Do All Toilets Use a Lot of Fresh Water for Flushing?

Since the system was set up in the 1950s, around 80% of the toilets in Hong Kong have used seawater for flushing.
Since the system was set up in the 1950s, around 80% of the toilets in Hong Kong have used seawater for flushing.

The old brick-in-the-toilet-tank trick is one way to conserve water, but Hong Kong has a better idea. Since the 1950s, about 80 percent of all Hong Kong residents employ seawater when they push the handle down on their toilets. While the method was originally installed to conserve precious fresh water, there now appears to be an additional benefit: Using seawater could help protect precious marine ecosystems.

In a study that was expected to illustrate the dangers of using chlorine on seawater effluent, scientists came to the surprising conclusion that it is actually less harmful to marine organisms than using chlorine on fresh water effluent. In recent years, more areas have been turning to the method, including the Marshall Islands, and the long-term plan in Hong Kong is to extend seawater flushing to 90 percent of the population.

The goal is to help cut down on mankind's reliance on fresh water, which now accounts for only about 1 percent of all of Earth's water sources. In an average household, toilets accounts for 30 percent of all water use – and in most parts of the world, that's the same quality water that comes out of the kitchen faucet.

Flush with information:

  • On average, each person flushes the toilet about 2,500 times a year.

  • However, approximately one-third of the planet, or 2.6 billion people, do not have access to a functioning modern toilet.

  • Globally, dangerous sanitation and water systems are to blame for the daily deaths of 750 children under the age of 5.

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    • Since the system was set up in the 1950s, around 80% of the toilets in Hong Kong have used seawater for flushing.
      Since the system was set up in the 1950s, around 80% of the toilets in Hong Kong have used seawater for flushing.