The most radical changes to water regulations since the 1980's which affects the working and performance of WC suites has taken place from 1st January 2001.

The new Water Supply (Water Fittings) Regulations 1999 have now been implemented; they cover the mandatory reduction in flush volumes, the reintroduction of dual flush and the approval for use of internal overflow and flush valves plus pressure valves for commercial installations. The regulations are far reaching and will certainly have a huge impact on all British sanitary ware manufacturers. And, for that matter, importers of sanitary ware into the UK. The key points which affect them revolve around the flushing of the WC suite. From the 1st January 2001 the regulations require that every new WC suite installed in the UK should conform to the new "Regulators Specification".

  • The maximum allowable flush volume for a newly installed suite from 1st January 2001 is 6 Litres ( compared with the previous 7.5 litres). For replacement installations where the existing WC remains, a 7.5 litre cistern can be fitted.
  • Dual flushing is now permissible. Again 6 litres being the maximum full flush and 4 litres the maximum short flush. Both Syphons and now valves can be used to control the flow of water from cistern to the WC pan. Previously only the siphon or wastewater preventor was allowed. Dual flushing can be achieved with both siphons and valves.
  • The use of pressure flushing valves direct from the mains will be allowed for commercial premises only where a minimum of 1.2 litres per second is available and providing that the flushing system incorporates a backflow prevention arrangement.
  • All WC Suites, Syphons and valves need to pass the new regulators tests.

Internal overflows

Prior to September 2000 all toilet cisterns had to be fitted with an external water overflow warning pipe. This enabled water to run to the outside of the building in the event of a ball valve failure, thus alerting the occupier to the problem.

The water industry now considers modern tested and approved ball valves are sufficiently reliable to eliminate the need for the external overflow pipe and have approved the internal warning pipe as a "no less effective device."In the event of a ball valve failure, water will be allowed to run through the flushing device and into the toilet bowl, where it may be seen so as to warn the occupier of the problem.

The internal overflow arrangement is achieved by changes to the siphon flushing mechanism or the design of the flush valve. Retrofit alternatives are available such as the seefloo, which converts an existing cistern, this may be used if the suite position changes or if it becomes impractical to run an overflow externally due to building alterations. This simplifies the plumbing installation, as there is no longer the need to run an overflow or make a hole in the wall for the external warning pipe to vent.

Approved installers scheme

Water companies are establishing Approved Installer Schemes where plumbers who are members of such a scheme would undertake to ensure that their workmanship and the fittings they have installed comply with the Regulations. Approved Contractors do not need to notify certain installations, which Non-Approved Contractors must notify. Water Companies will compile a list of Approved Contractors, which the general public will use, and it is likely that local Authorities and Housing Associations will insist that plumbing contractors are Approved Contractors.

Further information on the Water Industry approved plumbers scheme (WIAPS) can be obtained from Phil Chalk at the WRAS. Tel: 01495 248454