“Is Trump right about the more-working-class-view that water efficient plumbing fixtures and appliances are unnecessary and costly?”
“If a household were to conserve 25 percent of its indoor water it would amount to 7/100ths (0.07) of one-acre-foot of total system water in a year; a mere drop in the bucket.”
At a December 6, 2019 White House meeting with the Small Business Roundtable, Donald Trump made the following remarks about “opening up” national standards for water efficient bathroom fixtures and appliances:
We’re using common sense. We have a situation where we’re looking very strongly at sinks and showers and other elements of bathrooms where you turn the faucet on — in areas where there’s tremendous amounts of water, where the water rushes out to sea because you could never handle it — and you don’t get any water. You turn on the faucet; you don’t get any water. They take a shower and water comes dripping out. It’s dripping out — very quietly dripping out. People are flushing toilets 10 times, 15 times, as opposed to once. They end up using more water. So, EPA is looking at that very strongly, at my suggestion.
In a July 24, 2020, commentary, Peter Gleick (PhD-U.C. Berkeley), former president of the Pacific Institute for water policy in Oakland, California, challenged Trump’s above position. (Yes, this is the same Gleick that fraudulently and bizarrely invaded the Heartland Institute back in 2012.)
In “Donald Trump’s Water Problem,” Gleick ridicules Trump’s recent complaints in his speeches about unnecessary water conservation policies of having to flush “toilets ten times, 15 times, as opposed to once” and shower heads and dishwashers that don’t work. Gleick takes pot shots back at Trump for his obvious, but serious, kidding about water policies in California and his self-deprecating comments about his vanity over his hair.
Gleick sees such humorous comments by Trump about water conservation policies as “not funny” and “nonsense”. However, as will be explained below, Gleick employs virtue signaling when he writes:
It’s easy to mock drippy showers or clogged toilets, but what’s being mocked are efforts to modernize our industries and technologies simply because of the mistaken idea that we should go back in time to the old, inefficient.
Is Trump right about the more-working-class-view that water efficient plumbing fixtures and appliances are unnecessary and costly? According to Ed Ring, of the California Policy Center, Gleick omits from his criticism of Trump that 93 percent of human consumption of water is for food and only 7 percent for residential and personal usage.
Water Use per California Household (adapted from Ring)
|Acre Feet of Water (football field of water 1-foot high)||Percent (%)||Category||25% conservation standard|
|3.9801||93.1%||Consumption of embedded water in food||N/A under current standards|
|0.2888||6.9%||Residential water consumption|
(indoor & outdoor)
|1.72% (0.07-acre foot)|
|0.0016||0.04%||Human hydration (drinking)||0.01% (0.0004-arce foot)|
|4.1806||100%||0.0704-acre foot total saved water|
Ring puts the above into perspective:
Put another way, we divert 65 million-acre feet of water each year in California for environmental, agricultural and urban uses, and the recommended 25% reduction in water usage by residential customers will save exactly 0.9 million-acre feet – or 1.4% of our total statewide water usage. One good storm easily dumps ten times as much water onto California’s watersheds as we’ll save via a 25% reduction in annual residential water consumption”.
The above table indicates that if a household were to conserve 25 percent of its indoor water it would amount to 7/100ths (0.07) of one-acre-foot of total system water in a year; a mere drop in the bucket.
Ring points out that if a household were to greatly reduce water use, one way would be to stop eating animal protein. But those who eat only plant protein (e.g., rice protein) in non-industrialized countries can end up with emaciated bodies and rickets. Moreover, plant protein cannot offset age-related muscle loss. And while too much red meat can lead to cardiovascular disease, conversely a vegan diet often results in kidney and liver disease and kidney stones in non-western countries.
So, virtue signaling about water conservation by the Information Class is overblown and the amount of water that can be saved by low-flow toilets and appliances is not significant. Conservation may be the cheapest alternative for producing potable water, but it does not result in a significant increase in water supply.
According to the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), one of the big myths about California water is that “we can conserve our way out of California’s water problems”. Almost all urban water returns to the water system as treated wastewater.
Even urban outdoor water conservation is often “thoughtless” according to Ring. Converting a lawn into xeriscape does not recharge the underground water table. And in hot climate areas, lawns and swimming pools cool down the walls of homes resulting in greater energy savings from air conditioners. To those living in mild climate areas, lawns and swimming pools do not serve the same function as homes in hot climate regions. In fact, lawns and vegetation reduce the “urban heat island effect”. Coincidentally, the hot areas of the state tend to be Republican and working class.
Advocating urban-coastal water policies for inland hot-arid areas, that incidentally have more local water supplies, won’t conserve much water because human development is along the coastline while groundwater is mainly inland. Suburban sprawl would tend to disperse households to inland areas where greater groundwater resources are.
Anti-urban sprawl policies lead to dependence on greater imported water supplies, grabbing water from farmers and heightening water wars.
Bottom line, even if newer low-flow toilets do work better, there is some truth to the old working-class joke that water saving toilets that require flushing twice do not save much net water over the “old fashioned” toilets. This is closer to the objective truth of the matter than the water conservation ideology of the Information Class who claim their policies are virtuously scientific.