03 September 2011

More about toilets

Its the season for rain here and we don't need our bath and shower water for the garden. I couldn't bear to let it just waste away down the drain so we have been collecting it for our toilets.


I would prefer to have these buckets on the floor, but we have a toddler in the house and the door to our ensuite can't really be shut firmly.

Using buckets in winter to flush our toilet is not new, but this year we have started also using them in the second toilet (where the door can be shut!). This is the toilet used for cleaning nappies. Its also the one used by guests. To explain the presence of buckets of water and encourage guests to also use our recycled water to flush, I put a notice inside the toilet door.

Initial Time: Ten minutes to prepare, print and post the notice to toilet guests.

Initial Cost: 
We bought two more $2 buckets.

Ongoing time or cost commitment: Catching the water takes no time, just two tubs in the shower. Redistributing it into buckets beside both toilets takes about 5 minutes a day. Refilling the toilet cistern with recycled water after flushing takes about an extra 30 seconds per toilet visit. Toilets flushed with recycled water get a bit gunky if not cleaned efficiently.

Impact:Over the last couple of months, with all our shower water going into the toilets, the amount of drinking water flushed down our toilets has been close to ZERO. Because we work from home, we are not out-sourcing much of our toilet use to a workplace, so the full impact of two adults and a toddler remains at our house. If we were not being careful about toilets I estimate we would flush toilets at our house about 20 times per day (in total, not each! what about you?) or about 180L of water. We flush sparingly, use half-flush and have reduced the size of our cisterns, but even so we were using about 50L a day which is now all recycled. That's over 18,000L a year. Come summer, though, we will need to find a way to catch washing machine water again to keep the garden going. And I have no idea how we are going to toilet train Eva to use this system!

We received a six-month water bill this week are were delighted to see our water usage had got below 300L a day (283L/day, to be precise!). I estimate that is about 1/3 showers, 1/3 washing machine and the rest kitchen and miscellaneous use (hand washing, Eva's play, etc). By comparison, the average Perth home uses over 750L a day - the highest water usage rate in Australia according to an article last week - and 43% goes on the garden.

The other impact of this action is getting our guests thinking about their water use. This may in fact by the more important impact. So far reactions have been mixed. Several have said nothing at all. One was heard making baffled noises and muttering 'cistern?' Another was inspired to try something similar at their place. Hardly anyone remembers to shut the door so Eva can't get to the buckets, so I am in the habit of casually checking the door over and over if guests are around. Several have decided to ignore the instructions and just pour water into the toilet bowl (which works to an extent but... you get more splash back, use  more water, and don't get as clean a flush) 

And at that point I have said too much about toilet flushing!

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