Sunday, December 12, 2010

Water, Water, Everywhere

Installation of a Toilet Lid Sink

The world is covered with water, but less than 1% is available for drinking. The percentage is projected to shrink to less than 0.5% within a couple of decades.

What does water have to do with Peak Oil or carbon footprint? The concern is the energy required to sanitize and deliver water. And flush toilets are the single greatest user of clean water in US households.

In the 1850s folks didn't understand the link between clean water and health. Thousands of folks died crossing the plains to California due to Asian Cholera, and there are amusing reports of Queen Victoria asking why there were white papers in the Thames (they were bits of used toilet paper). Flush toilets didn't become popular in the late 19th century, and only became standard equipment in homes during the past 100 years.

We take flush toilets for granted, but they use by far the most water in domestic settings. According to DrinkTap.Org, toilets account for up to 40% of all domestic use if the toilet is leaking.

  • 26.7% Toilets
  • 21.7% Clothes Washers
  • 16.8% Showers
  • 15.7% Faucets
  • 13.7% Leaks
  • 2.2% Other Domestic Uses
  • 1.7% Baths
  • 1.4% Dishwashers

While composting toilets are an option, the >$1000 cost for flushable versions and/or the "ick" factor for the less expensive humanure-producing lovable loo make composting toilets an unlikely choice for homeowners circa 2010.

Two easy options are available:

1) Install Dual Flush plumbing. For less than $20 per toilet, you can get a unit that lets you choose normal flush (for "#2") or a reduced flush (for "#1").

2) Install a Toilet Lid Sink. For about $100 per toilet, you can put a little sink unit on top of the toilet bowl. The water to refill the toilet bowl runs through the sink - perfect for washing hands. The grey water from washing your hands then gets flushed in the next use of the toilet - long before the 24 hours when the germs in "grey water" make it scientifically disgusting.

There's another massive water and fuel saver homes can use, but it doesn't concern waste disposal. But that's for another post.

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