For the past four years, California has been facing devastating drought.
Oregon, where I live, has also been in a severe drought.
A large percentage of California’s water use and overuse comes from agriculture, some 80 percent, according to UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability (source).
Across the state, 13 percent of California’s water use comes from residences, except in Southern California where residents have typically been using up to 54 percent of the water consumed.
Yes, we should be much smarter and more strategic about how and when we water our lawns. (Some argue we should stop all together. Others say we should cut back slowly, hand water, and be sure to keep trees alive so we don’t destroy the micro ecosystems in our back yards.)
Yes, we should turn off the water when brushing our teeth. This no-brainer can save gallons of water a day.
But there’s something else we can all do that will make a drastic and immediate positive impact on water use throughout the country: stop flushing the toilet after you pee.
If it’s yellow, let it mellow.
If it’s brown, flush it down.
The average person flushes the toilet 5-6 times a day. The average toilet uses about 3.5 gallons of water per flush, though this varies widely, from as little as 1.2 to as much as 7.0 gallons, depending on your toilet (source).
That’s over 19 gallons of water per person per day that each person in your home is using just to flush the toilet.
In a family of four, that means that you are using over 76 gallons of water per day just to flush the toilet. That’s enough water to fill up your bathtub twice!
There are about 39 million people in the state of California. IF EVERY CALIFORNIAN STOPPED FLUSHING URINE, CALIFORNIA WOULD SAVE AT LEAST 624 MILLION GALLONS OF WATER A DAY.
Let the pee mellow, California. Let it mellow in Oregon, too, and in every other state in the union.
It helps the environment and costs you less money. A win-win for everyone.
If you’re well hydrated and you keep the toilet lid closed, you won’t notice the smell.
If it gets stinky, you can always flush it.
Another option is to simply pee OUTSIDE in your backyard. That way you use no water at all and have no potential unpleasant smell in the bathroom.
You can also pee in the shower (“go with the flow”), which will also help save millions of gallons of water per year.
Now please excuse me. There’s some lavender in the yard that needs “watering.”
Jennifer Margulis, Ph.D., is an award-winning journalist and Fulbright grantee. She lived and worked in Niger, West Africa, one of the world’s poorest and most drought-stricken countries.