet. Homes built after 1989 should have the newer ones. That’s around the time when toilets changed the technology, and conservation helped get that going.”
This is not a new program. As Deaton noted, these rebates have been around for 20 years.
“They were really started more in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, but now we’re seeing more of the smaller communities begin to put these programs in place,” he said. “You would get your toilet replaced by a plumber or handyman, you would provide us with a bill or receipt for the toilet, and we will come inspect it and make sure it meets the requirements, and then you would apply for the rebate.”
It’s a program that everyone in the region benefits by, since water conservation is critical to Polk County’s future, Deaton said.
Can simply replacing a toilet help save water? The city of Lake Alfred thinks so.

“If we don’t start saving, what it boils down to is by the year 2050, the city of Lake Alfred is facing a water deficit of 350,000 gallons,” he said. “These (rebate) efforts are to prevent the need to pump more groundwater in the future. It’s to help prevent that need, to cut down and reduce that amount. Some of the larger cities have water deficits in the millions, and it all comes down to ground pumping. We have rules we have to go by. We only allow so much groundwater to be pumped.”
The total cost of this project is $16,200, which is being funded by Swiftmud’s Peace River Basin Board. To promote the rebate program, educational information will be mailed to customers about water conservation in future bills. The material will include information on leak detection and the proper selection of parts for water-saving toilets.
“We’re also going to be doing some educational meetings,” Deaton said. “We’re going to schedule information meetings to discuss water conservation with our customers as part of our conservation programs. We’ll be giving them simple tips — timing yourself in the shower, the effects of using the newer washing machines that take less water, rain gages on your irrigation system, hand watering as opposed to running zones — there’s a lot of stuff you can do to help conserve.
“Eductaion is very important,” he added. “I would consider a large key to water conservation is education on water usage.”

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