Friday, April 2, 2010

If It's Yellow...

A colleague was telling me that during that big Olympic hockey game, water use spiked at every commercial, but was down dramatically during the play. Bathroom breaks. Hey even I watched the end of it, and I generally hate hockey (although I love this local hockey blog). But my question is, if everyone in Canada is just drinking beer and peeing it back out throughout the game, do they really need to flush every time?...

Toilets use a ton of water, and unless you've got a gray water tank or cistern hooked up to your plumbing, it's all treated drinking water that's being dumped. Toilets use 38% of the water used by indoor appliances in the average U.S. home. A low-flow toilet uses 1.6 gal/6 litres per flush. Put another way, that's over 200 ounces of drinking water. If everyone drank 8 8-oz-glasses of water a day as the water bottling industry insists they need to, each toilet flush could have supplied more than three people with water for a day. Each flush.

But there's lot of water, right? The Nestle spokesperson I watched insists we'll always have enough because it's a closed system.  We drink, pee, filter, and drink some more.  Tell that to Australia.  And we're polluting much of our water with sewage and toxins, and it's getting harder and harder to filter it.  The less we use now, the more we'll have in future.

At our cabin we use a composting toilet, which works like a dream and uses no water at all.  We mix the toilet contents with peat moss, churn it up a bit every few days, and when you go to dump it after it sits in a finishing tray a few weeks, it doesn't look or smell much different than what's on the forest floor already.  But it requires some forest to dump in, or a very large backyard.

At home, if you don't want to use as much drinking water, you can get hooked up to a gray water tank or cistern, but that's a lot of work.  You can also flush your toilet with rainwater by dumping a bucket of water in the bowl, or keep a bucket in the shower to collect water, but those take effort too.  If you really want to save water without any effort at all, just don't flush until it's really necessary.  Easy.  Unless you've got chronic constipation issues, the toilet will get flushed enough that it doesn't stink up the place.  Change your habits briefly if the Queen drops in.  Otherwise, would it kill us to be a bit more relaxed about how the inside of our toilets look? 

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