Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Downsides to Thrift: Germans Saving Too Much Water

Germans need to flush their toilets more often, says Hans-J├╝rgen Leist, a scientist at the Ecolog Institute in Hanover, as quoted in a Wall Street Journal article.

http://www.sup.org/book.cgi?id=24105In my new book, The Good Life, I look at how Germans choose their eggs--and it turns out that their preference for organic and free-range are driven by the same values of thrift and social solidarity that stop them from flushing their toilets. Germans rightly pride themselves on their thrift, from tedious and obligatory recycling regimes to crazy ways of saving grey water, and on their sense of social and ecological obligation ("solidarity" is is a value extolled by the political left and right).

But too much thrift is a bad thing for a water system. With energy efficient washing machines and quest for personal thrift has led per person water consumption to drop by more than 15% over the last 20 years (to 32 gallons/person). At the same time, and based on the same values of thrift and long-term investment, German cities have built up infrastructure capacity.  And, as the WSJ reports, with low flow volumes, sewage systems develop all sorts of problems, from smells to corrosion.