Flushing Away The American Standard

By Matthias Knobloch on Email

There it goes: valuable, precious and vital Water. Every man’s visit to the bathroom uses one gallon per flush, and almost four liters. I saw this fact imprinted on the American Standard urinals while in Las Vegas in 2007.  Las Vegas, the artificial city in the middle of nowhere, is a city in the middle of a desert. And there I was, reading that my business would cause one gallon of clean water to run down the urinal and splash away whatever used to be a soda or a beer. “So, that’s the American standard” I thought and didn’t really think about it much further afterwards. Now that I live in Chicago, I still can see the American Standard flush in every male bathroom. It doesn’t matter where in this country that I go—the  United Center, in my neighborhood bar, or at O’Hare Airport—the American Standard always wastes one Gallon of H2O with its standard flush. It hurts to think about the amount of water wasted in this and other nations due to poor waste management. Hands down, bathroom business requires water, but does it really have to be the American Standard gallon? Think about the amount of water we could save if a urinal wouldn’t need water anymore.  A clean urinal without the use of water? For some that may sound like science fiction. For me, it sounds like something the American Standard should actually become. Growing up in Germany, I am used to prioritizing stewardship of resources, and water certainly is one of the most valuable and vital resources. Germany’s bathroom bowls give male and female visitors the option to flush. German urinals usually use less than half the amount of the American Standard. Ironically, the market leader for bathroom accessories in Germany is called Ideal Standard. Think about it.

The newest invention in urinals is the waterless urinal that doesn’t require a drop of H20 or chemicals in order to provide a clean and refreshing experience. The first waterless urinals were installed during the EXPO 2000 in Hannover, Germany. Ever since, the number of waterless urinals has grown to more than 100,000 in Germany and usage continues to grow. The annual average usage of one urinal is approximately 100,000 liters, so a bathroom with 10 urinals would use about 1,000,000 liters of water. Consider O’Hare Airport and its tremendous number of bathrooms. Millions of gallons are used there every year. Think about Lake Mead—the largest water reservoir in the United States that provides precious water for fabulous Las Vegas. The water levels there continue to set record lows year after year. Sadly, projections and studies show that there is a 50% chance that live storage in Lake Mead will be gone by 2021 and that the reservoir could drop below minimum power pool elevation as early as 2017. If this occurs, the Hoover Damn would become a sad tourist attraction without a purpose. How many liters of water does an American Standard urinal use per flush again? I’m not saying that we all should stop flushing the toilet bowl. What I am trying to say is that each one of us can have a little impact by being more conscious about our way of living. We can save water by using water efficient toilet tanks or even better, put one or two bricks in the toilet bowl. This measure reduces the amount of water in the tank each time that you flush. Further, we should use our dishwashers only when full, to reduce the amount of cycles overall, and stop leaving the faucet running while brushing our teeth. We can collect rainwater to water plants in the summer during dry periods. And, open our eyes and look closer the next time that we visit Germany, to gain insight and ideas for additional resource preservation techniques.

At the end of the day, it’s not just about water. The overall mentality needs to change in order to save and protect the resources of our planet. We should try to avoid driving the car distances that could be walked, and refrain from remote starting our engine when temperatures are bearable. A car with a 2.0l engine easily burns through one-fourth of a gallon of gasoline while its drivers are waiting for it to warm the inside. Recycle! My wife and I don’t yet have blue recycling bins in our neighborhood, but we collect recyclable trash and bring it to a collecting point. Every one of us can help to make the American Standard the ideal standard. Thank you!


Photo by 24gotham via flickr

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Matthias Knobloch