Vintage CJ: How Courteous is that Courtesy Flush?

With the recent Boil Water Advisory announced today for parts of Winnipeg, and with Blog Action Day coming up next week, I was reminded of something I wrote a few years ago.

The article in question was my entry for Blog Action Day 2010.  The subject was water.  It was handled with my trademark misguidedness and usual lack of research.

For your reading pleasure, I present to you the following stinker:

How Courteous is that Courtesy Flush?

Conceited Jerk Dot Com's Entry for

Blog Action Day 2010

Whew, just made it...

I tell you, there's no worse feeling in the world than being in the middle of an hour-long bus commute and suddenly having to go to the bathroom. You can't get off the bus, because you'll be late for work... the next bus comes in half an hour! All you can do is sit there in your seat, writhing in agony while daggers and needles seemingly tear at your bowels from within, regretting that cup of Fair Trade coffee you grabbed at the 7-Eleven. There's nothing you can do to ease the pain, short of breaking wind on a crowded bus, which you are not keen on doing lest you be known as the bastard who gassed and nauseated an entire busload of people. I mean, chances are you'll have to see these people again tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day (repeat ad nauseum), so why take a chance?

I found myself in this situation again yesterday. Halfway through my commute, my guts started churning and let out a wicked gurgle. The cup of Seattle's Best Certified Organic Fair Trade Etc coffee I'd bought at Mac's had reacted with something I'd eaten the night before, which caused quite the abdominal cataclysm. Knowing I had a half-hour to go until I reached my stop, I did my best to hold it all in while trying to maintain my composure. Despite the pain (and the fact I was, by then, sweating bullets), I somehow made it to work. I don't think I've ever run the distance from my bus stop to work that quickly!

Suffice it to say, I made it to the bathroom right in the nick of time. The moment I sat on the throne, the Earth trembled... and I'm pretty sure I set off a couple of car alarms in the parking lot!

Anyway, I'd like to apologize to my regular readers. You know I'm not normally one for toilet humour, and I honestly don't find bodily functions all that funny... but trust me, I'm going somewhere with this.

As a gesture of goodwill to my coworkers, halfway through the ordeal I gave what is called a "Courtesy Flush", a process the Urban Dictionary defines as "A flush in the middle of the toilet-sitting process in order to reduce the aroma". Considering the poor ventilation in our office, I'm sure the gesture was greatly appreciated. However, as round two approached, I began to think about what I'd done.

"You know, CJ," I said to myself, "You just wasted upwards of 6 litres of water, and for what?"

"Er," I muttered, "to save a bit of embarassment?"

"Is that all?" I demanded.

"Well, no," I admitted sheepishly, "I guess I didn't want my coworkers and/or customers to have to deal with the aftermath."

"So, now you're going to flush the toilet at least once more," I continued, "a toilet that already wastes a great deal of water due to faulty seals. That's at least six more litres. Who has to pay for that?"

"Uhhh," I stammered, "Angie in Accounts Payable?"

"No, Dumbass!" I screamed, "We ALL will when we run out of clean drinking water!"

"Now, wait just a minute," I argued, "Aren't you being just a tad melodramatic?"

"NO!" I screamed, "How many people in this city, this province, this COUNTRYare doing the same thing? How many courtesy flushes and how many inefficient toilets? How much of our potable water is going down the drain because people can't come to grips with the fact that SHIT DOES STINK?!"

I hate to admit it, but I had a point. I hate it when I'm right.

The above is a dramatization of a true story. It took place at the end of September 2010 while en route to work.

I've been doing the courtesy flush thing for years, and never really questioned the water usage until recently. The toilet mentioned in the story (our real life office toilet) wastes water. The seals leak, and it will sometimes continue to "run" until someone jiggles the handle to reset the stopper... on one occasion, the toilet ran all weekend long, because nobody bothered to check it before they locked up shop for the weekend. I shudder to think how much water went down the drain...

When I pointed out the problem, it was met with general apathy. "Water wasteage? Who cares?! So a bunch of Africans run out of water, let the aid agencies take care of it!"

I shook my head at the ignorance. After all, not ten years ago, the Walkerton tragedy had hit the news. This wasn't some isolated event in a Third World country you couldn't find on a map... this happened in our own country of Canada! CANADA! One of the fucking G8 countries!

Not long after that (Walkerton), the CBC broadcast a few segments on The National that dealt with the lack of potable water in many of our First Nations communities (Indian Reservations, to you Americans). It was around this time that I first heard of what was called a Boil Water Advisory. After perusing a few government websites, it seemed as though the problem was more widespread than had first appeared...

After the usual Offices, Departments, and Ministers got involved, much was pledged... more money for this, more infrastructure to be put in place for that, and it seemed as though progress was being made. The situation stopped being front-page news, and we summarily put it out of our minds.

So, fast forward back to today.

I decided to do a little checking, to see exactly what's been done. God knows, we can't trust the government to look after our best interests, can we? Well, apparently we can...

A quick perusal of the Manitoba Water Stewardship's website offers up the following listof communities still under Boil Water Advisory. The first line offers up some encouraging news: "To date, 164 Boil Water Advisories issued in Manitoba have been satisfactorily addressed and lifted". Seems pretty respectable, doesn't it? The communities still on the list (some of which are justoutside my own city of Winnipeg!) are either seasonal or rely on groundwater/wells for their water supply where infrastructure has not been put in place.

As for our First Nations friends, a quick glance at the Indian and Northern Affairs Canada site gleaned the following pronouncement: "Since the March 2006 Plan of Action for Drinking Water in First Nation Communities, real progress has been made and tangible results achieved. For example, at that time there were 193 high-risk First Nation drinking water systems across Canada - as of April 2010 this number has been reduced to 49 systems". As for my home province of Manitoba, the site goes on to say "According to the Manitoba Office of Drinking Water , there are approximately 70 communities (non-First Nation) in the province with boil-water advisories as of February 2010. By comparison, just one of the 63 First Nations in the province is under a boil-water advisory, one of the lowest rates in the country". Something to be proud of.

So we Canadians know our Government is living up to its responsibilities (never thought I'd say that!). Now, how about us? What can we do to do our part?

Personally, I'm replacing the old toilets in my home with more efficient dual-flush models. After that, I'm looking into a greywater recovery system. But most importantly, I'm educating myself on smart water usage and conservation.

My fellow Manitobans can find an excellent guide here. My international friends can probably find a localized version here.

This has been a Blog Action Day post.


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