Question: Ron asks: Please help me. I have been offered an opportunity to sell a top brand waterless urinal in California with a nice rebate from the department of water and power per urinal. My research of the industry is largely on things that happened a few years ago. Essentially my question is do you truly feel that waterless urinals are destined for significant growth and are their major obstacles in trying to market this product. Seems the plumbing unions are fighting this pretty hard, at least as of 2008.
I know I can convince business owners to switch but I am unsure about unforeseen barriers or powers that be that would ultimately stop this from happening. Any input would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you Ron for your question on the waterless urinal market.
Unfortunately, I think the outlook for waterless urinals is pretty bleak. I have personally seen a lot of push back against these types of urinals from maintenance technicians, building occupants, and owners during design charrettes. Nobody seems to want these in their building’s restrooms for various reasons.
The major obstacles seem to be the maintenance and odor issues. The odor issue usually stems from units that are not maintained properly, but in some cases such as Chicago’s City Hall, the undiluted urine corroded the copper piping causing the smell of urine to flow throughout the building. So the City of Chicago took out the waterless urinals in City Hall as well as at O’Hare International Airport recently where the pipes “clogged with fluids” because people poured coffee and other chemicals down the waterless urinals and these chemicals destroyed the plastic cartridge that is meant only for urine mitigation.
In February of this year, the California Environmental Protection Agency actually took out all 56 of the waterless urinals it had installed in its Sacramento headquarters in 2001, citing “hundreds of complaints over the years about foul odors and wet floors” and high maintenance costs. The California EPA! They replaced them with low flow urinals that used 0.5 gallons per flush.
In addition to this, just as you stated, the plumbers unions are still fighting against waterless urinals, citing “threats to public safety.”
So my personal opinion, with so many organizations against waterless urinals, including the one major organization that one would think would be behind them (EPA), I don’t foresee a bright future. I would invest in some of these low flow, 1/2 gallons/flush type units that are being installed in their place and try selling them instead.
David M. Pratt
David M. Pratt, P.E., CEM, LEED AP is an Energy Management Consultant for Sustainable Climate and Energy Solutions group of MWH Americas, Inc. MWH is the global leader of the wet infrastructure sector. The MWH organization is driving the wet infrastructure sector globally, and we are leading the world in results-oriented management, technical engineering and construction services to build a better world.