Flush It, Mate: Toilet Bowls in NZ

You finish using the toilet, then you flush. One handle. Simple. At least, that’s how it works in the States. But, nowadays, with the increasing need to conserve resources, toilets are using less and less water to flush what used to take an enormous amount of water to ferry down to the sewer system. So, it doesn’t matter whether it’s a #1 or a #2, your toilet has to do the job.

So, it came as a surprise to confront a toilet in New Zealand for the first time. There is no handle to turn (or cord to pull). It’s a button. A two-part button. Sometimes one part looks like a quarter moon and the other, a vesica piscis (see picture above). Another one will consist of a small square nested inside a circle. Yet another will be split evenly, one half light, the other dark. You can probably guess what the symbology is. Little flush, big flush. This very practical design was fittingly invented in Australia in 1980, a country with very limited water resources. The smaller of the two-part button is used for urine, the larger one for solid waste. Or, is it the other way around?

These toilet bowls also have a low water line. Put another way, there isn’t much water at the bottom of the bowl. Not only that, the toilet bowl design is such that the bottom is relatively flat before it quickly drains into the trapline. Think of it as a funnel with U-shaped cross section rather than a “V.” The water only sits in the neck of the funnel, which means that the flat part is open air. A child, like my grandson, who has to take a crap will not necessarily be able to line up his rear end over that poor excuse of a target, which oftentimes leaves behind what my NZ family calls “skid marks.” Alright, then.

The other thing is that water is released in an unexpected way. It’s released with such force that it brings to mind white water rapids, even Niagara Falls. There’s no bourgeois swirling of water, ending in a dignified gurgle, but rather a mighty downpour that must be designed to eliminate, ahem, those skid marks. Honestly, it was difficult to tell if there was any water was being conserved or not.

Addendum (8-15-2012): As a rebuttal to my post, I found this one that refers to an Australian’s observations of the American toilet. Niagara Falls serves both our purposes. Read it and laugh.



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