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Indiana Researchers Say Don't Rush to Flush

PHOTO: Disgust and contamination concerns keep people flushing the toilet after each use, according to a new survey from Indiana University-Bloomington. But the researchers say flushing the toilet less often could significantly reduce household water usage. Photo credit: M. Kuhlman.
PHOTO: Disgust and contamination concerns keep people flushing the toilet after each use, according to a new survey from Indiana University-Bloomington. But the researchers say flushing the toilet less often could significantly reduce household water usage. Photo credit: M. Kuhlman.
July 13, 2015

INDIANAPOLIS - When it comes to water conservation, experts in Indiana say every drop in the bucket counts including those drops in the commode. According to a survey from Indiana University-Bloomington, toilets are a huge water guzzler, accounting for more than a quarter of household water use.

While urine is not linked to the harmful bacteria found in stools, the majority of people surveyed reported always flushing after urination. Researcher and post-doctoral fellow Michelle Lute says if multiple households started reducing their flushing, it would add up significantly.

"A lot of people think it's not worthwhile to reduce their own flushing because they think other people won't," says Lute. "But if we can change that attitude, people can be talking about 'Oh, this is a worthwhile thing to do and I know that other people are also doing it,' that might increase motivation to flush less."

The survey found the main reasons people flush after urinating are disgust, habit, belief about cleanliness and a lack of environmental motivation. Lute says new innovations in the marketplace could help to change attitudes, including environmentally friendly products that can mask the smell and color of urine left behind.

Lute says researchers examined toilet flushing because people do it several times a day without much thought. She encourages Hoosiers to consider not rushing to flush.

"People have different rules," she says. "Sometimes they flush every other time, or once it reaches a certain color, or a certain amount of toilet paper, that sort of thing. Whatever people are comfortable with but simply just reducing a couple flushes a day can make a big difference."

The online survey included 1,000 people from across the country and is published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IN