Water Conservation – Toilets

This is the first of many blog posts where we will share information for the general membership.

At this week’s General Meeting, we introduced a five-minute education component to our agenda. It is presented immediately after the Board/Treasurer’s report.

I chose to focus on water conservation with a particular focus on toilets. I delivered a PowerPoint presentation, part of which I have copied and expanded on below.

Though we live in a rainforest, fresh water is a valuable resource that we should use wisely. I ask you to take a moment to think about where you think the greatest use of water is in your home. Then think about ways in which you can reduce your consumption.

Here is a pie chart which shows the approximate distribution of water usage in the average home:

GVRD Water Consumption Chart


As you can see, toilet use accounts for a large part of domestic water use. Leaks account for 10% of water usage. Much domestic water loss can be attributed to leaking toilets.

Here’s how to tell if your toilet is leaking. Do you still hear the sound of water flowing a few minutes after the toilet is flushed? Are there ripples in the toilet bowl long after it has flushed. Does the toilet make ANY noise when it is not in use? Do you need to jiggle the handle after you flush it for it to stop flowing or to make it work properly? If so, you NEED to investigate. The easiest thing to do is to put about ten drops of dark food colouring (blue, green or red) into the reservoir tank at the back of the toilet. Replace the lid and wait 15 minute to half an hour. Look into the toilet bowl. If there is any colour in there, your toilet is leaking and you should immediately submit a work request.

Here’s the video  I showed, which gives instructions on how to do this. Here’s the link  at the end of the video http://www.conserveh2o.org/

Years ago, I worked as a customer service clerk for the City of Winnipeg’s Waterworks department. Winnipeg has water meters in all homes, so people are billed on their actual usage. Virtually every day, we would get a phone call from someone complaining that their water bill had doubled or tripled from its usual amount. The first question we would ask is “Is your toilet leaking?” Many times the answer would be “No.” But if we asked “Does your toilet make noise after you flush it?” or “Do you have to jiggle the handle on your toilet after you flush it to make it work properly?” inevitably the answer was “Yes.” Imagine, a leaking toilet causing two to three times the normal volume of water to flow through the water meter for one household. I always make a point, if I see a leaking toilet, whether in someone’s home, but especially in a public place, to tell the homeowner or follow up with the property management of the building I am visiting, to let them know to fix the toilet.

Fill in a Work Request

If your toilet is leaking, PLEASE submit a work request (you can phone, fax, fill in a piece of paper, or fill one out online), and let them know so it can be fixed ASAP. If you have to jiggle the handle, PLEASE submit a work request. If the toilet is running non-stop, you should turn off the water valve once the tank is full, which will allow you to flush once. Then you can turn it on enough to fill the tank for the next flush. Maintenance workers are in the co-op two days a week.

Overflowing Toilet? Find the Shut Off Valve

Another problem that can happen with a toilet is if it gets plugged, the toilet can overflow. If your toilet is overflowing, you need to turn off the water supply to the toilet. Here is a photo of a toilet shut off valve.

Toilet shut off valve

Here’s a video showing you how to identify the shut off valve and turn it off.

And remember, the only thing, other than human waste, that should go into the toilet is toilet paper. Paper towels, Q-tips, tampons, condoms–all of these can and do plug up toilets. Be sure to have a plunger handy so you can plunge your toilet if it gets plugged.

Back to the issue of water conservation. We are in the process of phasing in new high-efficiency toilets which use less water to flush. Until then, however, it’s good to get into the habit of flushing your toilet as little as possible. My parents had a trailer on Lake Winnipeg that was connected to a septic tank. There was a sign behind the toilet “If it’s yellow, let it mellow, if it’s brown, flush it down.” Sorry, but we can’t talk about toilets without getting a little icky. We currently practice that in our home. We don’t have a water meter, so we don’t know how much water we are saving, but it does make a difference.

One other thing you can do is to purchase a $12 water saving kit from the City of Vancouver.

Water-Saving Kits for Homes

 Use up to 20 percent less water, and save up to 15 percent on your water heating bill. Includes

  • 1 “Earth Massage” self-cleaning showerhead with adjustable spray setting from gentle needle to forceful jet
  • 1 dual-setting Touch Flow kitchen aerator with swivel action for effective cleaning, and choice of aerated jet and wide spray
  • 2 faucet sink aerators with solid brass casing and polished chrome finish, plus flow control constructed of long-lasting plastic
  • 2 toilet tank bags that are easy to install, and made of non-corrosive materials that are resistant to microbes and fungal growth
  • 2 packages of leak detection dye tablets for testing leaks from toilet tank to toilet bowl, which could save you from wasting up to 150 L of water per day
  • 1 roll of Teflon tape to prevent leaks at hose connections

Cost $12 per kit, available from

  • Pickup location #1
    Revenue Services counter
    1st Floor, City Hall
    453 West 12th Ave
    Vancouver, BC V5Y 1V4
  • Pickup location #2
    Client Services counter
    Crossroads Building
    5th floor, 507 West Broadway
    Vancouver, BC V5Z 0B4

 IMPORTANT: Remember to bring proof that you live in Vancouver.


Please feel free to post your comments or questions below and let me know what you would like at future general meeting Education mini-sessions or blog posts.


City of Vancouver Preserving and Protecting Water

BC Ministry of Environment Water Conservation page

Environment Canada’s Wise Water Use page



I ♥ my co-op.

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