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Whistler 2020 on the ground

Potty mouth toilet talk

Our three-year-old boy Chance has learned to use full sentences and also to operate the toilet over this past summer, and his fascination with both has combined into a cute little potty mouth constantly getting scolded for “toilet talk.”

Sorry Chance, but Daddy gets to do a little toilet talk today… all in the name of protecting and conserving countless, precious water molecules and our resort community’s continued, sustained access to and use of them. If it looks like a toilet, acts like a toilet, than it must be a toilet. But are all toilets created equal? Let’s talk.

If you care one molecule about water conservation and efficiency, not all toilets are created equal. As the ever-chugging technology train keeps on rolling, homeowners and lodging providers who need to swap out their old or broken toilets have many options when it comes to the new generation of flushing. Ultra high efficiency, dual flush toilets have come of age. Gone is the first generation of dual flush toilets that got a bad rap because the “dual flush” terminology applied to how many times you had to flush them to clean out the bowl, thus eliminating any water conservation efficacy and annoying the heck out of their owners. Cue the second / third / fourth generations...

According to Environment Canada, your toilet is by far the biggest water-guzzling appliance in your house, accounting for about 30 per cent of your home’s water usage. Standard North American toilets manufactured prior to the 1980s usually require 15 to 20 litres per flush. Toilets sold during the ’80s and early ’90s use 13 litres per flush. Efficient, single flush units are six litres per flush and the newest, ultra efficient dual flush models use three and 4.5 litre flushes.

Into this new hyper water-saving milieu, enter Mike McLean, former housing manager at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler. Feeling water conservation was the “right thing to do” McLean was in charge of a renovation of 100 units at the Chateau’s Glacier Staff Housing complex. For two years, McLean petitioned to install ultra efficient toilets in the rooms as part of the staff housing reno project. Without volume-based pricing and universal metering in Whistler, McLean and his team were facing an efficiency investment with little capital return… but a lot of saved water. As a conundrum-solver, McLean dove deeper into dual flush technology and found the hooks he needed to fish for additional savings related to water conservation.

“It turns out that the ultra efficient toilets get a lot less maintenance calls,” McLean says. “I talked to folks at a hotel in Sun Peaks where they have a huge water supply issue and their switch to dual flush had an extra bonus of saving operational costs and water.” This was enough to convince McLean’s team to go ahead.

This now-approved action of switching out 100 toilets will create a net water savings in Whistler of around 4 million litres per year, assuming there are two residents per unit flushing an average of five times per day each. Eighty per cent of flushes are predicted to use the lowest per flush volume of 3.5 litres. If every one of the nearly 5,500 guest rooms in Whistler converted to this type of toilet, we would see annual water conservation volumes of around 90 million litres. That’s two per cent of the water used in Whistler annually.

Moving toward more efficient water infrastructure is synchronistic with actions created by the Whistler2020 Water, Natural Areas and Materials and Solid Waste community task forces and ties in directly with the B.C. Government’s Living Water Smart plan which rolled out this past summer. Becoming water efficient is a key objective of the B.C. Government’s plan. Studies estimate that in almost every sector of the economy cost-effective water use reductions of 20 to 50 per cent, or more, are available through efficiency measures. The benefits are even greater when energy savings, reduced infrastructure needs, and reduced impacts on water are counted.

So, when it comes to toilet talk, the chatter in town right now is how to conserve our precious natural resource — which is water. And that talk is flush with conservation opportunities.


To learn more about actions which are moving Whistler toward our 2020 vision, or to get involved, go to