Do you need to flush every time?

toilet etiquette12 April 2018.

That’s the expected day that there’ll be no more water left to service the population of Cape Town, South Africa. As a result folk are being asked to reduce their water usage to 50 litres a day. That may sound like a lot, but it really isn’t. It’s little more than three flushes of a standard toilet cistern. The BBC have reported on their attempts to stave off “Day Zero“.

It isn’t just South Africa suffering from water shortages. The volume levels of the Great Lakes may not be critical, but the levels have dramatically reduced. A combination of evaporation and siphoning off water for industry and domestic use has seen volume drop.

Elsewhere we know that places like Israel use sea water to help provide water for their population. Pumping water from the Sea of Galilee may seem like an expensive pastime, but when your country has little rain for most of the year, what are your options? Admittedly there are ways of doing it without adversely affecting the Palestinians, but let’s leave that there for now.

Back in the UK we don’t think too hard about wasting water. It is relatively rare to have any restrictions. We have the occasion hose pipe ban in the summer, but we haven’t had a really hard time since the mid 1970s, and that was exceptional.

So what can we all do to reduce our water usage? There’s the usual advice. You know stuff like:

  • Shower rather than bath.
  • Don’t leave the tap running unnecessarily (e.g. whilst you wash your teeth).
  • Fix the washers on dripping taps.
  • Use a water butt in the garden to capture rainfall.

But the Capetonians have taken one step further. It’s not something anyone squeamish about toilet etiquette will like, but it does make good sense. They’ve adopted the popular slogan:

“If it’s yellow let it mellow. If it’s brown flush it down.”

Maybe we should follow suit before it’s too late.

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