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Honolulu Lite

Charles Memminger

Thursday, August 14, 2003


Reader says saltwater
toilet idea all wet


MY suggestion that Hawaii use sea water in toilets instead of fresh, pure drinking water as a water conservation measure generated a vast outpouring of indifference and a couple of nasty e-mails.

One reader, apparently envisioning every road, sidewalk, yard and driveway torn up simultaneously in order to construct a saltwater sewage system separate from fresh-water supply lines, not to mention a gnarly tax increase to pay for the thing, inquired warmly: Are you insane? He advised me not to mention it again because "there are people around here crazy enough to do it."

Actually, where people are crazy enough to do it is Hong Kong, an island much like ours except smaller and covered with Chinese. Another reader informed me that Hong Kong has had a saltwater privy system for sometime and it works well, or as well as anything can work under the control of Godless communists.

SUITABLY DETERRED from the saltwater toilet idea, but still committed to solving our severe water shortage problem, I did a little research into the biggest water users on Oahu. It turns out that Kaneohe Marine Base uses more water than any other entity to the tune of 56 million gallons a year. That's a staggering amount of fresh water used by Marines, especially when you consider they should be getting prepared for desert warfare, not a trip to Water World.

I'm not sure where all the water goes on the Marine base because every time I've been there the place is dry and dusty and all the trucks are painted Desert Storm brown. In their defense, the Marines have decreased their water use by 14 percent, which is better than what the Hilton Hawaiian Village has done. According to Water Board figures, the Hilton used nearly 7 million gallons of water in the past year, up 51 percent from the year before. I've got only two things to say the hotel's grounds keepers: Plastic Plants.

On an odd note, Honolulu Zoo and Halawa Prison use just about the same amount of water: 10 million gallons a year. Ironically, one facility charges for entry and the other grants entry for charges.

Just to be fair, I reviewed water usage at Hale Memminger, and our family of three humans, a dog and two birds goes through about 90,000 gallons of water a year. (Those damn birds insist on ice cubes in their afternoon cocktails.) I don't know if that's typical but it does explain why I'm so heavy: I'm retaining water -- Kaneohe Bay to be precise.

One reason for the water shortage is that water doesn't cost as much as it should. We pay $27 for 15,000 gallons, which is crazy cheap. If water cost more, people would use less of it.

So here's the challenge: E-mail me how much you'd be willing to pay for fresh, pure water delivered right to your house and I'll forward the results to the Water Board, which I'm sure is waiting with intense indifference.




See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Charles Memminger, winner of National Society of Newspaper Columnists awards, appears Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. E-mail cmemminger@starbulletin.com



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