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Water Management With Every Flush

Updated on September 17, 2012

Water management, did you say? But did you know that your toilet is the single largest daily water consuming device in your house?

It is true: the toilet consumes nearly 30 percent of the water used in the average home. Now consider that most toilets in America today release about 1.6 gallons per flush (gpf), or about 10 gallons per person per day. And, finally, think about the number of toilets in your home and how many individuals are flushing each day. So right now makes a fine time for an action plan to conserve!

Water must be conserved for two primary reasons. Because it is a precious resource it must be preserved for future generations. This is sustainability. Overuse leads to depletion and serious repercussions. Water must also be conserved as a matter of energy conservation. Water management…pumping and delivery and water treatment…uses a great amount of energy, which figures in billions of dollars of water and energy bills annually.

Water Conservation Per Household

So why does your toilet matter?

The average American house uses about 350 gallons of water each day. The toilet—consuming about 30 percent of this—uses at or above 105 gallons alone. But not every toilet is alike. Some are good and some are better.

The Energy Policy Act of 1992 requires all American plumbing manufacturers and importers to meet or exceed a water-efficiency standard of 1.6 gpf for toilets. (Go check yours now. It should be visible just behind the seat.) Thus, with a 1.6 gpf toilet being the standard, averaging about 10 gal/per/day (3,760 gal/yr), we will begin to see the benefits of a better toilet.

A step down to a 1.28 gpf toilet converts to 6.4 gal/per/day (2,336 gal/yr); and a 1.0 gpf toilet converts to just 5 gal/per/day (1,928 gal/yr). Let’s not even talk about anything non-standard!


High-Efficiency Toilets

We now come to a class of toilets called high-efficiency toilets. High-efficiency toilets use a maximum of 1.28 gpf. They feature in four different technologies (e.g., dual-flush and pressure-assist) with some of them consuming just under 1.0 gpf.

High-efficiency toilets are part of WaterSense, a program sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency aimed at protecting the nation’s future water supply by offering people simple ways of conserving water, and in this case, with water-efficient products.

Functioning like Energy Star for appliances, WaterSense adds its label to toilets that use 20 percent less water (high-efficiency) than the federal standard while providing equal or superior performance. Moreover, only toilets that complete a third-party certification process can earn the WaterSense label.

Simple Ways to Conserve Water

Now maybe your throne is firmly in place and you have no plans of buying anything else to replace your (hopefully) 1.6 gpf seat there in the throne room now. There are ways you can conserve still.

The first thing you may want to do is check for toilet leaks. You can purchase dye tablets cheaply, or you may wish to use a few drops of food coloring. Just think of any leaks discovered as a leak in your wallet.

Second, do not use your toilet as a wastebasket. Get in the practice of placing every other waste in a bin. Gallons of water used on a random tissue or the like is truly a waste…oh yeah, and another leak in your wallet.

You may also consider adjusting the flapper chain to allow just enough water for a thorough flush.

There is a maxim some people follow to the disgust of others. You’ll pick up on it quickly: “If it’s yellow, let it mellow; if it’s brown, flush it down.” If you can, don’t flush after every pee; maybe every few. Just close the lid.

I use a displacement bag (well the maxim, too.) Displacement bags are cheap and not so easily purchased at your local hardware (definitely buy online). But a formal bag is unnecessary. Some people use a brick or (better) a plastic bottle of some sort. Count this as money earned!

Think on it: If every U.S. household installed just one water-saving feature, water use would decrease by 30 percent—or by one household toilet—each year, the equivalent of 5.4 billion gal/day and $4 billion per year. This is water management done right.


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    • ithabise profile image

      Michael S. 5 years ago from Winston-Salem, NC

      Hi Tamarajo! The displacement bag is easy and very cheap. I found it hard to find in town, but Amazon-to-the-rescue! had them, dye tablets included. Glad I could enlighten you! Thanks for reading and always nice to chat with you!

    • Tamarajo profile image

      Tamarajo 5 years ago

      I like the water displacement bag idea. I had never heard of that until now. I do try to save on flushes.

      Good and helpful ideas.

    • Evylyn Rose profile image

      Evylyn Rose 5 years ago from Colorado, USA

      Oh, it's definitely on the list of home improvements! When I finish my basement, I'll have a third toilet and you can bet I'll spend the extra bucks for higher efficiency on that one. ;) I'm also big about efficiency shower heads too. Oh, there's so many areas of conservation in the home to write about!

    • ithabise profile image

      Michael S. 5 years ago from Winston-Salem, NC

      Perhaps you'd be interested in a snazzy new high-efficiency, eh? Laughable what new things will get a person excited!

    • Evylyn Rose profile image

      Evylyn Rose 5 years ago from Colorado, USA

      Hi ithabise. Unfortunately, neither of my toilets tell me their gpf. The newer of the two looks like it may be just under 2 gallons, so I think it's safe to say it meets regulations. The other, unfortunately, looks to be no less than 4 gallons. One of these days I'll have to measure and find out. I try to use the larger one as little as possible even using the filled bottle trick. Of course, some homes do not have the luxury of a second, let-alone smaller, toilet, so these tips are indispensable.

    • ithabise profile image

      Michael S. 5 years ago from Winston-Salem, NC

      Hi Evylyn. I see that we share a commitment to sustainability and energy renewal. You're right about toilets that use even more water--some near (and maybe above) 4 gpf. Unbelievable! We must all start shifting our habits. It's the little streams that make rivers, then oceans. Let's just make oceans of change. Thanks for reading!

    • Evylyn Rose profile image

      Evylyn Rose 5 years ago from Colorado, USA

      Awesome hub! I've always been very conscious about water conservation and am grateful for new tips. Thanks! Some older toilets, though, use up even more water. Another tip: My Environmental Science teacher in high school told us about using a brick or two in the tank as those toilets don't need that much water but the pumps aren't designed to reduce it. I use glass bottles filled with water. The water in them never gets dumped and it helps reduce the amount my water-hogging toilet uses.

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