"Where's the Water?" Green Quiz Challenge

Where do you use most of the drinkable water in your house?

A. The kitchen sink

B. The garden hose

C. The toilet

Answer: C, the toilet

Congratulations to this week's winner, Kathleen, who answered this quiz challenge correctly and will receive an EarthShare reusable bag and other fun environmental goodies.

It’s true -- many people flush the majority of their drinkable water down the drain each day. But you don’t have to let your toilet squander your precious water resources.

Leak Not, Waste Not


According to the Rocky Mountain Institute, toilets that slowly leak into the bowl waste 5% of all residential water in the U.S., but individual toilets can reach as high as 50% of all household water use.

You can’t detect this type of leak just by looking, but your toilet could be silently wasting thousands of gallons of water each year and placing undue pressure on your septic system. Luckily, it’s easy to check if your toilet is leaking; all you need is this guide from RMI and some dark food coloring.

If you do detect a leak in your toilet, the culprit is most likely a cracked or defective toilet valve, which is cheap and easy to replace at your local hardware store.

 Go Low-Flow

According to the EPA, switching to water-efficient appliances, often referred to as low-flow fixtures , would help the country save more than 3 trillion gallons of water and more than $18 billion per year.

If your toilet was manufactured in the early nineties, it is likely the 3.5 gpf (gallons per flush) model. New low-flow toilets reduce water use to 1.6 gpf or lower. And, if you’re in the market for a new toilet, investing in a newer model will pay off in water savings. According to the Federal Energy Management Program , making the switch would reduce one person’s annual water use from 27,300 gallons to 12,500 gallons a year!

Calculate your water savings with the EPA’s WaterSense calculator to see how much water your household could save by making the switch to water-efficient appliances. And make sure you familiarize yourself with the many different types of toilets before you invest:

Gravity-fed tank – The most common type of toilet design, gravity-fed toilets depend on the weight of the water in the tank to create the flushing action.

Two-button flush – These types are common in Australia and abroad. This model allows for two flush options depending on your needs, which can save a lot of water in the long run.

Power-assist or pressure-assisted – This system use compressed air within the reservoir, is generally very high performance with significant water savings, but is more expensive.

Retrofit your Commode

If you’re not in the market to replace your toilet, but you still want to try to reduce your water consumption, there are still options for you. Temporary fixes to reduce your toilet’s water use (and your water bill) range from adjusting the float arm 10-15% downward , to carefully placing a milk jug or other object in the back of the toilet to displace water.

As described by the Alliance for Water Efficiency, there are also toilet retrofit devices on the market which can increase your water efficiency substantially.

More Water Conservation Resources:

WaterSense , U.S. EPA

Environmental Benefits of Water Efficiency , U.S. EPA

Water Efficiency for Home [pdf], RMI

Low-Flow Fixtures and Water-Efficient Appliances, NRDC

The Lowdown on Low-Flow Toilets, HGTV.com

5 Tips for Choosing a Low-Flow Toilet, GreenHomeGuide


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I can't believe the amount of water we waste. You'd think figuring this conservation stuff out would be harder than learning how to fly an airplane based on what we're seeing, but it's not. We just need people to plane better, and put a little more effort in it.

- Andy

Timothy Peterson

That is so gross. Seriously, nasty. I'd still rather drink from the tap, thank you very much. Ugh...I won't be able to sleep now.

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