RBC Water Attitudes Study: Three Quarters of Canadians use Toliet as Garbage Can


Canadians say they appreciate the vast amount of fresh water that exists in this country, but are quite willing to waste much of it by unnecessarily disposing of things through toilets, according to results of a new study.

A survey — commissioned by the Royal Bank of Canada and diversified product maker Unilever, with the endorsement of the United Nations Water For Life Decade project — had 72 per cent of respondents saying they dispose of things such as hair, bugs, cigarette butts and food by flushing them down the toilet.

“We should stop using our toilets as garbage cans,” said Bob Sandford, chairman of the Canadian Partnership Initiative of the UN Water for Life Decade.

Each flush of a toilet uses six to 20 litres of fresh water, noted Sandford, not to mention the energy used to move and to treat that water.

Almost half the water Canadians use is flushed down the toilet, the study said. It cited data from Environment Canada that shows Canadians use 329 litres of water a day per capita. That’s about double the amount of Europeans, Sandford said.

There are various ways people try to justify flushing things not meant to be flushed, such as not wanting insects eggs being laid in one’s house or making sure cigarette butts don’t start a fire. But there’s always a better way to deal with such issues, Sandford said.

“I don’t think you need to use 20 litres of water to put out a cigarette,” he said.

Results of the survey called ‘2011 Canadian Water Attitudes’ released Monday, had 55 per cent of respondents saying fresh water is Canada’s most important natural resource, and 78 per cent claimed they make reasonable efforts to conserve it.

Other water-wasting activities survey respondents admitted to included leaving the water running while washing dishes (46 per cent) and hosing down driveways (17 per cent).

Sandford said the supply of water, even in Canada, is not without its limits. However, it might not be an easy point to make, especially at this time of year when lakes and rivers are at high levels from melting snow.

However, Sandford said signs of water scarcity are starting to show up in places such as Saskatchewan, southern Ontario and the Okanagan region in British Columbia. An implication right now, for example, is that new permits to use water for food production or other industrial uses are not being granted in southern Saskatchewan, he said.

“In time, if we don’t manage our water resources efficiently, there are going to be places in the country where availability of water is going to limit our social and economic development in the future,” Sandford said.

He said some of the moderate limitations on water usage in Canada now resemble the types of things that preceded serious shortages in other parts of the world.

Bryan Karney, a water supply expert teaching at the University of Toronto, said it’s difficult to imagine Canada as a whole ever experiencing a water shortage, though that is a risk in certain regions.

Karney added that if one area runs of out water, replacing it with supplies from another part of the country is not so simple.

“Moving water in any significant quantity a long distance is extraordinarily expensive,” he said. “It requires a pipeline, it requires infrastructure, it requires energy and it requires a huge, complicated process of reassessment of what that water is currently doing in its (other location).”

The study used results of online polling of 2,066 adult Canadians conducted by Ipsos Reid between Jan. 10 and 17.

The researchers said the results were weighted to reflect Canadian demographics and that an unweighted sample of this size would normally be representative of the population within 2.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

© Copyright (c) Postmedia News


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