“One Solution Fits all” — Water Conservation

The number of people facing water scarcity is continuing to grow at an alarming rate, with 2.7 billion individuals facing this reality today. It is projected that by 2025, two thirds of the world will suffer from water scarcity (World Wildlife Foundation). What can we do to change the fate of our world? While many individuals neglect to think about their daily water usage, for billions of people, water may be the most important thing on their mind. For many of us, the abundance of available water makes it difficult to think about monitoring our daily use. However, conserving water may not always require daily recognition. An old water conservation trick gives every US homeowner the opportunity to not only reduce their water bill, but save the fate of the world while doing so — without requiring a second thought.

The most universal item in every American home, the toilet, represents nearly one third of total indoor home water consumption (U.S. News). This makes the toilet the biggest target in reducing water use for every American homeowner. An average family of four can use almost 900 gallons of water every week just by flushing the toilet (American Water Works Association). And while we can’t reduce the use of the toilet, we can increase the efficiency to conserve water with every flush. While new federal regulation requires new toilets to have 1.6 gallons per flush, the vast majority of American homes have older toilets with 3.5 to 5 GPF. However, buying a new toilet isn’t the only way to reduce GPF, or the most affordable.

The old phrase to “drop a brick” in the toilet may be the solution to this problem. This funny play on words can be used to encourage people to conserve water. In the 90’s, it was common to place a concrete brick in the tank of a toilet to displace water and prevent all of it from traveling into the bowl with each flush. While this ingenious play on words worked initially by decreasing the GPF for old toilets, the bricks began to deteriorate and damage both the toilet and plumbing pipes (Treehugger). In theory, this idea could have saved each home thousands of gallons per flush over the course of the year, but would ultimately lead to a large cost of repair.

Using the same concept, there is a much safer option that is available to every homeowner in the United States. Repurposing a plastic bottle can not only prevent it from littering the Earth, but also gives it the ability to conserve water and reduce your bill. Placing a plastic bottle in the tank of your toilet can displace water the same way a brick does, but it eliminates the possibility of eventual property damage from deterioration. However, due to the buoyancy of a filled water bottle, it could damage the flushing mechanism during use. To resolve this issue, a handful of marbles or rocks in the bottle will hold the bottle safely away from the flushing components, and still displace water to reduce the GPF of any toilet. This solution only requires minimal installation time, and occasional check-ups, making it possibly the easiest water conservation habit.

An old plastic bottle is easily available to all US homeowners, allowing water conservation to be an option for everyone, and eliminating the cost of replacing toilets or purchasing WaterSense products. In addition to the availability and negligent cost, this solution is also easy to adjust and work for toilets of all GPF values. Old toilets with high GPF values ranging from 3.5 to 5 GPF are using about 6,388 to 9,125 gallons every year just by flushing, whereas new toilets with standard 1.6 GPF only use 2,920 gallons per year. By placing larger bottles, such as liter bottles, or several 17 oz water bottles, you can displace more water in older toilets, which waste significantly more water. Standard toilets may only require a single bottle to decrease their GPF to 1.28 and officially become water efficient, saving almost 900 gallons every year (Regional Water Providers Consortium). The ability to vary the water bottle quantity or size allows each homeowner to conserve water most effectively for their situation. Even the difference in 1.6 to 1.28 GPF can gradually save hundreds of gallons, and prevent wasting water. This plastic bottle solution is not only affordable for all, but can be controlled and varied for every type of situation, making this the “one solution fits all” for conserving water daily.

The average recommended daily water intake for humans is half a gallon (One Medical), which is at least double the amount of water used in every toilet flush. If every US homeowner implemented this water conservation solution in just one toilet -approximately 126 million toilets (Statista)- we could save billions of gallons of clean drinking water every year cumulatively. This solution is realistic and simple enough to be used by every American, and fights the fate of our world every day. In addition, it breaks the stigma of “giving up” any daily habit to conserve water, and works constantly without a second thought. Every individual now has the ability conserve water comfortably, and contribute to the nationwide effort of securing a future with water availability for every man, woman, and child.