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Vista company sells no-flush toilet to green market

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Waterless Co. sells no-flush urinals that work without water or flush valves, not only saving 45,000 thousand gallons of water per fixture each year but also drastically reducing repairs and maintenance that are common to flushed fixtures.

Klaus Reichardt, the founder and managing partner of Vista-based Waterless, was struck by inspiration after reading in the newspapers about the water crisis in California. News coverage focused on the drought and concern about water sources during the late 1980s.

"You come across opportunities and you make some thing out of them," said Reichardt, who came from Germany 30 years ago to study at Malibu's Pepperdine University.

After he obtained his master's degree in business, he worked at the Beverly Hills Neiman Marcus as a department manager, and then began an export-import company focused on fashion jewelry before founding Waterless in 1991 as a garage business.

Today, the 10-employee company has a warehouse, distribution center and main office in Vista, with an additional distribution center in Indianapolis and another one coming soon in the Atlanta area. Waterless sells its fixtures to all 50 states via 40 commission-based sales representatives. It also exports directly to 15 other countries, including Japan, Malaysia, India, Australia and South Africa.

Manufacturing is outsourced to factories in Southern California and in Monterey, Mexico. Exports constitute about 20 percent of total sales, and institutional sales amount to half of all revenues. For 2008, revenues will be in the range of $8 million to $10 million.

"Anywhere you have a lot of traffic is a potential opportunity to install our hassle-free waterless fixtures. With the flush systems, there is very high maintenance, high water and sewage usage," Reichardt said.

Typical customers include schools, colleges, stadiums and museums. Locally, its customers include the Salk Institute, several museums at Balboa Park, the Naval Air station in Coronado and schools located in Carlsbad, Vista, San Marcos and Escondido, among other areas.

Reichardt said his company received a boost from the green drive sweeping the nation.

"The last six years have been very good. We've had 10 to 30 percent growth each year, with this last year seeing a 30 percent increase. We are looking to do the same or better this year," he said.

The no-flush fixtures run about $180 to $500, depending on the model, material and color. These prices are comparable to traditional systems, which can sometimes be slightly more expensive.

The company was one of the earliest members of the U.S. Green Building Council, which has promoted the no-flush fixtures as an eco-friendly product.

"Our fixtures would get up to four points in the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification process," Reichardt said.

In building up the business, Reichardt said overcoming the psychological barrier has been the biggest challenge.

"People think flush fixtures smell, so they assume that a no-flush system will be worse. But the truth is that it is more hygienic, since it is dry." He added that moisture breeds bacteria growth.

Customer education has been key to sales growth -- and the sales staff at Waterless has appealed to its customers' sense of humor, with catchy slogans like "Peeing is believing."

Nagappan is a San Diego-based freelance business writer.

Waterless Co.

1050 Joshua Way

Vista, CA 92081

(760) 727-7723, (888) 663-5874

www.waterless.com Company Description: Waterless Co.'s patented No-Flush urinals work completely without water or flush valves. The system is touch free, improves restroom sanitation and eliminates odors. Waterless fixtures save up to 45,000 gallons of water and more per year per urinal, and supports sustainability of our natural resources.

Founder/Managing Partner: Klaus Reichardt

Employees: 10

2008 Projected Revenues: $8 million-$10 million

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