One of the things our tax dollars go for – a lot of tax dollars – is millions of bureaucrats dreaming up schemes to solve all kinds of problems. Often they are designed to solve a problem that isn’t even there. 

Some bureaucrat a few years ago sat in his little room with his abacus or whatever they compute things on and deduced that if we could just use 1 gallon of water instead of 1.7 to flush our toilets, we would “save” so many gazillion gallons of water a year.

In the first place, that wouldn’t save anything. Truth is, water is reused constantly.

True, out here in the arid southwest, water is a precious resource and we shouldn’t waste it. The oceans are full of water but the process of desalinization is still a fairly expensive proposition and piping water from more abundant sources also is pretty costly.

We seem to think when we see water flooding into the street when someone leaves his sprinkler on too long, that water is gone forever. When we flush our toilets or let water out of the bath, that water disappears.

No, it does not. If it evaporates, it goes up into the clouds to return as rain. True, that rain will fall somewhere else, probably far away when we could use it here. But it is not gone.

In a rural area without sewer service, water in the street that doesn’t evaporate will just go into a nearby stream or into the ground to be used by grasses, weeds, trees or whatever plant life exists.

Some may seep further into the ground and replenish water taken from an aquifer. 

If it goes into a storm sewer, it will go to the wastewater treatment plant, as will all the water that disappears when you flush the toilet or let the bathwater out.

There, the solid wastes will be removed and the remaining water will be purified and put back into the stream for the next user downstream. Any water still in the solids also will percolate down from the landfill to an aquifer below.

Even the water that makes up parts of living beings – plant or animal – returns to the earth when that being dies.

More than 50 years ago, I saw a wastewater treatment plant supervisor drink from a glass of effluent from his plant to show how well it had been treated and purified.

Downstream, another user will take that same water, treat it again at his water treatment plant and put it into city water supply. Then it will go back into the stream to be used again.

Every drop of water that existed when the earth was born 3.5 billion years ago – or whenever it was – is still in use today. We’re not saving – or wasting – anything.

But this cockamamie scheme doesn’t save water, it wastes water. And time.

The bureaucrats decided if we just bought a conversion kit at the local hardware store, we could start flushing with 1 gallon per flush. In my area at the time, the county extension office gave the kits away for free.

Trouble is, toilets designed to flush with 1.7 gallons, won’t flush with just 1 gallon.

So you have to flush two or more times. I have had to use as many as four flushes to get the material down the drain. Now, instead of using 1.7 gallons, you are using two. Or three or four.

To get the one GPF requires a completely new toilet, one that is designed to flush with 1 gallon. But that’s a lot more money so most of us opted for the cheap kit that didn’t work.       

Can I have my 1.7-gallon flushing mechanism back?

Jim Street covers Alpine and Brewster County for the Avalanche. He can be reached at 432-837-3334, reporter@alpineavalanche.com or 118 N. 5th St.