ways to conserve water

5 Toilet Tricks You Need to Know

Finding ways to cut your domestic water use saves you money, and helps keep your community from going dry.

toilet-waterPhotograph By Thinkstock

From record flooding to debilitating droughts, climate change is expected to create more and more severe weather events. To help prepare for water shortages in your area and to do your part to conserve this precious resource, the first place to start is in your bathroom. Seem weird to combat the effects of climate change using your commode?

It actually makes perfect sense, considering toilets account for roughly a quarter of the 70 gallons families typically use on a daily basis in the home. To give you some perspective on that, you drink just half a gallon of water every day if you follow the 8 glasses-of-water-per-day rule. Every drop that you flush may bring your community closer to its next drought, not to mention cost you money you don't need to spend. Fortunately, there are lots of solutions, none of which requires the return of the outhouse.

#1: Fix leaks. A leaky toilet can cost you 9.5 gallons of water per day—nearly half the amount you probably use doing your daily business. Food dye dropped in the toilet tank can help you find leaks; if you put a few drops in the tank and the dye appears in the bowl, you've got a malfunctioning flapper. It's easy to fix; just get to the hardware store and follow the directions that come with the replacement.

#2: Use the brick-in-the-tank trick, without a brick. Displacing water in your toilet tank is one of the easiest, and usually cheapest, ways to conserve water. But an actual brick is the worst thing to use; as it sits in water all day, the clay starts to break apart and the resulting sediment will clog up your tank. Instead, use a plastic milk jug filled with sand or rocks. This will save you about half a gallon per flush, or about 2.5 gallons per day.

#3: Install a dual flusher. Toilets are designed to last a long time, so if your home was built before 1992, chances are that an older 3.5 gallon-per-flush toilet still sits in your lavatory. Post-1992 models use 1.6 gallons per flush, but now you can get even more efficient toilets that have two modes, one for flushing liquids and one for your solid waste. The liquid mode uses only .6 gallons per flush and the other, the standard 1.6 gallons; look for products certified by the Environmental Protection Agency's WaterSense program, which have been tested for both water savings and performance (no need to flush multiple times to get your stuff to disappear).

#4: Go waterless. For the truly hardcore homeowner interested in cutting domestic water use, you can now buy home versions of composting toilets, once restricted to RVs, rustic cabins without septic tanks, and other places without access to sewage systems. These don't hook up to any kind of plumbing system and require no water whatsoever. Their specially designed holding tanks are equipped with aerobic microbes that break down your waste into fertilizer that you can use your garden. According to one composting toilet manufacturer, the tanks need to be emptied as infrequently as once a year—but keep in mind that one toilet is designed to accommodate the waste of just two people. The toilets use fans, a trap-door system, and those hard-working microbes to keep offensive odors from escaping.

#5: Think European. With even more restrictions on domestic water use than the most drought-stricken areas here, Europe long ago adopted the "urine separation" toilet, a combination of a regular commode and a composting toilet that diverts urine to a storage tank while composting the solids. The benefit is that urine can then be used on crops as a (free and abundant) fertilizer to replace costly synthetic fertilizers made from nonrenewable petroleum. A study from Finland, published in a recent issue of the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, found that urine combined with wood ash (added as a nutrient-rich source of carbon and to prevent urine from degrading into ammonia and becoming unusable) produced healthy tomatoes with no risk of disease to consumers.

Here are 8 other ways to save 96 gallons of water a day!


Published on: September 23, 2009

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Your audience would be better

Your audience would be better informed if you presented more accurate information:

1) WaterSense toilets use only 1.28 gallons per flush (GPF), or less.

2) There are many different flush volumes for the dual-flush toilets. The only enforced standards are a) the full-flush cannot exceed 1.6 GPF; and b) the WaterSense labeling requires a combined average of 1 full-flush and 2 half-flushes cannot exceed 1.28 GPF.

2) The federal standard requiring 1.6 GPF or less was enacted in 1992, but did not become effective until 1994. Many 92 and 93 homes still had 3.5 GPF toilets installed

3) Composting toilets for inside homes are not new, they have have been around for more than 30 years.

4) A toilet can leak MUCH more than 9.5 gallons per day. Hidden leaks can easily waste more than 200 gallons per day. In fact, a small leak of 9.5 gallons per day would not even turn the dials on the water meter.

5) Do not put a jug or brick in a toilet using less than 2 GPF; it will severely impair the performance of the toilet to flush solid waste.


Great articla but I coulsd have done without that particular photo.

If it's yellow...

As they say in the Southwest:

If it's yellow,
let in mellow
If it's brown,
flush it down


In this land of wind and sun
We don't flush for number one!

and while I'm quoting the great bathroom poets, I can't resist this one too:

We aim to please...
You aim too please!

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