It seems every year, as summer approaches, we receive flyers in the mail from our local elected officials or read columns in our local Pennysaver type weekly publications informing us of the importance of using less water and providing us with a laundry list of suggestions, like this one.
One of the statistics thrown at us is that 25% of our indoor water use comes from flushing the toilet. Every time we flush the toilet, we are using about 3 to 4 gallons of water. When you factor in a family of 4 in a home, with each person flushing the toilet about twice a day, that's anywhere between 24 to 32 gallons of fresh water. Most of us take this for granted, which is amazing when you consider that in some parts of the developing world, people have to walk for miles to obtain water from wells and trudge it back to their homes.
I have several things I do on occasion that I guess are not deemed as proper for suggestion on these lists of ways you can reduce toilet water use. In my house, we only have one bathroom for four people. Inevitably, there come times wherein one of us is sitting on the toilet doing a bombing run and someone else needs to take a wicked piss. For instances where I or my son are the ones who have to urinate when there is another occupant on the toilet, the solution seems fairly simple to me, pee in the bathtub.
Due to anatomical differences, it is of course easier for males than females to do it by directing the urine stream towards the shower drain. Once that's done, a short burst of water from the tub faucet does away with any traces of the offending substance. Of course, both genders can urinate in the tub while taking a shower, where aim is no longer really a factor.
Another unconventional thing I do sometimes is simply pee in a cup and pour the contents in my compost pile in the backyard. Thankfully I don't seem to be the only one who does it. Besides reducing the need to flush one's toilet, pouring urine into a compost pile is beneficial because the urine contains phosporous, which is an important fertilizing component.
You will likely never see these ideas listed on any official list of things you can do to conserve water, as they are probably seen as being outside of the mainstream (pun intended). But if water conservation is important, and my suggestions do help to reduce water usage, then the hell with polite convention, I'm putting it out there in the public domain.
For some reason, we take certain ways of doing things so much for granted that the idea of doing things differently is seen as bizarre or beyond the pale, even if an honest examination of the evidence clearly demonstrates their benefit. Several weeks ago, Bill Maher had on his program John Fund of The Wall Street Journal. Fund is from the pro-business/libertarian wing of the Republican Party rather than the socially conservative wing. At one point on Maher's show, Fund was complaining that government is too big and does too much, and specifically mentioned government regulations on how much water a toilet uses when it is flushed.
Given how much water we use on a daily basis from flushing the toilet and the fact that some parts of the country suffer from chronic shortages, it absolutely makes sense to regulate how many gallons of water are used per flush. I know some people will complain that if you reduce the numer of gallons per flush, you will just end up having to flush the toilet more often when you have just taken a massive shit. But more often than not, it is not the crap itself that causes the toilet to clog or be ineffective, it's the amount of toilet paper you use to wipe your ass that causes the problem.
"Tommykey, are you seriously suggesting that we don't use toilet paper?"
In short, well, yes! I don't use toilet paper anymore. I use baby wipes. Instead of putting them in the toilet, I put them in the garbage pail. Since I've been doing that, I can't really recall having any problems with the toilet clogging up on me. By eliminating the problem of clogging or having to do multiple flushes, I am helping to reduce water use further. Unfortunately, my wife and kids are currently not on board with this, so I am the only one in the house who does this. But I like to think that every little bit helps. And hopefully, down the road, I will be able to convince one or all of the rest of the family to follow suit.
There are steps one can take even beyond my modest suggestions to reduce water consumption. For instance, waterless composting toilets, such as this one by Envirolet, have been on the market for a few years. There are even waterless urinals for restrooms, such as offered by this company, which is appropriately named, well, Waterless.