The Downside to Water Efficiency in the Home
It has been ages since I have written about the Fig Garden Project, the name I gave to what was once a foreclosed condominium in Fresno. Part of the reason was because after I moved to the San Joaquin Valley, my travel schedule became insane and I rarely had time to share my own thoughts and experiences on this site. Then I moved to Abu Dhabi and to Uruguay for a year: by the time I moved back to California, my housesitter had spent more time in this renovated space more than me. I took a lot of time choosing the best possible eco-friendly and affordable green building materials, a task that was not easy. Unfortunately, my floor is being ripped out and replaced because of water damage. After learning this has happened before in my complex, I decided to go with tile (that looks like wood) to be on the safe side.
Like many homeowners, I chose dual-flush toilets because I wanted to be conscious of my water consumption—in many areas, residents simply do not have a choice. Never mind the fact 70 percent of the water in this state goes to agriculture: toilets are inefficient when it comes to water consumption, and this challenge is bedeviling policy makers around the world.
But like many of these new ecological thoughts and products, when you treat one problem, you create another—and that goes for water efficiency in the home. A week before Christmas, the sewer line backed up through my bathtub and all over, and under, my floor. Bye-bye bamboo. And I just found out today another resident in my complex just had the same problem. Sure, tree roots going after the pipes for nutrients were part of the problem. So was a moron in my building who apparently thought flushing baby wipes down the drain was a smart idea. But as the plumbers who dealt with the immediate back-up told me, this is a growing problem because our pipes are not getting that OOMPH from having those massive flushes of water going down the sewer mains.
So what can one do? I still want to be water conscious. Well, preventive maintenance, as in snaking your sewer pipes every year or so, is one way to deal with this. If you live in a condominium complex laden with big trees, this is one issue you should bring up with your HOA. When you are washing dishes, fill up your sink with water, then remove the plug so VROOM—a big wave of water goes down your pipes and hopefully any crud with it. And when it comes to flushing, toilet paper, #1 and #2 are all that should go down the porcelain throne. Take it from me: an ounce of prevention can prevent two to three months of hassle . . . even if someone else is picking up the tab.
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Image credits: Leon Kaye