Chelsea Green Publishing

Chelsea Green Blog

5 Ways to Save Water While on the Can

Here I sit, broken-hearted, because we’re using up too much of our supply of clean water unnecessarily.

One of the worst offenders is the way in which most of us flush away our bodily waste. We take for granted the convenience of pulling a little lever and having gallons of clear, crisp, drinkable water transport our leavings far away.

But consider this: clean water requires huge amounts of energy to be chemically treated and pumped into our homes; it uses up groundwater, which puts stress on woodlands and causes damage to wildlife habitats in wetlands and rivers; and although it may seem abundant, many regions will need to keep a substantial supply on hand to stave off water shortages and summer water rationing.

This precious resource is literally going down the crapper.

Here are some facts about water usage, from Water: Use Less—Save More by Jon Clift and Amanda Cuthbert:

  • Over a quarter of all the clean, drinkable water you use in your home is used to flush the toilets.
  • Older toilets can use 3 gallons of clean water with every flush, while new toilets use as little as 1 gallon.
  • Many people in the world exist on 3 gallons of water day or less. We can use that amount in one flush of the toilet.

Here are 5 steps you can take to reduce your water usage (also excerpted from Water):

1. Remember the rhyme: “If it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down.” You will save a lot of water!
2. If you have an old toilet, you can reduce the amount of water it uses by putting a “displacement device” in the tank. Use small plastic bottles filled with water or a displacement bag designed for toilet tanks. Displacement bags may be available free from your local water department or can be purchased from a hardware store.
3. Avoid flushing anything down the toilet that has not previously passed though your digestive system, apart from toilet paper – it’s a waste of water and might block the sewer. Bag it and bin it.
4. Choose a slimline toilet rather than a full-size toilet; they use a lot less water per flush.
5. When you are buying a new toilet, look for a dual-flush toilet, or a low-flush toilet, which uses only 1.6 gallons per flush.


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