Conservation Corner – September 2014

Pauline Lee, Robson Resident

According to some estimates, 30 percent of the water used indoors by an average household is due to toilet flushes. To reduce this waste, as a part of the National Energy Policy Act, a 1994 federal law required new toilet water tanks to use a maximum of 1.6 gallons per flush, an improvement over old tanks that used up to six gallons per flush. Nowadays, better engineered toilets require even less water to do their job. To measure how much water your toilet uses, remove the tank cover and note the water level. Turn off the water valve to the toilet and then flush to empty the tank. Refill the tank to its normal level using an empty milk or juice jug and measure the amount of water needed. Don’t forget to turn the water valve back on as you think about how to reduce your flush volume.

You could have a new dual flush toilet installed, commonly seen in Europe, Asia and Australia, and becoming more popular in the United States. These modern toilets let the user choose a low water flush for disposing liquid waste only or a higher volume flush for solid waste. Dual-flush toilets have either two buttons on top of the water tank or a handle that can be pulled upwards or downwards to control which type of flush they produce. The high volume flush uses 1.28 gallons of water and the low volume flush mode saves about a half-gallon per toilet flush, which adds up over time. Most people use the lower volume mode four times as often as the higher volume flush, thus the average family can reduce toilet water usage by 20-60 percent, resulting in $100 per year in water bill savings.

When selecting a new toilet, look for the WaterSense label which guarantees that the product saves water and meets high quality standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). A complete list of these products is available by selecting “toilets” at WaterSense labeled toilets are available at a wide variety of prices and in a broad range of styles.

Even if you don’t want to change your entire toilet, you can install a kit to convert a single flush toilet to a dual flush type. The installation should be manageable by homeowners. The kits are available at home improvement stores, or a unique tap-n-flush model is sold online at These converters cost around $30, an amount easily saved from your reduced water bill after your dual conversion. At the same time, the smaller flush volume produces less sewage to be treated by sewage plants. Saving water by upgrading old equipment to modern standards can be good for the wallet as well as for the environment!