Luther Blount faced a water shortage long before most other Americans. Mr. Blount is a boat builder and steamship operator based in Warren, R.I. He has always had to be frugal about carrying water on board. Toilets are a chronic problem.

Once he paid more than $200 apiece for a batch of two-quart units that didn't work. ``For the life of that boat, it had to stop at every port, and the RotoRooter guy had to come,'' he recalls.

Blount put his inventive talents to work, and the result is the Pint-A-Flush, which he plans to market this fall. The unit illustrates a major difference between the plumbing and auto industries. Both were slow to respond to environmental problems. But where Detroit's competition had to come from abroad, the toilet business requires much less capital, which allows the relatively little guys to jump in.

``Innovation is going to come from people who have to innovate,'' says Pat Gasbarro, a Providence, R.I., attorney who represents Blount. ``Luther is a good example.''

While the market for 1.6 gallon toilets is becoming crowded, Blount's Pint-A-Flush is built for extreme conditions found on boats or islands. An electric pump does much of the work of rushing water in conventional units. Blount has tested his inventions for the last year on a 50-cabin cruise ship (``Like a medium-sized apartment house'') and says they work fine.

The price will be $500 to $600 to start, and the average home craftsman could install it in half an hour, he says. ``But I am not going to say it could be installed without a plumber. I don't want the plumbers mad.''

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