People are being asked to do their part to conserve water: take shorter showers, don’t let the faucet run, fix that leaky sprinkler and so on. Which begs the question: Is it time to stop flushing the toilet all the time?
“Oh yeah, absolutely,” answers Stephanie Pincetl, professor at UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability.
You know the old saying, “If it’s yellow let it mellow?” That should be the new normal, Pincetl says. “I do it drought or no drought because we live in a climate where that no longer makes a difference.”
That means even folks who live in places not plagued by drought, like the East Coast or the South, should take note.
“Nurturing our resources matters anywhere you are,” Pincetl said. “Even the East experiences drier weather. And with climate change, we have an enormous amount of fluctuation.”
The average person flushes the toilet five to seven times per day, said San Jose State environmental studies professor Katherine Cushing in a recent post on the university’s site.
“If you could reduce that to four to six times, that’s a big improvement,” Cushing wrote.
Pincetl and others suggest collecting water that would otherwise go to waste — like from waiting for your shower to heat up — in a bucket. You can use that water to fill your toilet tank for the next flush. You can really use that water for anything though, from watering your plants to boiling pasta.
“That’s really good drinking water you’re flushing down the drain,” says Pincetl. “I have stairs and I’m 68 years old. I walk down the stairs with my bucket. These are not really hard things to do, but they are about realizing that with water, every drop counts.”
Alex Hall of UCLA’s Center for Climate Science agrees less flushing is one place to make a difference. But if that’s something you just can’t stomach, there are certainly other ways to cut back. Single-family homes use a surprising amount of water outside the residence.
“If you are a single-family homeowner and you’re watering your lawn, the single most effective thing you can do is to change your landscaping practices,” Hall said. “That would definitely be No. 1.”