The Economics of Flushing your Toilet

Water is free. It falls from the sky. So why is the water bill so high? When you think about it, we have a pretty amazing system. You flush your toilet, it flows down to Lake Ontario where it is cleaned at a disposal plant before it is dumped into the lake. They then suck it up from the lake, purify it, pump it up to your home where you open your tap and drink it. The price of the water is determined by how much it costs to clean it, deliver it and take the waste away.

The Toronto water system, through most of its history, operated at a loss. Downtown homes didn’t even have water meters. You paid a flat rate for water based on the number of taps in your home. In 2005 the city made a conscious policy decision to restructure the water payment system so that the cost of water would rise until it reached the point where it actually covered the costs of cleaning, delivering it and removing all waste. Right now in the Keele St. and Finch Ave. neighbourhoods the sewer system is being rebuilt. It’s the water rate that is paying for this upgrade.

The 2005 decision included a policy of annual increases in the water rates. Between 2005 and 2016 the price of water rose from $1.35 per cubic meter to $3.45 per cubic meter, an increase of 255%. The expectation was that as the price rose and water became more expensive people would start to take measures to conserve it. Apart from wanting to cover the real cost of supplying water, the city’s secondary objective was to get you to use less water. Toronto council has increased the price of water by an average of 9% a year each year since 2005. If they had done that with your property taxes or TTC fares there would be a revolution to rival the Boston Tea Party.

The standard toilet most people have in their homes uses seven gallons (US liquid gallons) or (26.5 litres) of water to flush. In 2005 it cost you three and a half cents to flush that toilet. Today that cost has grown to nine cents a flush. If the average household size is three people and each flushes the toilet three times a day, the actual cost of water to flush the toilet in your house is $296 a year; up from $115.00 in 2005.

Modern low flow toilets use a fraction of the water. The new standard six litre toilets use four times less water than the toilet most people sit on. The water bill for flushing this toilet is $ 69. That’s a savings of $227 a year. If you buy one of the new three litre ultra-low flow models your savings increases to $261 a year.

The cost of a new low flow toilet ranges from $112 to $568 with the average around $270. If you can install it yourself, all the better. If not, allow around $200 for installation charges.

That means that your new toilet will pay for itself in about two years.
Get off the pot, go to your local hardware store, pick out a low flow toilet and stop flushing your money down the drain!

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