Blog Update!
For those of you not following me on Facebook, as of the Summer of 2019 I've moved to Central WA, to a tiny mountain town of less than 1,000 people.

I will be covering my exploits here in the Cascades, as I try to further reduce my impact on the environment. With the same attitude, just at a higher altitude!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Toilet water

What is this thing?Yes, you heard me right. Toilet water. And I don't mean the kind you dab behind your ears.

Did you know that a nonwater-saving toilet uses 5 to 7 gallons of water per flush? So, for a family of four this totals 36,500 to 51,000 gallons per year, on average.

To help you reduce the amount of water (and money) that you are flushing away, here are some tips on how to save water (listed from cheap to more expensive):

1. Don't flush
I'm really sick of the yellow/mellow saying, so I'll offer you something new:
If it's pee, let it be.
If it's poo, flush it through.

2. Use bath water or other grey water to flush the toilet
Although there may be some health issues with leaving grey water sitting around for too long, you can capture sink, shower or bath water and just dump it into the toilet bowl when you flush. I know some readers do this, perhaps they have some hints and tips to share.

3. Place a brick or a plastic bottle filled with water in the tank to displace water
Depending on how much you load up your tank with junk, you can save 1 to 1.5 gallons per flush. For example, if you put a gallon milk jug (filled with water, people, not milk) in your tank, you'll save a gallon per flush.

4. Install a flush regulator
This thing lets you control how much water goes into your flush. You hang the regulator on the flush mechanism and the toilet will only flush for as long as the button is held down. Apparently it's pretty easy to install with no plumber or tools needed and it can be used in dual flush system (see #6 below). The drawback with this is they don't seem to be readily available in the U.S.

5. Get a water-saving toilet
A water-saving toilet uses 3 1/2 gallons, about half of the old kind. That's a lot of water.

6. Get a dual-flush toilet
These will set you back a bunch, but you'll make up the savings in the long run if you have old toilets and don't want to try the other suggestions. Plus, it's always fun to confuse the hell out of visitors who stand there puzzled by the toilet.

You gonna eat that?Finally, there's one more suggestion.

It didn't make the list because I don't think it's practical for most people and, frankly, it makes the DivaCup look like an ice-cream cone. But, if you're real excited, you can save your urine and use it to fertilize your plants - it has lots of nitrogen (and potassium and minerals, too).

[Thanks to my brilliant brother, Darryl, for the pictures of the crab he found in his toilet one morning when he was living in Fiji.]


Anonymous said...

Oh... That's what that was... a crab.

Great suggestions. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I did the pee-saving thing for a while in the summer, and probably will again next summer. It's less useful in winter, though, and you need to have a large bucket handy, which I didn't at the time.

DC said...

Great tips, Crunchy. You can also get a sink that will fit over the back of your toilet and use the water entering the tank to wash your hands after you flush. It's completely sanitary -- the water goes to the sink first and then drains into the tank.

The sink takes just a couple minutes to hook up (you do not need to disconnect the water supply line going into your toilet or have any special plumbing skills). It costs between $90 and $110 dollars. You can learn more about it here.

The only downside to this device as far as I can see is that your toilet bowl will have a little soap residue in it, so your dog might not want to drink out of it anymore.

Oldnovice said...

I'm intrigued by that sink, dc.

Thanks for the information.

Cave-Woman said...

Hi! I do the mellow/yellow thing, much to the chagrin of my fiance'.
We are fairly water conscious,on the whole---but toilet water---well that's just a subject we are still working on.

My big question---what have you heard about regular flow toilets vs. low-flows?
I've heard that some studies suggest that more water ends up being used by low-flow toilets because they may require multiple flushes in certain...situations. (:

Any info to enlighten the situation would be appreciated.

Cave-Woman said...

OH---does anyone use cistern water for their toilet water? Just wondering...

Chile said...

I haven't seen anyone else doing what I started during your Low Impact Week challenge but it's not difficult or nasty. In our unused shower stall in the back bathroom, I put a plastic crate upside down and set our camping portapotty on it. I have cloth wipes on one side and a bucket on the other. I use this "toilet" exclusively for urination. When it is full, I dump it in the regular toilet and flush. It does smell a little at that time (ok, a lot) but it helps to use a non-formdehyde liquid enzyme-producing bacteria to help neutralize the odor. I picked up a case of this stuff at a yard sale.

Ashley // Our Little Apartment said...

ooh, toilet fun!

we do the yellow/mellow, and the grey water for when we DO flush.

here's the post on how we do it:

we also got a sink like dc was talking about, except our toilet isn't compatable (it's plumbing is wrong for it.) plus, with our combo, we hardly ever have to use regular water. no worries!

Anonymous said...

Actually, if you're a little handy, you can build kind of sink of dc is refering to:

Theresa said...

We do the mellow/yellow pee/be thing as well, and I wanted to start using greywater from my shower to flush, but I thought I had to turn the water off to my toilet to make this worthwhile? Is that not true? Because if I can just dump shower water into the toilet bowl and flush, thereby using less water from the tank, I am going to start doing that right away.

cave-woman: we use cistern water to flush our toilet. Our cistern is where all our water comes from at the moment. It is potable water that we have trucked in every two months.

C said...

We are mellow/yellow people.

We have VERY antiquated, wall-mounted toilets, but I have never thought of the whole water displacement thing. I'm ON IT! It kills me to watch all of that heading straight out of the house with every flush.

I've also been looking at composting toilets; perhaps building one in the basement for use during the summer. They're fascinating, but I'm not sure I've hit the point where I am willing to handle the upkeep.

Chile said...

Theresa, I just take the top of the tank (not the bowl) and pour the water in there while it's filling. It just means you have to have the bucket ready as soon as you flush. :)

Janice in GA said...

Our bathroom is a ways away from the hot water tank, so it takes a while for the water to run hot enough for us. Previously, that cold water just went down the drain. This summer, we started collecting that water and using it to flush the toilet. (We're in a huge drought here in the SE USA.) We keep a bucket beside the tub, catch the cold water, and use it to flush the toilet.

We also do the yellow/mellow stuff. Our water usage has gone WAY down with this!

Anonymous said...

How does a crab get into a toilet??

Oh, and I do the "let pee be" thing, so long as it won't have to sit for 12 hrs. The smell gets bad.

Anonymous said...

Don't actually put a brick in your tank. Go for the plastic bottle filled with water. Over time the brick will begin to break down and the chips will cause enormous plumbing headaches.

Anonymous said...

Thank you SO much for explaining the crab in the toilet picture. I was getting VERY worried about you digestive track.

Just ordered diva cup online.

DC said...

cave woman - Some of the first low-flow toilets that came out weren't designed very well and often ended up needing to be flushed more than once. While the newer low-flow models still don't work as well as the old 5-6 gallon ones, they generally do not require multiple flushes. Even if you occasionally need to flush more than once, you're still going to be saving water and money if you consider that the standard low-flow models use only 1.6 gallons of water. We installed low flow toilets in our house a couple years ago and found that this substantially lowered our monthly water usage.

If you're still concerned about tentative flushing, Flushmate makes a pressure assisted toilet that uses only one gallon of water.

theresa - yes, you can pour greywater from your shower into your toilet bowl to flush. When you pour the water directly into the bowl (not the tank, but the bowl), waste water in the bowl is automatically forced through the trap and into the main drain, so you don't need to pull the toilet handle after you dump in the water.

From what I understand, it may actually be better to put the greywater directly into the bowl (vs. the tank) because water in the tank can sit there a while and fester, and there is a remote possibility that the water pressure in your house might decrease (e.g., during a water shortage) and that water from the tank could be siphoned into the fresh water supply (if the toilet has an improperly installed air gap). Btw - I stated incorrectly earlier that water from the toilet sink I mentioned drains into the tank - it's actually designed to drain directly into the bowl.

Happy flushing!

Theresa said...

Ok! I will try pouring water right into the bowl and see what happens! (My tank lid is covered up by part of the countertop, so the tank option was going to be a lot more difficult)

Anonymous said...

if you can afford it, a composting toilet is an amazing thing i was just made aware of the other day!

ruchi said...

Augh. I would like to save my gray water and use it for my toilet, but I am so scared that I will screw it up somehow and end up with water everywhere and piss off my landlord in the process.

I try to be as quiet and nice to my toilet as possible so it doesn't get pissed off.

Anonymous said...

Well there goes my next post down the drain. ; )

I have been composing a similar post for a few days, but because I'm rushing to meet a couple Friday deadlines I haven't finished it. LOL. The crab down the toilet was one I just wouldn't have had the opportunity to include, though. Can't think too much about crabs and toilets, can you? Mmm.

Melinda, Elements In Time

DC said...

If you do use shower greywater to flush your toilet, be sure not to store the water (or leave it in your toilet) for more than 24 hours -- bacteria can grow in untreated greywater quickly and become a safety hazard. Also, you may find you need to clean your toilet more often if you use greywater for flushing -- especially if a crab also inhabits the bowl.

Rechelle said...

Crunchy - that crab...that was really not okay. Not okay at all.

e4 said...

If you really want to get crazy, there's always the fascinating Humanure Handbook. No really!

Sam said...

I was thinking of reusing bathwater for the toilet as well. We have this bucket of some sort that someone threw into our backyard, so it will be the perfect container. The only downside is the bathroom is really small considering we live in a house (rented). We've been saving the bathwater (then draining it when it gets cold) to warm up the bathroom since we're still freezing our buns with no heat. But I do feel guilty seeing the relatively clean water just go down the drain like that.

katecontinued said...

I installed my toilet lid sink around Thanksgiving and I love it.

Gaiam has a controlable flush that I wanted to buy, but it requires a front positioned flush handle.

Theresa said...

Hey, this bucket flushing things works great! I've done it for the past two days now and I can flush my toilet with about 1 gallon of greywater from my shower. I've got my showers down to about 5 gallons each now, thanks to the handy toggle-y switch on my low-flow shower head. So I only end up having to flush my toilet with water from the tank about twice a day (for things that really need to go down without any risk of splash-back).

salmonpoetry said...

pee works great in your compost pile! just collect it in a large yogurt container (when you're done with the yogurt, of course), and mix it in with your compost (it works best to dump it immediately and not let it sit around, for smell and bacterial cultivation).
Contrary to what it might seem, urine is sterile upon release (unless you have an infection or something) and if you dump it in the compost and give it a good stir it will add its important nitrogen to your mix and speed up the decomposition. just make sure that you have enough carbon (dry, brown stuff like chopped leaves, straw, or wood shavings) in your compost pile- too much nitrogen (from kitchen scraps, grass, or urine) will make it smell like ammonia and isn't good for the decomposition process.
i actually need more nitrogen in my compost since i have my chicken litter (wood shavings) in my compost pile, and in the winter especially, adding a douse or two of urine every now and then is a huge help.
if it sounds gross, just think that many people go out and BUY cow manure, which has a lot of cow urine (and other unsavory things) in it and comes packaged in a plastic bag.
your garden will love you for it, and you'll save another flushworth of water for it too!

Anonymous said...

This image is very immpressive, you are good photographer