by Michelle Scott
When I was a freshman in high school, I learned from my theater teacher that bathroom humor is the lowest form of humor. Jasper, please forgive me because Clark is posed to save 4,000,000 gallons of water because of our new low-flow toilets and showerheads, which is equivalent to the contents of 444 tanker trucks that when lined up nose-to-tail would stretch 2.5 miles. Our toilets, with their germ-killing green handles,
are reducing our water intake by 2,000,000 gallons alone. These porcelain thrones flush either 0.8 or 1.6 gallons of water (depending on their contents and the direction of your flush), compared to the 5 gallons that our old clunkers required. And they have none of the “up-splash” that other toilets regurgitate upon flushing. Our showerheads, whose water reduction is barely even noticeable and who use less than half of the H2O of a typical bathing regime, will free up the other 2,000,000 gallons. These johns and sprinklers deserve our highest form of flattery.
While browsing the Internet, I found some interesting information regarding water usage from various reputable sources. From EEK! (Environmental Education for Kids), I learned that humans can only use around 1% of the water on Earth, the rest is salty and undrinkable (97%) or in the form of an ice cap or glacier (2%). According to the EPA, in the United States, we use about 4.8 billion gallons of toilet water a day. The average American creates 230 gallons of waste per year (gross!) and uses 9,000 gallons of water to flush it (excessive!). Water.org told me that the average five minute shower an American might take uses more water than a person from a slum in a developing country will have at their disposal for an entire day. The EPA says that by 2013 an estimated 36 states will experience water shortages because of increased water usage and inefficient water management from old infrastructure.
Clark’s retrofitting has come in three phases: One, Two and Three. Phase One involved replacing the toilets or flushing mechanisms on toilets in the academic buildings and was completed last fall, winter and spring. In total, 107 new low-flow toilets with dual flush buttons were installed, 105 dual-flush handle mechanisms were transplanted into existing toilets and 32 new standard tank toilets with dual-flush handles were installed. These all went into Goddard, Carlson, Dana Commons, Kneller, 18-22 Downing, Estabrook, Geography building, Jefferson, Atwood, Sackler, math/physics, the Little Center, the UC, and Traina. So, odds are you’ve probably seen and possibly used one of them though you still might not have gotten the hang of them, which is undoubtedly the most important part. It’s really quite simple, though slightly counter-intuitive. Prepare yourself, things are about to get giggly. “Number one” waste is flushed by pulling the handle up. “Number two” waste is flushed by pushing the handle down. I hope you catch my drift.
Phase Two was doing the same for the residential buildings. In super sustainability style, all of the toilets that were replaced over the summer were ground up into porcelain powder. 4.59 tons of the stuff was created by a couple men with huge hammers. Who knew that porcelain remnants are used to create roadways?
Phase Three involved installing the low-flow showerheads where they weren’t already present. The last of those were installed the day before we all moved in. Bet you couldn’t even tell the difference, though, as Physical Plant has received no complaints regarding the water pressure in any of the halls (and if you complain now, we’ll know why!). These heads provide the same water pressure as the old models, but reduce approximate water usage from 6-7 gallons to 3-1.5 gallons per minute.
Real water savings require a conscious use of them. Fortunately for us, the showerheads require no thought at all (which is especially good for us early-morning bathers). The toilets, on the otherhand, are a step-up in the brain department. I would like to provide you with a little rhyme to remember which way to flush on which occasion, but my child-like sense of humor has rendered this impossible. Hopefully, for the sake of water everywhere!, you are all a little more mature than myself.