Two students at the University of East Anglia, United Kingdom made news recently by proposing significant water savings by skipping going to the toilet when they wake up and ‘spending their first penny’ in the shower.
It is an awkward subject, but we are willing to tackle the difficult issues around efficient use of water. The obvious point is that water from the shower and the water from your toilet both end up at the same place… at the sewage treatment plant.
We are not qualified to provide health advice but according to NSW Health there are potential health risks. “While urine in a healthy person is sterile, some bladder infections may pass microorganisms in urine. However, the potential for these organisms to survive and cause infection is considered remote.”
What is clear however is if you wee in the shower then that water is no longer considered greywater, so you can’t use the water on your garden.
Taking a different tack, we got the calculator out, and found the idea generates a number of very relevant considerations.
Firstly, how much water will you save? It depends on a number of factors:
- How much water does your toilet use? An old fashioned single flush might use 11 litres for each flush, while a modern toilet could get away with as little as 3 litres for a half flush. Based on these figures over a whole year you might save between 1500 litres or 4000 litres each year. At over $3/kl that comes to between $5 and $13 in the cost of water.
- How much water does your shower use? If you spent a little longer in the shower after “spending a penny” you could use between 7.5 and 16 litres for each extra minute. Frankly if you took into account the energy to heat the water you would be worse off after one minute of extra showering.
For $13 a year, I would be happy to stick to the conventional toilet. Especially if you look at some other very simple things you could do in your bathroom, based on upgrading from old, pre-millennium drought appliances.
- How efficient is your showerhead? Upgrading to a modern showerhead will save 15,000 litres annually which is 10 times as much as “spending that first penny” in the shower rather than the toilet.
- How efficient is your toilet? If you have an old single flush toilet you can save 22,000 litres annually which is 15 times as much as spending the penny in the shower.
- On the grounds that you have a washing machine in your bathroom (well some people do) front loaders are fantastically water efficient and can save 14,000 litres annually.
- And for a truly Australian option, have you heard one third of all households in this wide brown land own a rainwater tank? Rainwater tanks provide between 40,000 and 90,000 litres of rainwater each year if they are connected to indoor (toilet, washing machine) and outdoor (gardening, washing) uses.
We have heard all sorts of call ins to radio stations on this one, from wee preventing tinea on your feet to hardening calluses. What do you think?