By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

We tell our children to turn off the tap while they’re brushing their teeth. Which is a good idea. It saves a little water and gets them thinking about natural resources.

American Standard's dual flush toilet uses 1.6 gallons for a full flush and .8 of a gallon for a small flush

But then we grown-ups clomp across the room and use three gallons of clean potable water to flush the toilet. And we do this repeatedly, throughout the day.

We should be flushed with embarrassment over such a ridiculous waste.

Thankfully, this egregious excess has not gone unnoticed by plumbing manufacturers. They’ve been churning out more conserving devices, ranging from low-flow shower heads to waterless urinals for home use. So rather than head back in time to the outhouse, we’ve got new tech options that can help us save  precious freshwater.

American Standard, a brand we all recognize from that little blue stamp on the old porcelain throne, has come up with a way to track our bathroom water usage, and figure both our water and dollar savings as we make changes.

The company’s website on water efficiency outlines how to have a “Responsible Bathroom.” It highlights the newest products, such as toilets that use 1.1 gallons of water per flush , and provides a chart or calculator showing the savings. The manufacturer also is sponsoring a contest (prizes include a rafting trip or beach vacation) and a tour showcasing the lastest devices. The tour, which is stopping in dozens of cities across the country, is open to the public.

American Standard’s calculator chart is illuminating. It tells us, for instance, that a new 1.1 gallon per flush (gpf) toilet could save us $191 and 31,536 gallons of water every year compared with the old-style 3-gallon whoosher in a household where three toilets gets flushed 12 times a day (and water costs $6.06 per 1,000 gallons). That’s real money, and enough water to fill a large swimming pool.

American Standard’s website offers many tips for saving water, noting the value of using aerators on faucets and low-flow showerheads. It also maps where consumers can get Cash for Flushers rebates when upgrading their, um, facilities.

The multi-media blitz sagely notes that while water conservation has not gotten as much attention as electricity conservation, mainly because water remains relatively affordable, there’s a cloud ahead — and its not a rain cloud either: Costs are rising, and 36 states predict water shortages.

Something to think about next time you flush.

  • American Standard is just one brand offering low-flush and dual-flush toilets and other water-saving plumbing fixtures. When shopping for any brand look for the EPA’s WaterSense label, which sets minimum thresholds for water conservation. (You may well find products that exceed the government’s standards). The WaterSense website gives a once-over-lightly tutorial on water-saving features in its products section; though it spends more time drumming in the importance of looking for the WaterSense label than it does explaining these new developments.
  • To see American Standard’s new water-saving devices in person visit the ResponsibleBathroomTour website, and find cities where the company is visiting with mobile showrooms. The tour, which began in April, will have made 300 stops in dozens of cities by the time it concludes in November 2010.

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