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To Flush Or Not To Flush 746

Posted by Zonk
from the that-is-the-question dept.
gooman writes "Tired of arguing the same old issues like Linux vs Windows? Choose up sides in the fight over flushing vs non-flushing urinals. The L.A. Times reports on efforts to place the waterless urinal into the Uniform Plumbing Code. To quote: '...the ordinary-looking urinal is at the center of a national debate that has plumbers and water conservationists taking aim at one another.' Amazingly simple, the no-flush urinal uses gravity to force urine through a filter containing a floating layer of oily liquid which then acts as a sealant to prevent sewer odors from escaping. Each no-flush urinal is claimed to save over 24,000 gallons of water a year, but the opposition is concerned about the spread of disease. Although not mentioned in the article this technology is in use around the world. Does anyone have these fixtures installed at their place of employment? Are there any real drawbacks? Is this really a worthwhile debate or just an excuse for toilet humor?"
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To Flush Or Not To Flush

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  • by BWJones (18351) * on Friday November 25, 2005 @11:39PM (#14116861) Homepage Journal
    There are actually a number of simple implementations that I have been absolutely surprised to not see in the US. For instance, in other places I have traveled around the world, dual flush toilets with "light" and "heavy" flush modes are available everywhere except in the most undeveloped third world countries. However, here in the US, particularly in water restricted areas you see standard high-flow toilets. Granted many "low flow" toilets such as the ones available in many areas of California are not so great if you have a fruit/vegetable intensive diet, but for some reason the toilets available in the US simply don't have the "power" that other more advanced designs have elsewhere in the world and I am not talking about the advanced technology toilets that they have in Japan either. Those are actually kinda scary because of all their automation and such, but simple things like pressure assist can make for very effective low water use designs.

    Why is it that the US, one of the most advanced countries in the world cannot get their $#!^ together, pun intended :-) when it comes to plumbing issues that most of the rest of the world seems to have solved years ago?

    • by Brigadier (12956) on Friday November 25, 2005 @11:59PM (#14116969)


      Sorry to break it to you bro, but this has nothing to do with what is available. The only thing that will mandate new methodology is political mandates. The only problem is no politition is going to back a bill that will raise contruction prices and help them lose all there campaign dollors from big developers. I'm an architect and I've seen it over and over again where a product will come out that will help either the environment or energy conservation. A contractor will look at it and go " what the heeelll is that I can install ya ten american standards that I gots sitt'n in back it will save you $$$$$$$$$$$$" ofcourse the developer doesn't care these are being sold to deseperate homeowners no.349835439
      • by GnarlyNome (660878) on Saturday November 26, 2005 @12:13AM (#14117054) Journal
        A political Mandate to save water is what got us saddeled with Low flow toilets ann restrictors in shower heads(that any idiot can bypass) in the first place.
        When you "Mandate" something people will comply with the letter of the law as cheap as possible. Laws written for toilets by lawers instead of plumbers don't work as intended.(and neither do the toilets)
        • The most effective way to encourage people to conserve water is to increase the price of water. You have to turn it into an economics structure.

          Now the more socialist minded will balk at the idea of water prices going up for everyone. So you could take some queue's from California, add some creativity and end up with something like this: You get a tiered price structure per person in the household. No exceptions of any kind, period.

          In California, according to relatives who live there, they had to cons

          • by Ucklak (755284) on Saturday November 26, 2005 @08:32AM (#14118382)
            The problem with raising water prices is that you have the conservative minded folk who use water when needed (like don't keep the water running when brushing teeth, etc.) and then you have those idiots that gleefully waste water for whatever and don't have the concept of a leaky faucet.

            I lived in a state that had drought conditions 5 years ago for a period of 3 years. There was a watering ban for neighborhoods where it ended up that you couldn't water your lawn or wash your car.
            It started out that you shouldn't water your lawn and shouldn't wash your car. It ten went to if you have to use your outside water supply, use it on odd/even days depending upon your address.
            In year 2, the odd/even days stuck and if you did have to use water, it was before 10am and after 7pm . Warnings and fines came into play if you broke the rulesand people started to get pissed.
            In year 3, you were prohibited from using water at all.
            Year 4 had record rainfall so it went back to normal.

            The point I'm making is that you had the neighbors (like me) that didn't water the lawn or wash the car and you had the idiots with blatant disregard for the water shortage that eventually got their water cut off and had to pay a hefty fine to get it back on.
            These are the same people that have parties at 2AM that wake the neighbothood.

            You can charge whatever for a service and lazy idiots will pay as long as they can still do what they want to do.
          • by AB3A (192265) on Saturday November 26, 2005 @11:41AM (#14119018) Homepage Journal
            Speaking as an employee of an east coat water and sewer company, we have an interesting take on it. The first so many gallons are priced pretty much at cost. The second band of usage have extra added on. The third band of residential use is seriously expensive. Typical use will result in a very reasonable bill. Lots of laundry, high flow toilets and so forth will result in a moderately higher water bill. Leaky plumbing, especially leaky toilets, can result in an astronomical bill.

            Our customer service agents usually forgive the first really large water bill, but following ones are expected to be more normal.

            In any case, we do try to use economics to encourage water conservation.
      • A contractor will look at it and go " what the heeelll is that I can install ya ten american standards that I gots sitt'n in back it will save you $$$$$$$$$$$$"

        That's one advantage of a no flush urinal. Since it doesn't require a water hookup, there's no excuse for the installation NOT being cheaper than for water flush versions. One less hole in the tile, less pipes to connect, and no joints under pressure that have to be solid.

    • by frdmfghtr (603968) on Saturday November 26, 2005 @12:58AM (#14117266)
      Why is it that the US, one of the most advanced countries in the world cannot get their $#!^ together, pun intended :-) when it comes to plumbing issues that most of the rest of the world seems to have solved years ago?

      Because it seems like if it doesn't (a) get somebody re-elected and/or (b) make somebody a profit, it usually won't get done.

      During WWII, Winston Churchill put it best. To paraphrase: The Americans, when all other options have been exhausted, will do the right thing.

    • by CaptainCarrot (84625) on Saturday November 26, 2005 @01:21AM (#14117367)
      Sorry, but you have no idea what you're talking about. The only place you'll see the old, high-flow toilets are in older houses. You can't even buy the things anymore, not since 1992. 1.6 gpf toilets are now standard everywhere in the US. There was early resistance to them because, as another poster pointed out, early models did not work well, and in reaction some people went so far as to import high-flush models from Canada. No one bothers anymore unless they're atavistic; new low-flush toilets work just fine.
  • by snevig (555801) on Friday November 25, 2005 @11:42PM (#14116869)
    the ultimate pissing contest. :P
  • I have one! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by skazatmebaby (110364) on Friday November 25, 2005 @11:42PM (#14116871) Homepage

    We have a no-flush urinal in the bathroom where I live [myspace.com]

    The disadvantages are that you have to change the filter every, like 3,000, "non flushes". The filters are expensive and I'm sure they're slightly wasteful. If you don't have a new one, the entire urinal stops working and lovely pee just accumulates inside the urinal. And that stinks.

    What would be nice would be a hybrid - it's a no-water system until the filter, "craps" out, and then you have the regular way of doing things, as a backup.

    Saying all that, it's proven to save us lots of water and keep our incredibly delicate plumbing working well.

  • by Dolda2000 (759023) <fredrik @ d o l d a 2 0 0 0 .com> on Friday November 25, 2005 @11:43PM (#14116876) Homepage
    Tired of arguing the same old issues like Linux vs Windows? Choose up sides in the fight over flushing vs non-flushing urinals.
    Yeah, right! If it isn't Linux vs. Windows, how would I possibly know which side to pick?

    Pfft... seriously...

  • I always have a bottle of water with me, and keep myself well hydrated... so I know my urinals well.

    IMHO no flush urinals suck. There's always that faint odor of urine that just doesn't go away.

    The best urinals ever are the low flow with a urinal cake. Low flow means even when they get older, and have calcium buildup, no splash at all on flush, and the urinal cake keeps it fresh. When well mantained they are very good.

    When I make it rich... I'm getting a Urinal in my home bathroom. And yes, it will be l
  • Splash (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 25, 2005 @11:43PM (#14116879)
    I will just be happy when they invent no splash urinals...is it really that difficult??
  • I have used a few of these. I would think that they would reduce the spread of disease through their "no touch" design -- no buttons or levers to press. The same argument made by users in the article, there. I guess I can understand the opposite argument; urine is just sitting there on the surface. But, I don't know many people that touch the inside of the urinal.

    You can always spray it with a disinfectant, can't you?
    • It's also important to point out that normal healthy people urine is actually quite sterile, and doesn't contain anything that's really going to harm people with an immune system of any kind. Actually, it's safe to drink your urine if you're stranded and don't have any other source of liquids. It won't hold you up for every, but it could keep you alive an extra while till help arrives.
  • I sure hope they dont use these things in restaurants that serve asparagus.
  • Spreading diseases? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Patik (584959) <cpatik.gmail@com> on Friday November 25, 2005 @11:44PM (#14116888) Homepage Journal
    Does running some tap water over part of the urinal really help stop the spread of diseases and germs? If so, why not have one flush every night to clean it out and remain 'waterless' during the day?

    • by sacdelta (135513)
      Given how accurate some people tend to be, I don't think either prevents urine from being on the surface. Using that argument seems like more of a red herring . I would actually rate the 'waterless' as more sanitary since, unlike a handle flush you never need to touch it. But of course if you wash your hands after you go to the bathroom, like people should, it really wouldn't matter.

      I used to have one where I worked and some of the people there went to some interesting lengths to try to control the smell
    • by DrEldarion (114072) on Saturday November 26, 2005 @12:07AM (#14117022)
      It doesn't matter, urine is sterile anyway. People are just really paranoid. ... unless said person has something quite serious going on and blood is coming out, but I have a feeling that's pretty rare.

  • Well... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Xaroth (67516) on Friday November 25, 2005 @11:45PM (#14116894) Homepage
    "Is this really a worthwhile debate or just an excuse for toilet humor?"

    Given that this story was submitted to /., I'm gunning for the latter. I offer as evidence any comment that gets modded "Funny", including this one.
  • by Daengbo (523424) <daengbo@nOsPAm.gmail.com> on Friday November 25, 2005 @11:45PM (#14116895) Homepage Journal
    This picture [oss-in-efl.info] shows that flush / no-flush is not the only debate over urinals, at least in Korea.
  • by Tux2slack (847353) on Friday November 25, 2005 @11:46PM (#14116901)
    I work as a government electronics contractor onboard U.S. Navy ships....some of the smaller ones have a similar urinal installed. It just collects urine until a certain amount has been collected (about 2 pisses or one really long one) and a level switch trips a vacuum suction device that sucks it away. The only drawback is that the urine that naturally coats the urinal walls and drain STINKS as it ages and never gets a water wash-down. It's nasty, but that's what you get when you piss in a hole and let it sit. I think they used to call it an outhouse back in the day.
    • by adrianmonk (890071) on Saturday November 26, 2005 @01:37AM (#14117421)
      I work as a government electronics contractor onboard U.S. Navy ships....some of the smaller ones have a similar urinal installed. It just collects urine until a certain amount has been collected (about 2 pisses or one really long one) and a level switch trips a vacuum suction device that sucks it away.

      Well then, it's not all that similar then, because the one described in the summary has a "floating layer of oily liquid". It sounds like the US Navy ships' urinals that you're describing let the urine sit there in contact with the open air for indefinite period of time, whereas in these toilets, the oily liquid serves as a barrier between the urine and the air. Presumably this prevents certain volatile (meaning prone to evaporation, as opposed to unpredictable) chemicals from evaporating and smelling up the place.

      The point being, although they may be similar, it seems like the oily liquid is a key difference.

  • I don't care what they do, provided they can stop those public restrooms from stinking so much. It's amazing that they can clean them every hour (there's a timesheet on the wall that says so) and still have them eternally smelling like Piss. Also, if they could just provide dual flush toilets in all public restrooms, that would probably clear up a lot of the water issues very easily. You probably wouldn't even have to replace the entire unit, just parts in the tank, to be able to make them dual flush. U
  • Uh, just who is the opposition here to waterless urinals?
  • by caffiend666 (598633) on Friday November 25, 2005 @11:48PM (#14116916) Homepage
    Isn't a no-flush urinal called a tree? Why not simply avoid the sewer system and start installing shrubberies in all men's rooms :)
  • by Sugarcrook (795680) on Friday November 25, 2005 @11:50PM (#14116922)
    ANP [nps.gov], in Bar Harbor, has these at the summit of Cadillac Mountain. One of the major attractions at ANP, these urinals get a lot of use. No noticeable smell and the rangers seemed happy about the reduced maintenance.

    Yes, I went to a national park and asked about the urinals.
  • by Velox_SwiftFox (57902) on Friday November 25, 2005 @11:53PM (#14116938)
    It makes them oily and hard to light.
  • by diakka (2281) on Friday November 25, 2005 @11:56PM (#14116955)
    Seeing as how urine is fairly sterile, I just pee in the sink. no splashback, and it all gets washed down when i wash my hands. I learned about this environmentally friendly tip from Adam Carolla.
    • Re:Pee in the Sink (Score:5, Informative)

      by audacity242 (324061) <audacity242@@@yahoo...com> on Saturday November 26, 2005 @12:30AM (#14117127) Homepage
      Urine is sterile when it first comes out.

      But it makes a really great breeding ground for bacteria (which can colonize it from the air, or the remnants of some guy's puke in the urinal, etc.).

      -Jenn
    • When I first moved out of my parents house some ten years ago, I got this cramped little room with a sink. For the toilet, you had to get down the hallway which was unheated. In the year I lasted there, I could never get myself to walk down that cold hallway to take a leak.

      The downside is that I felt obliged to really, really scrub that sink whenever my gf came around. Not for my friends, though.

  • by nbahi15 (163501) on Friday November 25, 2005 @11:59PM (#14116967) Homepage

    One of our newest buildings on campus (1998) is the EESAT (Environmental Education, Science and Technology) Building. There is a picture of the building at http://www.ias.unt.edu/about/ [unt.edu]. It is generally a favorite building on campus to have classes in, with a giant earth population clock, all native plants landscape the facility, and other conservation and science exhibits exist in and around the building.

    The mens, can't speak to the womens, have urinals that are the flushless type described and there is a plaque above them indicating that they save water and trap odors. However the contractor went ahead a outfit the urinals with a water pipe in case they didn't work out. It stops short where an L shaped pipe would normally connect to a standard handle flushed or motion activated unit.

    They have been there for several years without complaints, and they don't smell, so in this instance they are a success.

  • I find that it conserves water if I just piss outdoors. Sure, the neighbors might not like it, but ... it's for the environment!
  • Yup, they block (Score:5, Interesting)

    by vik (17857) on Saturday November 26, 2005 @12:02AM (#14116988) Homepage Journal
    We had one installed at work - then ripped out and replaced with an old-fashioned water variant. It kept on blocking up. We asked why, and the answer came back that people were pissing in it too often.

    Well sucks to that idea. Out it went.

    Vik :v)
  • If It's Yellow (Score:4, Informative)

    by midnightblaze (788520) <juancnuno@@@fastmail...fm> on Saturday November 26, 2005 @12:32AM (#14117138) Homepage
    If it's yellow let it mellow. If it's brown flush it down.
  • Ugh... (Score:5, Funny)

    by NMZNMZNMZ (903066) on Saturday November 26, 2005 @12:33AM (#14117145) Homepage
    has plumbers and water conservationists taking aim at one another

    Intentional or not, that's a horrible pun.
  • by Murphy Murph (833008) <sealab.murphy@gmail.com> on Saturday November 26, 2005 @12:58AM (#14117264) Journal
    This is just going to add to the problems the sewer systems face in heavily commercial districts due to the use of low-flow toilets.

    In residential areas there are not as many problems with clogged sewer lines. Laundry machines, showers, dishwashers - these all add lots of water to the sanitary sewer system and keep the percentage of solids low.

    Commercial districts, OTOH, are having increasingly large problems with plugged sewer lines. Low-flow toilets are pushing (or failing to push as the case may be) sanitary lines over the edge. The point is being reached where there just isn't enough water introduced into the lines to move the, um, solids.

    The only solution is either decreasing the solids percentage in the system by increasing water use, or increasing the pitch at which sanitary lines are laid. You can only increase the pitch so much, though, before you run out of drop and need to install lift stations (bringing their own set of environmental costs.)

  • by catdevnull (531283) on Saturday November 26, 2005 @01:24AM (#14117383)
    The best thing about being a man is that the whole world is your urinal.

    Would the debate could be moot if we just followed the German Feminists [amazon.de]?

  • A RADICAL proposal (Score:3, Insightful)

    by argoff (142580) on Saturday November 26, 2005 @02:22AM (#14117552)
    Let the market decide the price of water, and then let anyone use as much as they choose to pay for accordingly. I mean, shouldn't it be telling us something when the government has to regulate our tiolets in the name of good causes?
  • Good or Bad? (Score:3, Informative)

    by JDStone (741327) <jdstone@@@jdstone1...com> on Saturday November 26, 2005 @03:41AM (#14117759) Homepage Journal
    These waterless urinals were installed about a year ago in my community college here in Southern California and I hate them. Yes, they do conserve a lot of water, but that oily liqued does not seem to keep the odor out, it still stinks!
  • by sailor420 (515914) on Saturday November 26, 2005 @04:35AM (#14117895) Homepage
    A few of the buildings at UNC Chapel Hill use no-flush urinals. They seem to work pretty well, and do what they are advertised to do--except for one problem. Things splatter. Everything doesn't go right down the drain--the sides of the urinal catch the splatter, which then isn't washed away. And so it starts to stink. It's nothing so terrible you can't go in the bathroom, but it definitely isn't the perfect solution they advertise, either.

    Perhaps if they can solve the splatter problem...
  • by plbg32 (778456) on Saturday November 26, 2005 @12:02PM (#14119096)
    i am a plumber here in seattle, some comrades in the trade installed these waterless urinals in the Smith tower here, all though the bldg. well it was not long after that the complaints of the smellls started coming. so i guess if you want to save water you can live with the smell. from a professional point of view i think that they are unsanitary. that flush of water rinses the porcilen of the urine. i know that 99% of the readers here have never had to remove the drain piping from a urinal from behind a wall but its amazing how much scale buils up inside the pipes from a urinal(really one of my least favorite jobs best left to the apptrentice). without water this scale will become even thicker faster causing a failer of the drain. so it ends up costing the customer more in the long run. and finally for those who think i am overpaid , whats it worth to you to stick your hands in a bucket of sh#&....
  • by Ichijo (607641) on Saturday November 26, 2005 @07:36PM (#14120987) Homepage Journal

    Refill the tank with water you've used to wash your hands with. After all, you don't need 100% clean water to flush down your waste, and you're going to wash your hands anyway after you use the toilet. (You do wash your hands after using the toilet, don't you?)

    The Japanese have had toilets for a while now with a spigot on the top of the tank. When you flush the toilet, clean water comes out of the spigot (with which you can wash your hands) and drains into the tank. Check out the picture here [wikipedia.org].

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