Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Small Steps

David Suzuki, Special to the Sun
Published: Wednesday, December 19, 2007

It recently became time to change the two toilets in my home. I decided to replace them with dual-flush toilets, which should save my family huge amounts of water. Toilets manufactured before the 1980s usually require 15 to 20 litres per flush. Toilets sold during the '80s and early '90s use 13 litres.

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It is really quite hard for me to criticize David Suzuki, who has the status of a secular saint in Canadian environmental circles. And this advice may be very useful in some places. But not in Vancouver. We have no water shortage here. Vast amounts of water are spilled every day from our reservoirs and only in very dry summers, or when there is a major system failure of some kind, are we advised to conserve water. We restrict lawn sprinkling - but mostly because it is completely unnecessary except for newly seeded lawns - which are exempt. We flush our toilets and wash our cars in drinking water - which looks profligate to people who have to carry every drop in jerry cans five miles a day. And even though our watersheds are "pristine" the stuff that comes out of the taps smells so bad (due to chlorination) and is so often clouded with silt that most people spend a small fortune on filters or bottled water for drinking and cooking.

But the biggest waste is old water mains that leak. And the bureaucrats and politicians are quite happy about that because they do nothing to stop it. We do not pay for water by usage either in most homes - although water meters are gradually being introduced. If water wastage was a big concern, we would first fix the leaking water mains. That would produce a much better rate of return in terms of capital employed than any consumer oriented scheme. Some innovative buildings show that you do not even need water pipes or sewers: you can collect rain water and recycle it through several systems before allowing it to sink gracefully into the soil. Such buildings require exemptions from the local building code and are therefore exceedingly rare.

And if you really want to one up your neighbours you can buy a composting toilet. You can't get much greener than that.

But if water conservation in your toilet is something you want to do, you can either fiddle with the ballcock - or the smaller, neater filling valves that are replacing that ancient contraption - or put something in the cistern to displace some of the water. Or you can follow the advice of the Fockers

If its yellow, let it mellow
If its brown, flush it down

Cheap and nasty

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