The concept of green plumbing has grown rapidly in states and countries where water
conservation is most concerning. California, Arizona and Texas are three states that regularly
face water crises because of arid conditions. Droughts have gone on for years in some of these
states. And even when rain comes, it is not enough to overcome the dry conditions.
Of course, companies and individuals in these states have devised water-saving strategies that
are helpful even in states that do not face a shortage of rainfall or draconian water rationing.
Green plumbing techniques will save water, money and the fragile water systems
around us that we prize so highly for our recreation and enjoyment. Surveys have shown that up
to 19% of household water is used in toilet flushing. In many areas more than one-third of water
usage was for watering lawns and gardens.
The cynic will ask, “What should I do, stop drinking water?” The answer is “No,” of
course. But, a practical place to start with green plumbing is the shower. Showers built 30 years ago, use 10 gallons of water per minute. A 10-minute shower uses 100 gallons of water. In contrast, a new shower head purchased today uses 2.5 gallons of water per minute. That same 10-minute shower would then consume 25 gallons of water, a 75-gallon saving. If you have a family of five, do the math. It could make for lively discussion around the dinner table.
Dual flush toilet
Now, let’s talk about the toilet, a key element in green plumbing. Some attempts at water saving
toilets in the 1990s were disastrous. It often took two to three flushes to get the task done. So
much for water saving. Today’s toilets are more efficient and only require a single flush. Toilets
manufactured in the mid-1990s and before generally required 3.5 gallons to flush the toilet.
Today’s toilets can save some 4,000 gallons per person per year. If you have a four-person
family, that's 16,000 gallons of water. There's no doubt that is substantial.
The age-old question asked of children going to the bathroom: “Do you have to do number 1 or
number 2?” If you have a dual flush toilet installed, that question would be relevant again. With a
normal toilet liquid and solid waste are handled exactly the same way, water from the tank
enters the bowl and forces the waste down the drain. An important issue is that liquid waste
requires approximately half the water to flush than does solid waste.
The dual flush toilet has a larger hole at the bottom than does a regular toilet, allowing easier
exit of waste and creates fewer clogs as well. For liquid waste, a smaller amount of water is
sufficient for the flush. For solid waste, the larger amount is used. Because of the larger hole in
the bottom of the dual flush toilet, the drain handles either type of waste. The water savings can
be thousands of gallons of water per year.
Even if you plan to continue using your regular toilet, you can be on the alert for water saving
ideas. A poorly fitting flapper at the bottom of the tank frequently allows unneeded water to leak
into the bowl. The flapper is supposed to float downward slowly after a flush as water from the
tank fills the bowl. When the flapper does not fit snugly, water might continue dribbling into the bowl after it has filled to its normal height. Check the flapper regularly and replace when
Another issue when you go green with plumbing is gray water. According to research from the
University of Arizona, some 60 percent of the water that goes down the drain in a normal home
has the potential to be reused. Water that is not contaminated with fecal matter is called
Think about it. Grey water from your lavatory, kitchen sink or washing machine can be
redirected to use for watering your lawn or garden. Bits of food and other items can serve as
fertilizer for plants and thus fulfill a secondary function. But the grey water should not be sprayed
so that it lands on the tops of the crops—especially edible plants.
Water used in chemical processes is not considered grey water and should be treated.
Separating grey water from “blackwater” or water with fecal matter can often be complicated. It’s
best to consult your plumbing technician about the best method for use. Some homeowners
have been able to reroute water from the laundry area for use as greywater, since its water
system is not usually directly connected to the home’s sewage system.
Green plumbing is an emerging practice in the plumbing world.
By examining water usage in a shower, toilet and grey water, homeowners can save hundreds, and sometimes thousands of gallons of water. This saves the consumer money and means less strain on the overtaxed sewage treatment systems of cities and towns. The environment is smiling at you.