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Cary Brunswick

August 16, 2010

Life could be enjoyed more by saving resources

This is all about the flush.

But don’t blush, or cuss, or wish I would hush, because even a lush knows many toilets gush way too much.

Yes, I was looking at a newspaper advertising insert the other day and noticed that some modern toilets selling for less than $100 offer 1.1 gallon tanks, which are much smaller than the older models that remain prevalent in so many of our older homes, apartments and businesses.

On the same day, I couldn’t help but read about Oneonta spending $20,000 for some out-of-state firm to come up with a new motto and logo for the community.

Talk about a waste of money. At least we can be thankful that it was not entirely tax dollars. The project was funded by a coalition that included local colleges, businesses, municipalities, cultural organizations and other groups, Given the results, ``Life Enjoyed’’ set on a background featuring a black-eyed Susan, I kept thinking that the money could have been used for a variety of more-useful purposes.

Of course, many other people, including members of the editorial board of this newspaper, also were disappointed with what was obtained for the money. And some suggested that, indeed, other, more important community needs could have been addressed instead.

Like 200 new and efficient toilets, or how about 50 percent funding for 400 of them, or some formula based on income for 500 or more. And such a project would have benefits far beyond the lower water bills for those who do the flushing.

You see, older toilets typically used up to seven gallons per flush. Over time, tank sizes were deceased to a standard of 3.5 gallons. Many older homes still have that size and, unless you load the tank up with bricks, that’s a lot of water going down the drain.

The standard size in recent years has been lowered to 1.6 gallons, but that’s only if you have a newer model. Just by switching to the 1.6-gallon variety, experts say, the average family could conserve more than 3,000 gallons of water a year and trim its annual water bill by up to $100.

Oneonta has a reservoir and wells, and only during severely dry seasons have there been issues with drought. But saving thousands of gallons of water per family with an upgraded toilet, at least partially financed with the money wasted on the ``Life Enjoyed’’ New Hampshire outfit, sounds like real community progress.   

And now, the more efficient toilets on the market use as little as 1.1 gallons per flush.

According to federal Environmental Protection Agency, the average person likely will flush the toilet nearly 140,000 times during a lifetime. Based on that, if every home with an older, inefficient toilet replaced it with new 1.1-gallon model, the EPA says nationally we would save nearly 640 billion gallons of water per year, equal to more than two weeks of flow over Niagara Falls.

As we know, what goes in must come out, so in addition to conserving thousands of gallons of water a day in Oneonta, more-efficient toilets also would prevent all those wasted gallons of water from going to the wastewater treatment plant. It could then be operated more efficiently and less costly.

I’m sure the Susquehanna River would be much healthier without that excess wastewater discharged each day. Imagine if all communities up and down the river stopped releasing so much water into it each day. It certainly would be a good way to help clean up the river.

Then there’s the question of how a community such as Oneonta comes up with hundreds of new and efficient toilets. Naturally, it could be a boon for local home-improvement stores.

Split the order between all the local suppliers and factor in the installations for those who aren’t the do-it-yourselfers, and you’re talking lots of business and perhaps even some jobs.

On a national scale, such a project would mean millions of new toilets and perhaps thousands of jobs.

But it is too late now for that $20,000 ``Life Enjoyed’’ payout. In the future, however, there will be other opportunities, and the city, town and community groups should keep the value of such a project in mind.

Some say one of civilization’s greatest achievements are the modern sewage and wastewater treatment systems.

A progressive next step would be to help communities make flushing more efficient by conserving water and producing less waste.

Cary Brunswick of Oneonta is a freelance writer and editor. He can be reached at

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