(NEXSTAR) – The Western United States is in the midst of a devastating, record-breaking drought. For those of us outside the West, there’s increasing evidence that climate change is coming at us hard and fast.
People are being asked to do their part to conserve water: take shorter showers, don’t let the faucet run, fix that leaky sprinkler and so on. Which begs the question: Is it time to stop flushing the toilet all the time?
“Oh yeah, absolutely,” answers Stephanie Pincetl, professor at UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability.
You know the old saying “If it’s yellow let it mellow?” That should be the new normal, Pincetl says. “I do it drought or no drought because we live in a climate where that no longer makes a difference.”
For folks who don’t live in a drought-ridden area, like the East Coast or the South – she’s talking to you, too. “Nurturing our resources matters anywhere you are. Even the East experiences drier weather. And with climate change, we have an enormous amount of fluctuation.”
“The average person flushes the toilet five to seven times per day,” said San Jose State environmental studies professor Katherine Cushing in a recent post on the university’s site. “If you could reduce that to four to six times, that’s a big improvement.”
Pincetl and others suggest collecting water that would otherwise go to waste – like from waiting for your shower to heat up – in a bucket. You can use that water to fill your toilet tank for the next flush. You can really use that water for anything though, from watering your plants to boiling pasta.
“That’s really good drinking water you’re flushing down the drain,” says Pincetl. ” I have stairs and I’m 68 years old. I walk down the stairs with my bucket. These are not really hard things to do, but they are about realizing that with water, every drop counts.”
Alex Hall of UCLA’s Center for Climate Science agrees less flushing is one place to make a difference. But if that’s something you just can’t stomach, there are certainly other ways to cut back. Single family homes use a surprising amount of water outside the home.
“If you are a single family home owner and you’re watering your lawn, thats the single most effective thing you can do is to change your landscaping practices,” Hall says. “That would definitely No. 1.”