Small holes

Where ever I go and what ever place I visit, sooner or later I will make a visit to the restroom, also known as washroom, toilet or WC, depending on what part of the world you come from. My wife is able to resist the calls of Mother Nature much more, avoiding the hygiene hazards that present themselves in these public-private places. She has a point, especially taking into account the common hygiene standards in this country. But apart from the hygiene conditions, it is the functional state of affairs that many toilets are in, that I am concerned about. As I mentioned in an earlier article, the toilet seats are normally broken, disconnected and parked behind the toilet next to the cover of the flusher. Why they are kept there I don’t know. Maybe in case somebody will be in a maintenance mood one day. The flushing mechanism itself is normally an adaptation of the original design and to flush the user will have to pull up a string or a wire that is connected to the stopper. To wash your hands you don’t really have to open the tap as it is left open or doesn’t close anymore. You know what I mean. Yes, the items selected during the building process may have been cheaper but they don’t last longer so they are more expensive in the end. I normally try to make a case for higher standard and quality building materials and the wise investor will prevent many unnecessary maintenance and repair costs after completion of the building.

Let us look a bit deeper into some of the consequences of our dysfunctional restroom though. More often than not the stopper of the toilet doesn’t do what it is supposed to do, namely stopping water from draining into the toilet unless it is flushed on purpose. As a result, the flusher container doesn’t fill up and the water keeps on passing through the flusher container into the toilet and down into the sewage system or septic tank. Let us make some calculations now. A normal flusher container has a capacity of some 5 litres of water. So every time we flush the toilet we use 5 litres of water; treated water that is. With a family size of five and each member using the loo twice a day, this amounts to 50 litres per day. Let us assume that after it has been flushed it takes 4 minutes for the container to fill up again. That is a flow of 1.25 litres per minute. In case the stopper does not function and the inlet is left open all day, this amounts to a loss of 1.25x60x24=1800 litres of water per day. Or 12,600 litres of water per week, or 50,400 litres of water per month! And this is only for one toilet. The 1800 litres lost in one day through one dysfunctional toilet is equivalent to what could save 360 drought victims if their ration is reduced to 5 litres of water per day. Normally an amount of 20 litres per person per day is calculated for people who live in drought prone areas. The standard for Addis Abeba is 80 litres per day. During drought emergencies, many organizations are busy trucking water to drought stricken areas, while in other parts of the country it is left to go down the drain without having even flushed our waste. Studies show that 20% of water is normally lost through leakages in the water system of cities in industrial nations like UK and the Netherlands. For Addis Abeba this amounts to some 37%.  And this is before it passes the water meter into buildings and our homes, after which some water will find its way through any leakages in our domestic system directly to the sewage system; treated but unused. And what does this do to our water bill? Realising how valuable water is for the country as a natural resource, we all have a responsibility to maintain and repair the water system in our houses and offices, while the authorities could set minimum quality standards for any plumbing materials to be brought into the country or produced locally. A lot of money that is now lost could thus be saved.

I want to take this example a step further though and make us realise that we may be losing a lot of money through seemingly small “leakages” in our business. I think for instance of unnecessary phone calls, private use of telephone and internet, wastage of raw materials, wastage of fuel because of unplanned logistics, damage to materials and equipment, no regular maintenance, taking home small items, private use of stationeries, leaving unnecessary lights on, leaving the water tap open, using low quality materials, coming late for work, extended lunch brakes, absence from work,  or using the latest excuse for leaving the office early.

And so I’d like to leave you with the following assignment:

  1. Thoroughly check what seemingly small leakages exist in your company.
  2. List them and calculate what they cost you per month.
  3. After recovering from the shock now work out a way to close each leakage.
  4. Smile again as you are now beginning to save a substantial amount of money.

Remember, many small holes can sink a big ship. Think again.