Andrew's Science Log

Science notes – with experiments!

What If Everybody In Canada Flushed At Once?

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toilet flush hockey game

Edmonton water usage during Olympic hockey final

Here is a wonderful graph of water usage versus the progress of a gold medal hockey game.  The correlation of period breaks to usage peaks is positively elegant.  The privacy implication (here, on all the bladders in Edmonton) was flagged in RISKS 25:96 (13 March 2010), also mentioning a related squib concerning mining information from smart electric meters. Anyway, you can see why they say all beer is recycled.

[Originally reported at Pats Papers; the title recalls a famous Bloom County strip.]

The story was later published in a Globe and Mail article with slightly spiffier graphics (but misreporting citywide water usage in milliliters!).  Beware, both graphs commit a cardinal sin in data depiction and give the impression that all the water goes down the toilet.  Note that the graph actually shows only the uppermost third of all water consumed; the Y-axis (the ordinate to you nerds) starts at 300 without indicating the part that’s been cut out. Naughty, but not as bad as our flushing away nearly a third of the precious potable water supply.

Regardless, that’s a large and quickly shifting strain on the distribution system that could even lead to failure as it is speculated may be resulting from water rationing in Los Angeles.  Another source provided data from Vancouver during the game in terms of water pressure.

Speaking of urinalysis, don’t neglect the newer idea of sewage epidemiology to drug-test entire cities. I see no reason the police — or your neighbor — couldn’t hang out in your sewer to catch each flush in a test tube.  I can see a lot of reasons they wouldn’t want to!


Written by Andrew Wells Douglass

22 March 2010 at 10:45

Posted in Idleness, Other

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