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Houston Mayor Orders Residents to Flush More

In an executive order that conflicts with conventional wisdom and modern environmental ethics, Houston Mayor orders residents to flush their toilets more to help clear out floodwaters.  [More]



Houston Mayor Orders Residents To Flush Toilets Extra Times To Dissipate Flood Waters

With the Community Reeling from the Biggest Flood in U.S. History, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner Goes Against the Conventional Wisdom in a Bid to Speed the Flood Recovery -- Some Critics Balk 


Published August 31, 2017


HOUSTON – Water rescues have created daily drama in a city that has found hell and high water.  Indeed, Houston has too much water.  Now its mayor is issuing an executive order to all residents intended to dissipate the water.  “I want everyone in the city of Houston with a working flush toilet to flush not once, not twice, but at least three times,” Mayor Sylvester Turner said at a press conference Wednesday.  “We’ve got to get the water out any way we can.”

Mayor Turner’s order might give some Houstonians environmental whiplash.  Water conservation has become a priority in the booming Southwest region.  California suffered a nearly five-year drought that only just ended in 2017.  Water conservation efforts in Texas have included reusing waste water and outlawing daytime sprinkler systems.  Texas residents have been encouraged not to flush their toilets after urination.  Now they are being told the opposite.

“I used to want to flush more, but now I have to force myself to flush after I go tinkle,” said Wendy McGuire, a 40-year-old mother of two from southwest Houston.  “If it helps to flush more, I’m just going to have to adjust and flush more,” she said.

Water use expert Linda Maxwell-Bergman of Santa Marino College said that overuse of flush toilets might be a small way to reduce the floodwaters.  “To the extent that the reservoirs are flooded, repeated toilet flushing can make a small but meaningful contribution to the relief efforts,” she said.

Critics of Mayor Turner believe that the harm of training people to over flush outweighs any benefits.  “What happens when the waters recede and you’ve got a population accustomed to flushing three times each times they urinate?” said community activist and professor of environmental studies Hector Garcia-Alvarez.  “You can’t tell people one thing one week and then something else the next.”

At least on Houstonian seems to agree.  “First, it was fat was bad.  Then it was fat was good.  Salt, bad.  Salt, good.  Flush, no.  Flush, yes.  Can’t they make up their minds?” said an exasperated Michelle Ortiz-Hidalgo of Sugar Land, Texas, a community approximately 20 miles from downtown Houston.

City officials say they’re aware of the confusion the flushing order might cause.  This has not stopped them from installing signs above the toilets at the convention center where over 5,000 people are taking shelter: “PLEASE FLUSH THREE TIMES FOR SINGLE USE.”

The order extends from 10 p.m. Wednesday to 5 a.m. Sunday, the Associated Press reports.