Water conservation: Toilets – Part 2

Consider changing your family’s water use practices as they relate to toilet use so you can save money and reduce your environmental impact.

This is the second in a series of articles about water conservation. With rising water rates in many areas, your household budget can be seriously affected by water usage. By understanding how much water you use and how to reduce that consumption, you can help the environment and your pocketbook.

The toilet is usually the largest water user in the home. Older toilets can use more than eight gallons per flush. Think about a gallon milk jug; imaging eight of those jugs disappearing each time you pull the handle.

Michigan State University Extension suggests these tips for reducing toilet water usage:

  1. Don’t use your toilet as a wastebasket. Kleenex, cigarette butts and paper towel should not be flushed.
  2. Check your toilet for leaks. An old flapper valve in your toilet can leak a significant amount of water. You can put food coloring in the back of your toilet. If there is any color in the bowl, you have a leak (WARNING: this can sometimes discolor old toilets, particularly if they have chips in the porcelain)
  3. In the back of your toilet tank, put something in to take up some of the space. A glass canning jar filled with water is a good option. Be careful, because you don’t want something that will break down (such as a brick) that might clog the system.
  4. Use recycled water to pour-flush the toilet. Water that has been used for doing dishes, washing vegetables or taking a bath is still clean enough to flush the toilet. Just pour the water into the bowl of the toilet and it will flush without pulling the handle.
  5. Install a new toilet. Although this may be expensive in the short term, a high-flow, leaky toilet can cost a lot in terms of water usage. An old toilet can use up to eight gallons, a new toilet can use under two. Five flushes per day × 4 gallons per flush × 365 days per year × 2 people in the house = 14,600 gallons a year! That is more than two fire truck tankers worth of water!

By using these tips and others from the articles in this series, hopefully you can reduce your water usage. In the city of Flint, Mich., water bills are assessed in “units” of 748 gallons. If you go over 748 gallons by any amount, you have to pay for another “unit.” Contact your local utility to see how water rates are assessed in your area. By keeping your household water usage under control, you can save money and help the planet at the same time.

Related MSU Extension articles:

Other resources of information:

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