Turn it on in Settings › Safari to view this website.
This message will be pushed to the admin's iPhone instantly.
The law, passed during an environmentalist hysteria, mandated that all toilets sold in the U.S. use no more than 1.6 gallons of water per flush. This was a devastating setback in the progress of civilization. FULL ARTICLE by Jeffrey Tucker
Loved the further strike against IP.
Environmentalists talk of water being scarce, yet where I live, I can get about 5 gallons of water for a penny (twice that for the first 2000 gallons a month). A few months ago there was a drought, with the main local lake’s level falling drastically, yet I could still get 5 gallons of water for a penny. They instituted restrictions on what days one could water, banned sidewalk washing and charity car washes, and even required restaurants to refrain from giving customers glasses of water unless they were asked for. Yet I could still get 5 gallons of water for a penny. If water is really scarce and people are using “too much”, its price should be raised so that the market can decide how best to allocate it. If a person desires a strong flush, he can use a 5-gallon toilet (or 25-gallon, if he so desires). Not everyone would use such a large toilet, because many have no problems with 1.5-gallon toilets, and prefer the reduced water usage (and perhaps a plunger nearby). In the next few years of course we’re going to experience the same with light bulbs, with incandescent bulbs being banned…
In that case, if you can’t sell a high water flow toilet and if you can’t buy one.
At least the restaurant manager could have one custom made.
If I want a high flow toilet, I will build it myself from scratch.
“The new law was enforced with fines and imprisonment.”
A jailbird talking to another jailbird.
Why are you in prison ?
Because I bought a big toilet.
This is unconstitutional. It would be hilarious if it was not so tragic.
LOL. Suspicions about Jeffrey Tucker confirmed.
“For years, there was a vibrant black market for Canadian toilet tanks and a profitable smuggling operation in effect.”
I’ve just spit my coffee on my keyboard reading this.
So the big toilet prohibition spawned a toilet mafia.
Ha ha. I have a fairly new house, which means new toilets, and I hate them. And yes, there is a plunger beside each one.
Great article, concerning the effect of laws. I’m emailing a link out to people with toilet problems who vote socialist every election.
You are the best, you are a genius. The way you can mix humor and serious in a homogeneous yet subtle manner.
That article of yours is pure power and should be distributed all over the internet.
I feel vindicated by your article. I feel like you bring us justice.
Hey, maybe we should start mounting the 1.5 gallon tank high up on the wall, for more water pressure…. oh, wait…
Amazing article–concise, crisp, interesting, insightful. Wonderful.
Shay makes an important point that I think needs to be noted. The problem isn’t only gov. restrictions on water usage by toilets, but those restrictions follow out of previous government suppression of the market for water.
It may be that 5 gallons of water per flush was wasteful for the wishes of the vast majority of people, maybe the market would have settled nominally on, say, 2.75 gallons per flush, with more speciality, niche products for those wishing to use more or less. Maybe the average size would vary based on scarcity of water in that region. The problem is we cannot know and never will until a true market for the consumption of water and the processing/disposal of sewage is allowed to exist.
If water is really as scarce as our “leaders” claim then the price should be higher, and were the price higher gov regulations on toilet size, and admonitions to conserve water would be completely superfluous. People would conserve out of their own self interest, and in the manner most consistent with their own desires and circumstances. The more fundamental problem is that we have government supplied water, with all the mis-allocations and lack of information for rational decision-making that implies. These ridiculous toilet size regulations are just the inescapable result of previous interventions.
What is this? I came to the comments section expecting a menagerie of potty humour. Instead I find respectable (albeit duly deserved) comments for Mr. Tucker.
I expected to read the following in the comments section:
“What a bunch of crap.”
“This place is going down the toilet.”
You will note that I systematically avoided all potty humor in the article too. Sometimes it is more interesting not to do the obvious.
In 1880, Sir Thomas Crapper invented the modern flush toilet. In 1992, Al Gore invented the toilet that did not flush.
Restricting the flush volume for toilets seems to be an instance of “the precautionary principle” at work. The idea is that, while water may not be scarce now, it could become scarce in the future. So in order to prevent this possible future scarcity, we’ll make water scarcer in certain areas (such as toiletry).
Of course, the logical outcome of the precautionary principle is nihilism. The universe, and everything in it, should never have existed, because its existence makes possible all these different calamities!
Jeffrey, another masterful piece! I agree with you that avoiding “potty humor” made it all that much more better. Anyhow, I forwarded it on to many of my freinds. I love this site and how it reveals the hidden hand of government is always near, even in those most personal of places.
Fun article! Now, just so you know, my new low flow toilet flushes better than any I have ever owned; but it did require a fix and manufacturer’s update to do so.
How long before they mandate a no flow tank? They have to raise the bar and make it really challenging! (Oddly, I seem to recall some foaming toilet that is super low flow.)
Articles like these are the occasions when Mr. Tucker is at his best, in my opinion. The dignity of civilized life is found in the details â€” details that the observant Tucker masterfully draws out. Great article, Jeff!
The Onion, as usual, had the appropriate headline:
Toilet That Uses 50 Percent Less Water Must Be Flushed Six Times
The headline on that Onion article rings true for me.
A few years ago, I lived in an apartment with a recently installed newer model toilet.
By its ergonomic and futuristic design, I assumed it must be some type of “energy efficient” neo-toilet. Unfortunately, outside of its look, there was nothing “neo” about it. If anything, it was a huge step backward in regards to function, which is what matters in the end.
What should normally take one flush took two, three, and sometimes four. It made me wonder how anyone would buy it, especially if it was actually supposed to “save” water and be more efficient. Naturally, I assumed it’s sale only happened via government regulation of some kind. After reading this article, my suspicions were confirmed.
Yet another example of government waste.
I had to install a new toilet in a house I bought in Cleveland a decade ago (technical reasons, not bureaucracy). I had absolutely no problem flushing it, and…let’s just say I eat a lot of fiber, so if there were a problem with the design, I would have noticed
OTOH, if you want to talk about governments and water waste, consider the rest areas on the Ohio Turnpike. These toilets are all automatic, which is insulting because it assumes that I don’t have the couth to flush afterwards. Worse, they are inaccurate. The last time I used one, it flushed twice as I sat there, acting as a cold and ineffectual bidet. Then I finished, left the stall, and waited in vain for the unit to flush.
When we bought our house in 1994, it had a “good” toilet. We never had a problem…never. It came time to change the wax ring one time and we enlisted the help of my brother-in-law who is 6’3″ and 300 lbs. I no sooner got the words “gently now” out of my mouth. There was a pop. The rest is history. You get what you pay for in cheap toilets. But with a 1 bathroom house, you need something NOW! That is when I found out that toilet parts (tanks and stools) are not interchangeable, much to my chagrin. So we now support the plunger manufacturers of the country. LOL.
And I hope that the Okeefenokee gators are happy that everybody uses “weenie” toilets since that was another reason why the environmentalists pushed so hard for the low-flush toilets. The Everglades was being destroyed. But I am sure that is a subject for another column.
i dont know the extent to which 1.6 gallons of poopy water going to a individual septic system makes much of a differnce if it gets processed through a monopoly municipal water treatment system.
an additional 1.4 gallons into ones own septic system probobaly doesnt make much difference – its the solids that get broken down and the extrat water gets drained – others may be ably to clarify. no pun.
for a municipal wastewater system it could mean nearly a doubling of the water processed that results from taking craps.
but could also free up other water uses which still would make its way through the wastewater system.
i dont know if it makes a difference at all except for additional toilet blockages if the pressure is low.
Speaking of gov. waste… over the past few years here in the Atlanta area we had droughts and very draconian water restrictions. The irony never escaped me when listening as the radio traffic reports told of water main breaks in the city shutting down various roadways (which was at least a weekly occurrence) that the very people threatening grandmas’ with fines and jail time for watering their prize petunia’s (even saving used bathwater for this purpose was for some reason forbidden) were the ones wasting tens of thousands of gallons at a time thanks to their decrepit and poorly maintained infrastructure.
Not to mention that the Army corp of engineers (who do grave disservice to my profession’s honorable name) accidentally dumped several billion gallons of stored water out of the region’s largest reservoir because someone failed to properly calibrate a water level gauge and no one had the sense to say “the lake seems a little low to be dumping water like it’s at flood levels”.
i guess composting toilets are one way to avoid flushing altogether.
A client in the plumbing supply business told me years ago a bit more about this history. As the story goes, the government (go figure) commissioned a study of this problem of massive toilets that were wasting millions of gallons of scarce water. The study returned a finding that in order to properly dispose of the human waste a minimum of 2..0 gallons of water was required……So of course, the law mandated 1.6 gallons.
A follow-up to this story…..I live in an old home that has one of those WONDERFUL 5 gallon monster toilets. I had a plumber in for some work. He walked into the bathroom, got all misty-eyed, turned to me and said…..”Never replace that toilet. You could flush a cat down that thing”. We discussed the story above. He laughed and replied, “You know the funny thing, they (gov’t) are actually causing the waste of more water……Everyone flushes twice now- once for the poop and once for the paper”. Sad but true.
This 6 liter (1.6 gal) flush is another gift to us from the EU. Holland’s had them since the 1970′s.
My gift to all Mises readers is my solution. A bucket, with at least 3 gallons of water contained, standing not far from the plunger.
I now expect to soon see designers buckets in the housewares aisle.
To help enlighten novices to the wonders of the free market and the harmful, rippling effects of governmental interference, I frequently cite the example of Coca-Cola, which had to make a product-selection change, from cane sugar to the inferior high-fructose corn syrup, as a result of corn and sugar price manipulations. Coke sucks now. Thanks a lot, Big Brother.
But this low-flow toilet example is much more powerful and attention-grabbing. It is sure to help flush erroneous thinking out of people’s minds.
This seems to be incomplete.
We should continue to pull the thread and see where it leads. If the proprietor of said toilet had to (rightly) provide for the allocation of nonsubsidized scare water resources (might be espensive, especially if you are living in the middle of the desert – leaky pipes notwithstanding) and the disposal of used water in a way that minimized negative externalities for his neighbors (totally undersized municipal wastewater plants, anyone), would said proprietor decide to install a large water tank or a small one? I would tend to think when the REAL bill came due, he would choose the latter. In a hurry.
I’m surprised to get such drivel from the von Mises site. I’ve been in building and construction for close to 40 years and can say I’ve lived through all the sense and nonsense of ever evolving toilet design. Some of the early 1.6 gallon models were doozies for sure. Designs have improved though and become more responsible. I recently purchased a Kohler tank/ toilet bowl unit for around $130. Once installed, its 1.6 gallon efficiency was a wonder to behold – even when challenged with a “serious” deposit. Bottom line is “buyer beware”! Some fancy toilets costing over $1000 are total disasters: poor flushing, sweating tanks, odd noises, uncomfortable, very bulky, etc. You have to know what you’re doing. The right bowl, properly installed should be a pleasure to use. Too bad your sorry experience at the Chinese takeout prompted you to discredit a micro portion of a whole industry and the beneficial motives behind it.
“…the owners, who themselves are probably mystified as to why toilets in communist China probably worked just fine but in capitalist America are throwing filth all over their restaurant.”
In China they use this type of toilets:
In my own country, Bulgaria, they were mandatory for public buildings until 1989. Most schools and universities still use them.
Had to get a higher toilet because The Wife got a hip job last year. The TOTO flushes fine and seems to stay cleaner than any we have had.
This notion of toilet nostalgia stinks. I used to have a good old 10-gallon flush toilet (5 gal x 2 flushes for anything substantial), but replaced it with a 1.6-gallon flush Kohler that works every time. Truly “a wonder to behold.”
I tired of the multiple flush and got a plastic pipe that fits over the overflow tube raising it a few inches.
I guess my tank is larger (it’s old) but at some point the innards got changed and the newer float and overflow stuff are also designed to limit how high you can fill the tank. I can now reach the old water line that shows in the tank – and I’m now saving water by using only one flush per use.
It’s unreasonable to expect a Misesian to admire anything of European provenance apart from dead Austrian economists, especially in matters of plumbing, but we can learn a thing or two from European toilets. Nowadays any reasonably new toilet on the continent has two flush buttons: one for small flushes (let’s call it Button Number One) and onefor big flushes (Button Number Two). I’m not even sure government regulation played a part. Typically, when you are charged the full, instead of subsidized, price for something you use it more sparingly.If the extra few gallons a flush cost you something significant you will use Button Number Two only when necessary. It’s similar with the automatic light timers you find in European stairwells, which stay on for a minute or two and then switch off automatically. Energy savings without government intervention. Now if only we could combine the European two-flush system with the Japanese built-in bidet and air drying system we could achieve something close to paradise on Earth.
I lived in Asia for 4 years and when I moved back there was something different about the toilets I couldn’t quite put my finger on…. now I know.
In the article Jeffrey Tucker said the low flow toilet mess began “in 1994, when Congress passed the Energy Policy and Conservation Act”. This is not correct. Low flow toilets were mandated in 1992 by the Energy Policy Act. The Energy Policy and Conservation Act cited in the article was passed in 1975.
Of course a 1.6 gallon flusher will work – perhaps always. Whether or not a 1.6 flusher is adequate most of the time, for most people, in most situations is irrelevant. The underlying question here is do/should toilet manufacturers have the right to produce (and consequently, do/should I have the right to purchase – even if I’m the only one in the entire world who wants one) a five or – as noted above – 25 gallon flush toilet if there are those desire one? The Gov’t – via force, i.e. legislation – has said no.
In the interest of the “common good”, in this instance in order to conserve water, the State has used its power to meet the request of one group (environmentalists) at the expense of another, namely all those who don’t mind spending the extra money for water in order to avoid a possible embarrassing situation – not only for themselves, but for their guests or, as in the business example given in the article, one’s patrons.
How this is not an infringement on the rights of toilet manufacturers and thus unconstitutional is beyond me.
One could carry this over to health care, ‘cap and trade’, the overwhelming majority of legislation that has already passed or is now being proposed in Congress. ALL infringe on the rights of one group at the behest of another. Yet, as Ayn Rand wrote, “there can be no such thing as the right to enslave.”
Sadly, however, the concept of ‘rights’ is lost on the majority of people today, who toss aside an article such as this as petty nonsense, unable to see the implications of this mandate. Just b/c it doesn’t affect them directly or just b/c, again, it seems inconsequential or “no big deal” when measured against what could happen, i.e. we run out of water, they can’t see the injustice in it and the door it opens.
And so, the Gov’t grows and people become less dependent on themselves, which ultimately leads to tyranny.
It may be a small price to pay to have a lesser toilet, but it is not your right to decide for me – especially via Gov’t force – what size my toilet should be, just as it is not my right to decide for you – especially via Gov’t force – what clothes you should wear. To suggest otherwise is to spit in the face of Liberty and Freedom.
If we run out of water, we run out of water. At least we will have come to that point justly and with a clear conscience – whilst respecting the rights of Man – whilst affording every individual the right to his own life.
I’ve clarified that. The Act was passed in 1992 and came into effect in 1994. It now reads more precisely.
You know what REALLY sticks in my craw????
Back when I lived in California, I rigged a ‘gray water’ system that routed my shower and sink drains to an irrigation system, thereby saving lawn and garden water use and REDUCING the fecal contaminated waste.
Of course, this was HIGHLY ILLEGAL!!!!
Government be DUMB!!!
Jeffrey–fyi –I’am 61 and can’t ever remember a bathroom that didn’t have a plunger nearby (and a toilet snake in the shed just incase). You discredit your organization with this nonsense about capitalism restrained by government causing over flowing toilets.
The kohler new ones work just fine on 1.6 gal – -saving a heck of a lot of fresh, valueable water resources. Keep up with these petty nonsensical complaints and soon Mises will need a plunger for brain clogs. p.s. I know of an old 1950′ toilet in a
friends basement just waiting for your money offer, f.o.b.
Thanks for making my point.
“Toilets have always been clogged, and we’ve always been at war with Eastasia.”
Water socialism really chaps my backside.
On a planetary scale, water is an indestructible resource. It can change from clean and potable, to sewage, to river then ocean water, to water vapor, then rain and fresh again. The total water content of the global system never really changes.
So, humanity isn’t “running out of water” the same way that we are running out of oil, for example. But, even if water were consumed destructively, only a free market could manage its use efficiently and equitably.
Great post, Jeff – strong work.
I hope all you Gen Xers will join me in remembering the hilarious Seinfeld episode on this subject.
I seem to recall Newman arranging a “meet” with a black market shower head dealer at the back of his truck in an alley – the heavy canvas is thrown back to reveal the “goods”. I think the dealer was from Ukraine!
Parts of the episode involve Jerry and sundry relatives walking around the apartment with flat hair due to the lack of water pressure from the “low flow” shower heads.
I don’t remember a shred of credence being given in the screenwriting to the idea that flow should be restricted.
I have the old fashion water guzzlers & if I ever build a new house, I’m taking them with me. I don’t the attendees of my soirees feeling as if they must bring their own plungers in the event of something embarrassing happening in the toilet.
The toilet is symbolic in many ways of our current governmental crisis.
At home, on the occasions where it is obvious to me that the 1.6 is not going to do the job properly, I resort to a trick I learned in Central America years ago: grab the trusty 4 gallon Rubber Maid bucket, fill it in the bath tub and pour it all in the bowl. It makes a very satisfying “job well done” glug-glug sound!
The irony with the 1.6 toilet of course is all the water you waist unplugging a stopped toilet!
When I was in grade school we were taught that water is endlessly recycleable. I was told that the water I brushed my teeth with may have been the very water that Queen Cleopatra used.
Since then, junk science foisted upon the scientifically ignorant masses claims there is a water shortage and that we may ‘run out’ someday soon. Now when one points out the Pacific Ocean, we are told it is ‘clean water’ we are about to lose–ignoring the rain water percolating through sand and aquifers I was also taught about in grade school.
Too bad folks today didn’t have the benefit of my grade school…
Forgot to mention, there was a King of The Hill episode on this very subject. Only difference was they had a happy ending when their local government did not adopt the lower water standard.
I note also at the local health club, the water output of the showers is set quite low. Now if environmentalists can lurk in the shower room and ensure we don’t take the longer shower necessary to get the soap off.
My house was built in the late 90s, so it has these reduced flow toilets. When we have stay-over houseguests, I am forced to give them the “flush early and flush often” lecture. How embarrassing, but not as embarrassing as an overflowing toilet.
“I’m from the government and I’m here to make your life miserable.”
One more thing. It is a fallacy that we save water by not using it. When we use water, it eventually returns to the atmosphere to fall as rain. The process may take awhile, but all water has been “used” millions, perhaps billions, of times.
One more thing…and the last…I think. In Europe some toilets have a button that allows one to use a half or a full flush. They want to conserve too, but they are more practical about it.
@Josh – great points, it is about choice. It never ceases to amaze me how people fail to see their freedoms leaking away…
@Magnus – This is the real point, when is the last time you were able to destroy water? Mine was back in chemistry class making hydrogen.
@Jeff – great piece, worthy of reading in my favorite place, and about the right length…
I lived in Italy for a year in 1995 (Navy). They had toilets with just about a non-existent splashdown, so the best solution was to pre-load a layer of toilet paper in the landing zone. If you did not do this, you had to use the brush to clean up the area. Yuck!
I went to Belgium in 2007. They did have the 2 button choice system; I always used choice 2 whether doing 1 or 2! I feel ashamed now… think of the polar bears lost!
Recently, I recenty read in our town newsletter a note from the mayor. He was chastising citizens for flushing baby wipes down the toilet, stating that they caused problems with the system. In a free market, the business owner would buy the equipment to process the stuff that came out of the pipe and charge his customer accordingly.
Freedom! Give me the power to choose. I will make economic choices that benefit ME! Privatize plumbing now!
“Like Puritans of old, they see virtue in suffering and would like to see ever more of it.”
How does making remarks reflecting personal bigotries advance the cause of freedom?
“Roman Catholics weren’t happy unless they were burning dissenters at the stake. “
Herein Jeffery Tucker inaugurates a new principle of economics: “The Tragedy of the Bottoms.â€
I loved your Mises piece on our current 1.6 gallon toilet mandate. It particularly hit home for me as our system recently became clogged resulting in a back up of our master bath shower as well. My husband initially used drain cleaner, thinking it was a routine clog, but nothing seemed to work and both the shower and toilets were clogged. After much blaming of the wife (first for wrong drain cleaner purchase, then wrong application procedures and finally for use of “toilet wipes”), a plumber was called. $150+ later we were advised there was a large blockage at the main pipe and while he couldn’t be sure what it was, he was pretty sure it was toilet wipes or use of the “wrong” toilet paper or some combination thereof. So in addition to the initial exposure of back-up filth, we have the additional unintended consequence of irritated and/or unclean behinds. Well, I draw the line at giving up my wipes. How about a “Recycled Wipes to Congress” mass mailing?
I see a systemic problem here.
We have been indoctrinated for the past 70 or so years in the ways of the socialist.
This pattern needs to be broken – I pay the price of political incorrectness – but I do speak out in favor of true capitalism.
Part of the undermining capitalism has to do with ‘keeping you busy – bogging you down’ with things like recycling, ‘sustainability’, global warming concerns, etc…
Yuri Bezmenov -interviewed in the 80′s- explains how the Soviet Union concentrated their efforts on subverting the minds, especially young minds. Political correctness, critical thinking, victimology, environmentalist, etc.
This is one of the most important series of videos of the century, it explains everything.
There are modern toilets that outperform those old crappers though. Take a look at the Gerber Viper (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uelBHl3wZh0). The name lets you know that it’s serious, and could probably handle the work load of a frat house the day after meat-loaf/mac and cheese night. Technology to the rescue!
I’m always amazed at how you’re able to pinpoint these perhaps small but so very illustrative examples of how regulation and IP are bit by bit destroying our lives. And better still, in an almost poetically eloquent manner! FANTASTIC!
Back in the early 90s I was a store manager for a large hardware chain in Michigan. When this moronic law was passed I started looking for a large supply of 5 gallon toilets. Needless to say the manufacturers had not built up a 2 or 3 year supply. I was only able to get 100 from one of our wholesalers and that he was not able to get any more. The plumbing buyer, who was a friend of mine,made me share half the toilets with other stores in our 65 store chain. It was a very sad day when I sold my last 5gal toilet about 6 months later. My best advice is never be separated from your 5 gallons, remove them before you sell your house and put them in your will!
Great article!!! I’ve been railing about these POS toilets for YEARS!!! I thought I was a tiny minority, but my guess is, people just sit still for this kind of gubmint meddling in personal matters.
Patrick, “flush early, flush often.” LOL
Good advice for my parties.
I try to “cycle” while I’m at work, where we have many older toidies that work great. Hey, maybe the boss will sell me one – several bathrooms in the warehouse are disconnected. I could replace the newer ones we have at home. They are a NIGHTMARE!!! If I get stuck on the can at home, I try to break it up into stages.
What a pain in the rear! Total foolishness and completely unnecessary. Stupid tree huggers…..
In order to get this thesis into a top journal- the intrinsic goal of economics- you will have to test for and eliminate the obesity epidemic as the real causal factor. Btw, Burnhanke claims there is no scatflation.
I had a chuckle as I started your article, Jeffrey. I and Paul had just this afternoon discussed the need to *again* have to use the plunger with the master bathroom toilet – as has also been needed often with the 2nd bathroom. Your article reminded me of that mid 90s mandate on the 1.6 gallon per flush commodes – at item I’d totally forgotten and therefore failed to note to Paul, who is Canadian, every time he complained about the poor flushing toilets in our house (that had become mine when I divorced my previous husband). The house is 21 years old, was built per my design and has Kohler toilets of that era – prior to the mandate but still low water volume, something I did not at the time realize would be prone to the problem that can and does arise (pun intended).
In regard to Sherry’s comment, I am 64 and my memory is that in my parents’ houses plungers were in every bathroom (and those of other relatives where I noticed), but kept under the sink for the occasional use – and they were truly occasional.
I wonder what type of toilets will be found in Congress and the White House…. 3 or more gallon flushers? The (expensive) high force electric powered versions? I find it hard to believe that plungers are located next to the toilets in either location or the personal residences of those tax payer elevated personages. Almost surely the 1st class citizens – politicians being at the top of the heap – do not have to suffer in the bilges of the 1.6 gallon mandate.
The real takeaway for me from this article, although Jeffrey didn’t spell it out, is that it’s a classic example of Mises’ cycle of interventions as he described in Socialism and elsewhere. The first intervention — a price ceiling on water — causes overconsumption, leading to a second intervention to fix the unintended consequences of the first (low-flush toilets). But since people simply flush several times, yet another intervention is needed (handles that only flush once per minute? Three-flushes-and-you’re-out legislation?) When people then resort to using three-gallon buckets as Jack suggests, perhaps you’d have to fill out a form at the hardware store when you buy a bucket stating that you will not use it to circumvent toilet legislation.
If it seems unlikely that we might someday have to fill out a form to buy a bucket, please note that you are already subject to similar scrutiny if you buy “too much” cold medicine at the local drug store. No-one saw that coming when Nixon kicked off the modern War on Drugs, another gorgeous example of the cycle of interventions run amok.
Couldn’t help pointing that out, this being the Mises blog and all…
Here’s a useful tip. Keep a large bucket handy and fill it up with water just before you flush. Then, right after you flush, while the pan is beginning to empty, tip the bucket load in as well. It won’t have enough momentum to do the job by itself no matter how much you use, but it makes a lot of difference once the momentum from the cistern water starts things moving.
Lots of people have written to say that I have too quickly dismissed the need for conservation. Looking this up, http://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/2009/3098/pdf/2009-3098.pdf, it appears that domestic use of water, including watering lawns, accounts for 1% of total water use. Toilets have next-to-nothing to do with it. The attempt to make us conserve is just misery making and disease-spreading nonsense.
I have very powerful memories from the 1950s when the outhouse on the farm was replaced by indoor plumbing. What an advance in civilization!
It is just wonderful having the government in my bathroom helping me save the planet. They have not noticed yet that I am a multiflusher, but eventually they will have a computer that monitors me. This will come with a government controlled thermostat on my furnace and air conditioner. Another device will be on my refrigerator to protect me from obesity so that I do not consume too much health care.
I suggest that someone design and sell a “Freedom Flusher” where freedom fighters could adjust the volume of water for each flush. It could be sold on the black market as a novelty item. My other suggestion is that someone distribute toilet paper imprinted with US fiat currency.
So how does one “conserve” water?
The water I drink is taken from the the Olentangy River (more like a creek), purified (or so they say), piped to my house, consumed by my family, sent either into the sewage pipes or sprayed onto our lawn. In both cases, the water ultimately returns to the Olentangy River, to be used by someone else downstream.
Now, there is a Budweiser plant to my south which uses a lot of water. But that water ultimately ends up in a water recycling plant in some other city, and ultimately into that city’s rivers, etc.
Of course, there are industrial uses for water, but they all end up in the same place in the end.
note: I exclude evaporation since that likely returns the water to some river to the east of where I live.
Interesting article, but the technical issue with 1.6 gallon toilets in the USA was crappy (pun intended) engineering. The europeans have had a superior (to our 5+ gallon toilets) low-flow toilet for decades. The USA manufacturers are finally catching up.
I find it hard to believe that this saves water at all when it takes several flushes to make it work.
Dear Jeffrey: You aren’t suggesting that the reason you notice more toilet back-ups is there are more of them in fact, are you? You have no evidence for that at all.
Yes, we all know the government ruins everything it touches. And yes, it had no place in regulating toilets.
But to suggest that there are more toilet backups now because they now use less water is just plain silly.
Years ago, long before 1.6 gallon toilets, people didn’t flush tampons, condoms, paper baby diapers, paper towels, pictures of Nancy Pelosi,.. you name it, as they do now. Modern toilets, whether they be large or small in their water usage, take way more abuse than those of bygone days.
And the plunger has been standard in every bathroom ever since indoor plumbing started.
Our 1.6 gallon toilet has such strong suction it would suck away a small dog if it had the nerve to drink out of it. (California has a chihuahua oversupply anyway, or so I hear. Perhaps I have something there. lol)
Sorry, but I think your rant is unfounded in this case. But it’s easy to find plenty of other valid examples. Just look around.
Its been said that a good, satisfying evacuation is life’s last remaining untaxed pleasure.
On this reading, that’s over. Regulation (ahem – scatalogical pun not entirely unintended) might not be tax per se, but as any Austrian knows, the effect is the same.
Our subjugation is now complete.
1.6 US gallons. Thats 6 litres.
LUXURY. In australia we have dual flush toilets (aka dunnies) where the full flush is 6 litres, and the half is 3 litres. Fine for flushing away a wee. But even they are dropping to smaller amounts.
Actually, its not the flush thats the problem, its the lousy plumbing underneath it. Where I live we have a terrible water shortage – so much so we haev dying rivers, and have not been able to water gardens for the last 5 years. I’m all for saving water. Just get some decent plumbing!
In at least some European municipalities, as I have heard, low flow toilets lead to a shortage of water in the sewer systems. So, large amounts of additional clean water have to be used to properly transport the waste out of the sewers.
The net reduction in water usage then, of course, is zero, but – recall Bastiat – the environmentalists keep a clean conscience.
So, just because i can afford to urinate or defecate in 25 gallons of water, that makes doing so acceptable? There are people all around the world that could really use fresh water in order to survive, yet we urinate in it. I think that Mises Institute should have something more pressing to complain about than the amount of water we urinate and defecate in. But, if it is really that important to you, and you dont like the way the bathrooms look in a certain facility, stop supporting them with your money and go elsewhere.
Yes, I can see it…Canadian toilet cartels fighting over turf in the U.S… Soon they have dealers hanging out near playgrounds and Chinese restaurants…
Innocent school children are fed high fiber diets to get them hooked…Then the CIA begins to muscle in on the operation, overthrow the Canadian government and install a toilet lord as puppet dictator…
First the toilets, now the lamps. What government has done with with plumbing they’ll now do to lighting.
Get ready for CFL lamps whose brilliance is so dim we’ll call them a dark instead of a light.
Stock up now on tungsten filament light bulbs before the next absurd prohibition takes place.
Most posters have no idea what is going to happen with water in the next couple of years. It is the new oil. Where I live, the aquifer routinely drops to levels it never would have a few years ago.
I don’t like these toilets any more than anyone else, but the simple fact of life is that our quality of life is declining because the world can no longer support the wasteful ways we used to do things. The author of this column needs to man up and learn how to pee and poop. The times they are a changing, and I have a feeling that he will also be the first to whine when water is $10 a glass and even worse, you can’t get any at any price. 2 billion people around the globe already live with that.
Sorry for commenting, but this was one of the most ignorant columns I’ve ever read. If you don’t believe me about water depletion, Google it. Google the Ogallala aquifer. See what American waste is doing to the planet and see how we’re going to have to live in a few years because we have far too many dolts like this author who believe that it’s our God given right to use as much as we want.
This article really surprised me. There is a finite amount of water, or molecules that could combine to create water within our atmosphere. it is a fundamental law of nature that matter cannot be created or destroyed, but changes shape or form. The human body needs water for survival. Whoever came up with the idea of shitting in it should have had the idea shot down. There are better ways of dealing with our waste besides poisoning the most basic need for survival. I believe all water toilets should be a thing of the past, and toilet paper too.
Bob in Texas,
I must conclude from your post that you know how to write but that you can’t read.
Read Jeffrey Tucker’s post again and again or ask your mother to help you if you can’t read.
Capitalism, through it’s price system, is the best way to allocate ressources, even scarce ones and without government intervention, people would pay the market price of water and have as much water as they are willing to pay for it.
Jeffrey Tucker precisely pointed out that sometimes you have to be “wasteful”, especially in waste disposal. We need to spend that water.
But why am I wasting my time writing to you, you can’t read.
Sadly, some posters here are operating with less than a full tank.
The issue is not saving water vs. wasting water; It is about goverment assault on the social/commercial contract.
I DO have a God-given right to use as much water as I choose to purchase; substitute any commodity for water and that right still applies.
Furthermore, I have a God-given right to be left alone from meddlesome do-gooders (Ninnies, in the words of Clyde Wilson) as I conduct my business.
To the shmucks living in the desert, you have a God-given right to, Yes!……move!
In light of the many comments criticizing the article/missing the point (as I predicted) I have copied a portion of what I originally wrote…
—Of course a 1.6 gallon flusher will work – perhaps always. Whether or not a 1.6 flusher is adequate most of the time, for most people, in most situations is irrelevant. The underlying question here is do/should toilet manufacturers have the right to produce (and consequently, do/should I have the right to purchase – even if I’m the only one in the entire world who wants one) a five or – as noted above – 25 gallon flush toilet. —
The market will dictate, via the consumer and/or persuasion, whether or not it is beneficial to them to have a low-flow toilet. If a competitor goes that route and the majority of people – b/c they are either genuinely concerned about the environment or just b/c it’s cheaper – begin to buy his toilet, others will soon follow (or at least offer both kinds of toilets) for fear of going out of business.
Again, certain people just wish to dictate to others how they should act b/c the former believe they know what’s best for strangers. They wish to speed progress along when in fact they are thwarting it, never allowing Men, all acting individually, to figure the best routes to take.
The law applies to residential toilets, not commercial! This is a case where your cheap Chinese resturant went down to Lowe’s to buy their toilet. I suggest you find someplace else to get your takeout.
In residential, the 1.5 gallon toilet is fine provided you buy the right one. This is a tired argument, get over it and make an effort to reduce your environmental impact. You will be surprised, it saves you money.
Pointmissers on this thread, please be advised that there is no water shortage on planet earth. Theres plenty of it ( last time I looked about 80% of the earths surface is covered in the stuff).
For most of humanity’s history, human settlement was dictated by proximity to a reliable source of potable water. In recent times, we humans developed the means of getting it from where it is to where the people are, not the other way around. this naturally comes at a cost of building resources, the exercise of intellect, and effort. But it can and has been done, albeit not very efficiently thanks to th ecustodians of most nations’ reticulation systems being government-controlleed and taxpayer-funded.
if theres any water ‘wastage’, the fault lies not with the users, but in the fact that its price in any given location is not commensurate with its scarcity ( or abundance) at that location. If government gets out of the way, we would see those communities with access to abundant water take the initiative to move it to where it is most scarce yet demaded, at the lowest possible cost – with a thousand different ways of doing so being innovated tried and refined. in various micro-contexts. And we’d also probably see much more technology devoted to desalination plants in places where the cost/benefit balance most indicates.
as for Karika, who seems to think that waterborne sewerage is evil, does she have ANY idea what a health boon that simple innovation has been to humanity?…How many millions of lives have been saved from fatal diseases, fly infestations and th e like? ( tangentially, Im reminded of Bucky Fuller’s ‘water-saving’ invention in the 70s for a dry packet sewerage system, which involved an automatic mechanism that wraps each movement in clingfilm as soon as it is extruded , whisked away with compressed air blown through tubes! Thats right, taking the most biodegradable substance known, and sealing it in in a plastic parcel for posteri(or)ty – to save a bit of (infinitely recyclable) water! at unimaginable cost. Besides the locking up of all that potential fertiliser, and rendering it inaccessible to biological processes anywhere. Lunacy!)
Besides, if clean water is properly handled and distributed with free markets, the water used in sewerage is not wasted anyway, so it shouldnt matter how much is needed per flush – its all very easily biologically treated and recycled in processes that are allied to nature itself. In any locale, the scarcer the water locally, the more cost-effective such recycling is going to be.
A very good article.
Bennet Cecil wrote, “They have not noticed yet that I am a multiflusher, but eventually they will have a computer that monitors me. This will come with a government controlled thermostat on my furnace and air conditioner.”
There are already power-company-provided thermostats that centrally control people’s air conditioners during peak demand. A few policy changes and these could be mandatory.
person wrote, “So, just because i can afford to urinate or defecate in 25 gallons of water, that makes doing so acceptable?”
Yes, it should be acceptable for you to use however many gallons of water you please, as long as you pay for the water. It’s called “private property”.
“There are people all around the world that could really use fresh water in order to survive, yet we urinate in it.”
Same with sunlight. My lawn gathers lots of sunlight people in cold regions could certainly use more of. Maybe if I put aluminum foil over my lawn, the light would reflect across the world to them? Absurd? Just as absurd as the idea that my reduction in usage of water from a river near me will increase the amount of water someone has across the world.
“I think that Mises Institute should have something more pressing to complain about than the amount of water we urinate and defecate in. But, if it is really that important to you, and you dont like the way the bathrooms look in a certain facility, stop supporting them with your money and go elsewhere.”
If you read more closely, you’ll see that the issue is the government forcing makers to reduce capacities, not simply the amount of water in a toilet flush. Thus he can’t take his business elsewhere, because they’re all under the thumb of the government.
Bob in Texas wrote, “I don’t like these toilets any more than anyone else, but the simple fact of life is that our quality of life is declining because the world can no longer support the wasteful ways we used to do things.”
Bob, why not simply raise the price of water, if it’s really so scarce? Then people will voluntarily choose all sorts of conservation activities, specially suited to each individual person’s lifestyle. One person might learn how to half-flush when appropriate, another might choose a 5-gallon toilet and reduce in other ways. The waste is entirely caused by an inappropriate price signal to consumers; why should anyone worry about water usage (as compared to usage of other consumables) when they can get 5-10 gallons for a penny?
I dunno, when growing up, the boys/men around me found ‘cool’ places to pee outside, still do. Gauche redneck custom; or trailblazing planet-saving cowboys?
It looks like there’s a market for an entrepreneurial type here.
The task : design and build a toilet that uses 1.6 gallons of water but which, when a removable panel is absent, uses 5 gallons.
Big sticker on Panel “Do not remove this panel and flush 5 gallons of water. For use in overseas markets only”
greg@”In residential, the 1.5 gallon toilet is fine provided you buy the right one. This is a tired argument, get over it and make an effort to reduce your environmental impact. You will be surprised, it saves you money.”
I have Kohler, 1.6gpf. A big dump can require many flushes. I’m not surprised. It doesn’t save me money. No government regulation ever does. Grow up, and stop looking to nanny government to solve your problems. The flush problem begins with government ownership and/or regulatory control of water resources. With said ownership/control comes political considerations as opposed to market forces in determining best uses, etc. With the former, best-use choices are made by a small political establishment always based on political considerations wherein re-election is the foremost factor. The market is comprised of all consumers and its choices are thereby better informed as to the most efficacious use by a factor of millions (consumers) to one (politician).
Great article Mr. Tucker, for it paints a lovely picture in vivid brown colors of but one of the unintended consequences of government meddling in the market. Now to correct the feces on restroom floors problem, we can look forward to some bureaucrat or politician proposing regulations requiring the installation of overflow monitoring alarms on all commercial and residential toilets.
During the “first energy crisis” (not counting the earlier whale-oil shortage energy crisis) of the 1970s, I owned a cider mill in NE Ohio that operated seasonally in a large barn-like structure. Although we had boilers for processing apple butter and cider jelly, the building was unheated and the inside temperature in October, November and early December was the ambient air temperature, which virtually never exceeded 60 degrees and was usually in the 30s or 40s. Nevertheless, we received a very official letter from Jimmy Carter’s energy bureaucracy ordering us under penalty of law to reduce our thermostat settings to a specified level (I think it was 68 degrees F), sternly warning that we would be subject to inspection and prosecution if we failed to comply. Naturally, I sent the sender of that notification a letter advising the high-ranking bureaucritter who had signed it that I refused to comply with his silly order. without explaining why it was so silly.
Dick Strang : Me and my boy hose down the great outdoors whenever possible, there’s nearly always an intransigent weed somewhere that could use the attention and with careful application we’ve been able to curb the growth of the wife’s hysterical wisteria to something more manageable.
Why waste such a valuable resource?
Hey, burning fossil fuel “creates” a certain amount of water… so next time an enviro-weenie scolds you for flushing twice, “Oh yah, I’ll go drive around for an hour to make up the difference.”
Enjoyed the article… salient point with regard to gov’t force vs. free market choice.
Couple of notes:
Re: water prices… In my neighborhood, the vast majority of homes are rather old, and come with no water meter, thus making our water bill a flat rate.
With respect to the Gauche redneck custom, I say “Yee haw! The john is over yonder… third bush on the left.”
Brilliant example of how government intervention in the marketplace screws up things. Every time I do multiple flushes, I think the stupid 1994 law.
Try a Toto Drake, they really work on 1.6 gallons OR less with dual flush and are very inexpensive.
94 comments !!!
Wow, toilet stuff is really popular on this blog.
Not to mention that the though of saving the planet with your toilet is probably the most insane thing of all.
Well written and concise piece as per usual Mr. Tucker. My father is in construction in rural Iowa and has had an affinity for attending auctions. And since the mid-nineties one of the hottest items that he looks for is vintage toilets because people in the know will pay a pretty penny for them. It is fun to chide him about it because my father is a very honest man.
I was discussing this with him a few years back and he told me that he recognizes most of the faces at these auctions who are bidding on these old toilets. Human action be crazy, mathematical models be damned. I wonder if this is a common thing.
What I find comical about the whole toilet thing is that water isn’t really wasted. It goes down the drain, evaporates, ends up in the sky and is rained back down again. No chemical reaction that converts water into something else happens in the entire process. Water isn’t being wasted, it’s just moving around.
I find the blind adoration exhibited by most commenters amazing. I just encountered this article on reddit, and complained, as precious few have done here, that Mr. Tucker seems to be assuming that the water we flush is controlled by a free market in the first place, and that therefore our choices about how we use that water will be adequately massaged by the invisible hand if we were left to our own devices.
Of course, this is not the case. Municipal water supplies are underpriced, and supply is limited. Anyone who has been inclined to turn on the sprinklers on a summer evening and been prevented by a government ban can attest to this. Water is not priced by a free market – prices are kept artificially low to allow all to have access, but the result is a demand that outstrips supply. Thus the government tries to restrict our usage to the most necessary in times of scarcity.
Mr. Tucker could have written an article about how he wishes our supply of potable water was sold in a free market rather than government controlled. That would have been an interesting and far more challenging article to write. Instead, he spun a yarn about toilet regulation which apparently took place in a fictional land where water really was market priced, sidestepping reality completely.
Mr. Tucker could have written an article about how he wishes our supply of potable water was sold in a free market rather than government controlled.
By all means, please write just such an article for us, and post the link to it back here.
I am sure that people would be glad to read it, and then tell you just how interesting, relevant and accurate we find it to be.
Magnus, you miss the point entirely. Without such an article, Mr. Tucker’s opinions on toilets are worthless.
You really need to get rid of your Kohler toilet. It is not the quality unit it once was. Craine, which is half the cost of Kohler is a better unit! But there are toilets on the market that perform much better.
Also, you may want to add more fiber to your diet!
Let me ask rironin a very plain question: how do you know that water is underpriced relative to what it would be in a free market?
I grasp the point perfectly. If Mr. Tucker’s article is incomplete, all the more reason for you to enlighten us, rironin! Please, shed the light of your brilliance on the raw sewage of opinion you find here. Since you find this article to be incomplete, show us what a complete rendering on the topic looks like!
Otherwise, we will just have to conclude that you are a peanut-gallery loser who likes to sit back and take pot shots at things other people have created, but are too timid and unskilled to do what you claim others should be doing.
Remember to post the link back here so we can all find your vastly improved article on the subject.
jeffrey, I don’t know what the price would be and I’m sure it would fluctuate. However, the example I cited earlier is one where I think it is clear the price would’ve been higher. When supplies of water run low, the government enforces a lawn watering ban and forces people to water their lawns on certain days of the week in order to preserve the supply. If supply and demand really held sway in such a scenario, no one would be forced to ration the water; those who wanted their lawns to be greener would’ve paid more for it, and those who were unwilling to spend the money would’ve gone without.
I also take into account what I feel is the prevailing American attitude toward water. I believe most Americans don’t think much of their water bill, and that it isn’t generally a prohibitive cost of living. Further, I think that most Americans see water as almost a right – I assume that the government is under general pressure from the populace to ensure that the poorest among us can afford enough water to live. The problem with water is that it has so many uses and you can’t price them differently. If you price water so that a poor family can buy enough to eat, use the bathroom, and wash their clothes, it seems inevitable that that price will be sufficiently low that wealthier individuals won’t think twice about keeping the pool topped off or watering the lawn everyday.
“Each of these innovations is patented â€” meaning that a successful project cannot be copied and improved by other companies. So even if these are improvements, their distribution is limited and the successful aspects of them are not extended by others, for fear of patent lawsuits. The entire market is hobbled.”
Hey, patents are just as much personal property as one’s real estate. Are you suggesting that we allow theft of personal intellectual property?
Furthermore, patents stimulate markets and inovation as opposed to “hobbling” them.
Also, US Constitution article 1, section 8: To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries i.e. Patents.
I think the most important point of this article is how people just adapt, shrug it off, and eventually forget it. If the citizens of the US had any real love of freedom they’d react to this kind of nonsense by voting out everyone congress weasel who voted for it. But no, we just bitch and moan and then pull the lever for the incumbent who created the problem.
Here’s my take on it from ten years ago – and nothing has changed:
matt, I am indeed “suggesting that we allow theft of personal intellectual property”
rironin, you make an interesting point about rationing on lawns. In my own community, whenever there is a lack of rain, the local bureaucrats lick their chops at the chance to tell everyone what to do. They announce that “if present trends continue, we’ll all die” and then enforce the rationing. Then of course rain eventually comes and the bureaucrats are deeply disappointed.
I do think you raise a very interesting question about what water distribution would be like in a free market. I really don’t have the answer. We would be more or less careful with watering our lawns or filling our swimming pools? Hard to say. After all, if there were a vibrant free market, we might in fact find competition driving down the price and driving up supplies. That is possible. I really don’t have the answer.
But really the point of my piece is that government cannot rationally ration. I mean, of all things water is good for, it is to assure a sanity disposal of human waste. In the name of conservation, these people are spreading terrible things. I have my own theories about why: I think it has to do with the general desire on the part of bureaucrats and environmentalists to lower our standard of living.
In any case, I know you disagree with me strongly, so I appreciate your civility here. I’m sorry that I was so inflammatory on the Reddit thread.
Don’t get me wrong, I agree with you on many gov’t regs and their unintended (or possibly intended) consequenses. But I don’t understand condoning theft of intellectual property.
Does Mises/Austrians support this? I have never read any theory in detail, would you be able to provide such references? thanks.
sure, see http://mises.org/books/against.pdf but give it a few years to sink in. It is shocking material.
I don’t know what free market water would be like either. There are some worrying bits: given the myriad uses for water, would wealthier people demand it enough that they would effectively raise the price beyond the means of the lower class, especially in desert areas like Los Angeles? This is the primary argument I see opponents of such a scheme raising, rightly or wrongly. One also wonders what happens to the supply and demand graph when the good in question is absolutely indispensable. When you’re dying of thirst, demand is as high as it can be – would a profiteering water salesman be wrong to simply set the price at “all the money you have”?
Of course, there’s the other side: if our currently limited supply necessitated higher prices, it would encourage new suppliers to enter the market and new innovations to increase and cheapen the supply. As it is, the government is free to expand the supply or invest in cheaper technology, or it can just keep rationing the supplies we have. One could certainly argue the a free market would react more quickly and efficiently.
It’s impossible to say with certainty how it would wash out, but there is one interesting and very important side effect to market driven water that others have already pointed out: if the market correctly valued water at a higher price than it currently sells for, things might not be so rosy in that restaurant bathroom after all. In a world where every glass of water will cost you, public restrooms and drinking fountains might disappear altogether, or see significant reductions in their water usage. No matter how you slice it, TINSTAAFP will prevail. And I think you know what the P stands for.
Spot-on, Mr Tucker! A spade is preferable to poorly designed indoor plumbing. My list of items to be found in a civilized bathroom also includes forced ventilation, the noisier, the better.
This is obviously anecdotal, but I’ve done some traveling in China and in the area that I was they most certainly did NOT have better toilets. There were very few toilets I encountered like the ones back home. One was in the 4 star hotel we were staying at (didn’t think to check how much water it used). The airport of course, and some nicer restaurants or franchises (McDonald’s, Pizza Hut; we got tired of Chinese Most of the rest were more like indoor outhouses i.e., a hole in the ground. Great article regardless, thanks Jeff, keep it up.
rironin wrote, “If you price water so that a poor family can buy enough to eat, use the bathroom, and wash their clothes, it seems inevitable that that price will be sufficiently low that wealthier individuals won’t think twice about keeping the pool topped off or watering the lawn everyday.”
In Austin, Texas, they have tiered pricing: $0.001 per gallon for the first 2000 gallons, then around $0.0026 per gallon thereafter. They could of course add more tiers if necessary. Many months I never go beyond the first tier, and I take a shower every day.
When you’re dying of thirst, demand is as high as it can be – ‘would a profiteering water salesman be wrong to simply set the price at “all the money you have”?’
No, but a second water salesman would offer a lower price.
Tiered pricing is a good option for controlling for that, even in a market where the traded price was far more fluid (har har). Seems like a good policy.
As for the second water salesman, that leads into an area of Austrian economics that I know little about – that is, how one deals with monopolies. Especially with a commodity like water that has such huge infrastructure investments, how could a free market offer consumers the mobility to choose one company over another? How would such companies deliver their goods when so much of the delivery infrastructure is fixed and shared? That seems like a difficult impediment to the market’s functioning.
Having worked in water and wastewater treatment for more than 25 years, I agree with Mr. Tucker in that regulation of toilets is ridiculous. The real problem lies in inflow and infiltration into the failing wastewater collection systems, hydraulically overloading the collection and treatment systems during wet weather events, thus leading to raw wastewater being discharged to the waterways.
If the state doesn’t get out of the way and let the free market develop on-site treatment and recirculation systems, we face a real potable water crisis in the near future.
It seems to me that the gist of this article could be that while water consumption is an extreme concern in some areas, (And while my educational background is in Economics, Finance, Marketing, and Philosophy, I have taken a Graduate Course at Harvard on the Subject; which is only to say, I did not come to this statement lightly, and furthermore, for the record, in terms of domestic security, this particular area of environmental management, concerns me far more than the debate concerning global climate shifting/instability, or what is euphemistically, often referred to as “warming.”) it can almost be blatantly disregarded, for most practical purposes, as to quantity, at this time in our lives, in others; as such, instantiating a law on a federal level to regulate behavior, that if necessary, should be monitored on a local level, is irresponsible. Preventing overarching legislation, if possible from a pragmatic perspective, in the case of water, in my opinion would facilitate our federal government, assumptions provided, in instances where it is going to insist on making its presence known in regional affairs (in instances where water crosses State boundaries, and based on historical interventions) from having to not only consider local needs more carefully, but also respect local controls, and or influence, much more stridently. That said, I’m not big on holding my breathe at this time in my life.
water totalitarianism is far closer in australia. apart from the ridiculous toy-toilets (dual flush by mandate), various states data-match number of home-occupants against water consumption, and alert you to how much over the target you are straying. in victoria, the objective is 155L/day per person. you want to wash dog-crap off your drive, ring up and get a one-off, official clearance (ok, if you present it as a public health issue).
what’s worse, the authorities have encouraged snitching. dob in that neighbour who’s watering the lawn (evil), and not the flower-bed (apparently benign, legal). there are specific time brackets, dictated also by age (socialists love old folks and allow them a tiny bit of leeway in choosing the watering-time-window). try and imagine what an outlet for interpersonal conflict this one is.
water is totally monopolized by state governments in australia, and the results are water rationing and bizarre behavioural control (low flush toilets please, so as we can authorize your backyard pool, which doesn’t get touched because of potential voter backlash).
J.D., and I’m not holding my breath while reading that epic sentence you wrote.
It’s ironic that here in Uganda, those places which enjoy flushing toilets nearly always opt for stainless steel tanks holding in about 3 gallons or so. Add to this a 1.5 meter or so gravity assist, and you have a no fail approach to the disposal of, ahem, waste. Thus if we look at the US in comparison, one might almost be tempted to assert that it’s toilets are inferior to those found in one of the poorest countries in the world… “Step backwards” indeed.
P.S. Magnus: Also we have SUGAR in our Coke…
Having escaped the rath of the implementation of the water saver toilet by moving to Asia in 1994, I can say with a lot of experience that toilets here work well with nary a plunger in site! While the public toilets in Asia vary in their cleanliness( Singapore has the cleanest) and odor, they are very effective in their ability to evacuate the deposit-whether it be the “Western” toilet or the local “squat” version. I loved the use of the toilet as a vehicle for how government has ‘solved ‘ another nonproblem using force to control the market and creating another problem in the process. However, the quip about Chinese toilets is WAY off the mark. As far as toilets in restaurants and pubs are concerned, in Beijing, where I lived for three years, there were signs next to the toilets in English and Chinese instructing depositors to NOT put USED toilet paper in the bowl, but in the rubbish bin next to the toilet. Talk about spreading disease! YUK. Loved the article.
Dear Mr. Tucker,
The low-flush toilet does indeed cause health problems. But you missed a big part of the story. This environmental solution to a environmental problem also causes further environmental problems.
Trot down to your local sewage plant and talk to the manager, or anyone else. Perhaps this part is more true in the west than in the east, I’m not sure. But it’s a big problem in the west.
Several events are caused down-stream from the toilets now that there is less water quantity entering the sewage plants along with solid matter. More chemicals must be added to the processing, and often more water. Sewer pipes often get clogged up due to lack of water flow. Sewer line repairs, which are very costly for cities, occur much more often. Sewage plant processing takes longer, with higher labor costs. Settling beds work much more slowly.
Great Article, and a further comment. Why do environmentalists think they know more than engineers on any engineering problem?
As with many interventions, this law represents an attempt to fabricate a STATIC solution to a DYNAMIC problem.
Clean water resorvoirs and flows are in constant flux. To simply brush off the problem by stating that there is a constant water supply on earth ignores that only one form of water (clean, preferably non-flourinated) is capable of supporting human populations, and supply is not evenly distributed around the earth. Use of clean water turns it into a different, unusable good.
Even if the stock of clean water remained constant, populations are rapidly growing. This means increasing demand. The rate of recirculation to replenish reservoirs and rivers is currently beyond human control (excepting expensive processes such as desalination or those filters that let you drink your own urine).
As others have stated, price fixing (and farming allocations/subsidies) exacerbates this problem and legislated rationing doesn’t solve it. These measures are aimed at making drinking water accessible to everyone, but they really just enable a particular standard of living and unsustainable population growth.
Higher water prices wouldn’t cause people to die of thirst; they would simply cause people to cut back on unnecessary water usage as well as other expenditures to cover the additional cost. This includes welfare recipients (although they would probably just get a cost of living increase). Maybe this would reduce industrial water usage as production is cut back. If food and water become more scarce, then food and water should take up a larger chunk of peoples’ budgets, and more marginal food/water production methods will become viable. If new innovations are able to reduce prices, then people can spend more on other purposes. This is how the market quickly and dynamically adjusts to compensate for natural scarcity. Laws don’t do this.
Rather than dump on environmentalists in general, Austrians need to emphasize how the market can in fact handle dynamic environmental problems more effectively and efficiently than legislation can. The whole “economists vs. environmentalists” pseudo-debate is counterproductive on both sides. Environmentalists could devise more effective campaigns with a better understanding of economics (and praxeology in general) that would promote more voluntary conservation through lower time preferences. Likewise, economists could make more effective arguments against draconian legislation by showing a willingness to more fully understand the environmental system dynamics being discussed rather than brushing off all greens as tree-hugging nazis.
Only the Austrians maintain a respect for REAL capital and costs while other schools only see what limited nominal information the stats can show them. This understanding is crucial in considering environmental issues within an economic framework. The environmentalist cause could provide a viable and appropriate market for Austrian theory if it were presented in a palatable manner and context.
well, of course the good people of the USA could always just develop better toilets … I still recall my first trip to the USA in 1979, and wondered why my Aunts toilet seemed blocked. The strange pond of water which I saw just looked odd.
Now after having lived in Japan, Korea India and European countries (as well as my native Australia) I am still left wondering “just why do you guys know how to put a guy on the moon, but not know how to make a propper dunny?”
got me stumped there
ohh … sorry about the double post, but when Sandra above wrote “The low-flush toilet does indeed cause health problems. But you missed a big part of the story. This environmental solution to a environmental problem also causes further environmental problems.”
she is bang on the money, in fact that’s the real issue with the low flush devices.
Hmmm… I think you overdid it on this one…
1) We have a Toto. They are better than any toilet I have ever used previously and yes, 1.6 gal.
2) But… perhaps our “performance” is better, BECAUSE we are EATING BETTER! High-fiber diets are probably not causing blockage, whereas most American’s are eating more and more meat, which is NOT as healthy (and probably creates, well, you know… stiffer stuff).
3) Any argument for over-consumption / waste really doesn’t fly… at least not in a world with ever increasing population. Go net neutral, show me sustainability and then you can flush more water!
O man that was hilarious. And so true. Still got the old 3.5 gal because the house is older. Flushes just fine.
I loved it! Thank you!
NicholasA wrote, “But… perhaps our “performance” is better, BECAUSE we are EATING BETTER! High-fiber diets are probably not causing blockage, whereas most American’s are eating more and more meat, which is NOT as healthy (and probably creates, well, you know… stiffer stuff).”
So are you saying that it’s your business how other people eat, or how loose their stool is? If they want to pay a miniscule amount for a larger-tanked toilet and for the miniscule amount of extra water it uses, why the hell should I care? If it means I don’t have people monitoring my stool regularly, it’s worth every extra gallon of water these people use.
On the bright side, old house salvage stores still sell the older 5 gallon models. And they look better, anyway.
Uh Shaw… I think you are spending a bit too much on this…
1) again, there is no argument for waste of resources in a world with increasing population, regardless of how little you believe the extra water costs at this particular time; water will be the #1 resource disaster of the future; it already is in many parts of the world…
2) perhaps, if more people were advocating for healthier diet, the health care debate would not exist
3) my observation was a personal statement, not a facist concept of forcing people to be responsible
For more than ten years I have been using the federal law making it a crime to sell a toilet that uses more than 1.6 gal./flush as an example of clearly unconstitutional oppression. Try it yourself with your socialist friends: ask them to show you the clause in the Constitution that authorizes congress to pass such a law. That will put them in the position of having to admit that they believe the Constitution to be meaningless.
Several years ago a close friend worked on Johnston Island–a largely secret US base in the mid-Pacific. There was a real fresh water problem there: there was none! All potable water was produced in a distillation plant by the base management contractor. Guess what: the toilets were flushed with sea water! Seems like a good application for a gray-water system also (well maybe not so good for the family dog!).
Someone mentioned composting toilets. Have you ever actually had to use one? They’re a real pain in the ass: high maintenance, hard to use, big, ugly. And guess what: governments in many places have severe restrictions on what you can do with the compost–don’t try to put it on your garden, or dispose of it uphill from any wells, etc. (Call your local health department and ask.)
BTW, the two-button toilets are quite common in Mexico where I live now. They seem to work OK, as long as the high flush uses enough water to clear the solids.
The last place I worked in the US before retiring went through several attempts to install low-flush toilets that worked. After several disastrous floods (there were no floor drains in the bathrooms) they finally settled on some forced-flush models that used an air tank, charged by water pressure, as a jet. One of them (I think a Kohler) worked pretty well, but it seemed to require repairs rather frequently. The other toilet in the mens’ room (I don’t remember what brand) sort of worked, but still not as good as a 5 gal. flush.
I just checked this article’s blog comments for the first time and am amazed at how many there are. It makes me want to add some potty humor. Maybe my comment will be the one that flushes this article down the sewer.
You people need to leave the populous areas and come out to the truly remote areas.
I live out in the middle of nowhere and there are absolutely no rules about water or waste or housing laws or anything else. I don’t think we’re allowed to kill anyone unless they break down the door, but the last word I heard was that, if you do, always drag the body inside the door if you intend to call the law. Otherwise, just bury it yourself.
Well, I for one have had problems with even what are now the old toilets. That said, the old high flow flush ones are better more times than not. And I am not getting rid of the two high-flow toilets I have unless parts become an issue.
Some low flows are miserable. Some are ok, some are pretty good. It depends. The patents make it impossible for the market to standardize on the best design for low-flow as time had accomplished for the prior toilets.
My guess is that government finds it easier to mandate how much water a toilet should use than improve waste treatment facilities and water distribution. These are systems that are often 50 to 100+ years old, at least in some critical areas.
To modernize waste treatment as the population grows would mean using tax money as the people want it used instead of what the government office holders and bureaucrats want. To avoid spending money on treatment plants they must keep the amount of water to be treated down, hence the low flow toilet mandate?
I suspected that there were some unintended problems with reducing flush size and concentrating waste. Yep, we are looking at a problem down the line. Keep in mind that diarrhea is worlds biggest killer, so waste disposal is a serious issue.
Here’s what one engineer told me:
Never wondered a bit until I worked for a while as an engineer in the wastewater industry.
One of the more pressing infrastructure problems in the US is the use of lower flow faucets, showerheads, toilets, etc, which lead to a more concentrated waste stream.
During the time it takes your waste to flow from your house to the treatment plant, it decomposes anaerobically (no oxygen) into – among other things – hydrogen sulfide. Aside from smelling like rotten eggs, hydrogen sulfide dissolved in water makes sulfuric acid which eats away at iron and steel pipe as well as concrete.
Since waste streams are now more concentrated, so too is the sulfuric acid, accelerating the “sewer rotâ€. The design life of such infrastructure is constantly being revised down – the stuff simply doesn’t last as long as it used to.
So now I am environmentally destructive both by using more water and by using less. Hoorayâ€¦
Mr. Tucker, I think you have some important parts of this sad story wrong. Like so many ills in our society, this arose from an unholy collusion between big business and government.
Plumbing fixture manufacturers faced numerous local ordinances in communities where water is scarce (or environmentalists hyperactive), each requiring that a flush be no larger than X gallons, with X varying from community to community. Rather than make 20 different sizes of toilets, the fixture manufacturers banded together and lobbied for one consistant set of requirements across the whole country. Just like in Communist countries, we arrived at “one size fits all”. The proprietary designs and the research needed to produce a toilet that flushes moderately well at 1.6 gallons effectively forms a barrier to entry to the market. Before you can even think about building a factory to make new toilets, you must first have a working 1.6 gallon design that doesn’t vioate anyone else’s patents. That’s not a problem for Crane or Kohler or even Toto from overseas, but it certainly would be a problem for any new players.
This also affects showerheads, which are also flow-restricted. It’s why multiple showerheads are so popular in custom bathrooms…with enough showerheads, it doesn’t matter that each one only pumps out a tiny dribble.
There is a simple solution to the toilet problem, if your pipes can handle it. Ever notice that in places like airports and football stadiums, there is no tank on the toilets? That’s because they are connected directly to the water lines through a device called a flush-o-meter that measures out a preset amount of water whenever you throw the handle or push the button or activate the IR flush-o-meter circuit (designs vary). You would need a dedicated 3/4″ line from your main to the toilet, but given that, you could have a 3.5 gallon “blowout” toilet, just like the ones used in airports, stadiums and even prisons.
If you want water conservation, I’m a big fan of waterless urinals. True, they only affect about 50% of the population, but why waste even 1.6 gallons every time you pee? If you are building a new home, or have the space when you refit an old one, put in a urinal (of any type). You’ll be amazed at how much easier it is to keep the toilet clean and tidy, and you’ll save water whenever any male has to empty his bladder.
What is the comparative installation cost, maintenance cost (I find those blowout toilets to be out of order more frequently than the traditional ones), and other associated downsides? If they were so wonderful, the market would have likely moved to them already.
The cost of the toilet is on par with a conventional one. Maintenance is very easy; no one wants to have to fix dozens of toilets (they are usually only instilled where there is great “demand”). The real catches are that they require a 3/4″ service, which would be very unusual in a residential setting, they are usually wall-hung instead of free standing (which is more of a plumbing problem than a room design problem), and that they violate some housing codes (because they’re not 1.6 gallon toilets).
It is also possible to get a 1.6 flush-o-meter toilet and then refit it with a 3.5 gallon flush-o-meter after the inspector leaves. But you still need the 3/4″ service.
So conversely, if patents fail to promote the useful arts, we can get them declared unconstitutional, right?
It seems to me the problem with our toilet water is the requirement that potable water be used in toilets. This really doesn’t make sense, with the exception of our dogs becoming accustomed to drinking out of them. It might be more expensive, but if we used grey water to flush our toilets, no one would be concerned about the volume used, it would be treated so it was returned to our water system without pollution (unlike some rural grey water disposal), and we’d be free to flush 5 gallons at a time. Probably a more practical solution for those of us who live in the country and already have a septic tank storing waste water, what’s one more tank?
It is so nice! Worth to read!
wow.. this is really nice. thank you for sharing your post.
All content Copyright Mises Economics Blog
Powered by WordPress + WPtouch 1.9.41