Why Are We Flushing Away One of Our Greatest Resources?

Last week we wrote about the ecological stupidity of manufacturing toilet paper from forests, and I'm sure you thought we had exhausted that general area and would be moving on. But not so fast, friends... today, we bring you urinals.

Did you know that every day we are flushing drinking water down urinals? Sounds crazy, doesn't it? Especially since there is a healthier, cheaper and ecologically preferable way to go: waterless urinals.

Water scarcity will undoubtedly rival sea level rise as one of the consequences of global warming. In fact, it might prove to be a far more serious risk.

In the U.S. the driest states have become some of our fastest growing, including Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, and southern California. The flow of the Colorado River is at its lowest levels since measurements began at Lee's Ferry, Arizona 85 years ago. Thirty million people in seven states and parts of Mexico depend on the Colorado River for water. Lake Mead, which supplies virtually all the water used by Las Vegas, is half empty and will probably never be full again. Freshwater shortages are already a global concern in Africa, India and China and in the southwest USA they are inevitable.

The battles of yesterday were fought over land, today they are fought over oil, and soon they will be fought over water.

Here's a few stats. Each of the billions of tiny micro-chips in our computers takes anywhere from three to eight gallons of water to make. It takes 26 liters of water to make a one liter water bottle. And each flush of a urinal wastes more than a gallon of water, millions of times each day. About 1.2 billion people, or almost one-fifth of the world's population, live in areas of water scarcity, and 500 million more people are approaching that situation. Lack of safe drinking water and sanitation is the single largest cause of illness in the world, contributing to the death of 5 million people a year and about 5,000 children every day.

So why are government and commercial buildings, theaters, stadiums and arenas throughout the world flushing scarce drinking water down urinals when healthier, cost competitive alternatives exist in the form of waterless urinals?

Waterless urinals are healthier, too. According to the University of Arizona, "Flush type urinals are far more likely to be colonized by bacteria because of the greater presence of moisture [serving] as reservoirs of disease causing microorganisms." Eww!

Waterless urinals conserve water and save money. Props to Staples Center in Los Angeles for converting their 176 urinals to waterless urinals. According to Bill Pottorff, Vice President for Engineering at STAPLES, "We have estimated that we are saving approximately $2,350 per month at STAPLES Center in direct water costs, not factoring sewer charges and any other municipal taxes. Each urinal saves roughly 4.5 HCF per month. We save just over 7,000,000 of water gallons per year."

What is also great about the ecologically intelligent shift made by the STAPLES Center is that the entire urinal replacement program was paid for by grants supplied by the Los Angeles Department of Power and Water, as part of its water conservation program.

So here is our challenge to all stadium and building managers, theater and arena operators in the world: We challenge you to save money. We challenge you to make your restrooms less infectious. We challenge you to conserve water. We challenge you to replace your water wasting urinals with waterless urinals. Now that would be a breath of fresh air.

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