Action: Stand a full water bottle in your old toilet cistern

Reducing your water usage contributes to protecting our environment in several ways

Every day, in western developed countries, the average person flushes a toilet 4 or 5 times. With older toilets, this means 4 or more gallons of water down the drain. That’s 18 gallons of toilet water per day, per person – perhaps even more.

If you have an older toilet you can reduce your water usage by placing a bottle of water in the cistern. It’s quick, free and easy. In fact, if you pay for your water by volume, you will save money as well.

What to do

  • take a used plastic water bottle (yes, we know they shouldn’t even exist, but they do!)
  • fill it about 1/3 full of clean stones (this weights it down so it stays in place)
  • top it up with cold water
  • holding it underwater, screw the cap on tightly (you don’t want any air in it at all)
  • lift the lid of the cistern
  • place the bottle so it does not interfere with the flush mechanism or pipes
  • if can be upright or on it’s side
  • replace the lid of the cistern
  • job done!

If you use a 750ml bottle you will save about 3 litres of water every day, per person.

Take care to ensure that flushing is still adequate, on more modern toilets for example the flush is much less than older ones, and may already be at the minimum needed to be hygienic.

Why is this important?

There are very good reasons to limit flushing if you can:

  • it saves water, a resource we take too much for granted in the developed world
  • climate change is already leading to difficulties with water supplies in some countries
  • for household that pay for water by the cubic metre, it saves money

Even in countries where a continual supply of clean water is currently taken for granted, systems are under strain. Not just our infrastructure, but supplies too; aquifers and reservoirs get very low each summer and our water tables (the natural level of underground water) are being reduced. This impacts on our eco-systems to the detriment of plants and wildlife, as well as on our own water security.

Toilets and water

The good news is that toilets have improved; in the 1990s new regulations limited the flush volume. However, many older homes still have their original high volume setup.

Many years ago even, when water was scarce, people used bricks in the toilet to decrease water usage. Bricks, however, weren’t ideal for this, as they degraded under the water and sent pipe-damaging sediment down the drain. Instead, a plastic bottle full of stones and water does the trick nicely.

Take action 188

If you have an old high-volume toilet, do this today … it’s free, quick and easy. Another no-brainer, really!

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