“If it’s yellow…” I have heard that water conserving advice since I was a kid in the ‘70’s. Supposedly it came out of California during one of their lean precipitation times but its origin could have been from anywhere. More importantly is the idea and sentiment behind it, albeit a very difficult habit to restrain even if you are receptive to the idea. Our bathroom habits are drilled into us at a very early age and the topic has little social conversation appeal, at best. But it is an important subject and every year it becomes clearer that we cannot proceed with “business” as usual.
Scientists and trivia nuts are always quick to point out that water is conservative; we have the same amount of water today as the day the earth was created. True, the problem is not the amount of water but the amount of clean drinking water. We continue to pollute and contaminate our water sources and lose vast amounts to leaks in our aged infrastructure. In addition, we use waste tremendous numbers of gallons in our homes and industries. There are periodic efforts to encourage restraint and restrictions but these are almost always short-term measures and once the crisis has past its back to our squandering habits. According to the EPA, a typical family uses approximately 300 gallons at home a day; broken down into the following areas.
We cannot count on our water companies to become more efficient, there is no profit in that line of thinking and as long as demand is within their capacity to produce, they are just as happy to supply us with all we want. Often times charging us for the supply and collection of the same water; they pay lip-service to the idea of conservation. Towns will place restrictions on exterior water use during times of drought; but where is the comprehensive effort to educate and require adaptation of stricter water usage? Where is the push to use grey water recirculation systems? Even simple standalone systems like the one pictured here.
Would our guests be so offended at seeing this in our half-baths that they would think less of us? An informal survey produced a consistent reaction, a combination of revulsion and curiosity best summed up with the common sentiment, “Eeeeew”. Similar to that first drink of milk and you wonder if it has gone bad. Even when they understood the reasoning behind configuring the fixture as a means to save water, they still could not get comfortable with the idea of actually using one. When pressed, it came down to this, psychologically it was eliminating waste in the same place you clean your hands.
So, perhaps that approach is too direct for immediate implementation, but there are numerous other means to reduce household water usage that can be integrated relatively unobtrusively. Low flow showerheads and those with a shut-off button while lathering, inline Gate valves on toilet water supply lines, drought-resistant landscaping around our homes and business; appliances that use water more efficiently and municipalities and MUA’s driving efforts to detect and repair leaks.
The bottom line is, we must start now to curtail our water usage across the board, in power generation, agriculture production, manufacturing, water transfer and home use; if not this will be coming to a powder room near you.