The Energy Policy Act was established in 1992. It was enacted in 1994 for residential buildings, 1997 for commercial. One aspect of the act regulates flow rates for toilets, faucets, and shower heads. The act followed a Massachusetts 1988 mandate, the first in the nation, requiring the use of low-flush toilets in new construction or remodeling. A low-flush toilet utilized 1.6 gallons per flush, versus the prevalent 5-gallons-per-flush toilets of the time. Initially, this didn’t go well. Toilet manufacturers attempted to modify their existing models to conform with the new requirements. It took improvements in design to create a toilet that worked at a lower flow rate. Advances continue to be made, bringing an effective flush down to 1.28 gallons.

I find it interesting that if the land-based salmon farm is built in Belfast, their toilets will need to be low-flush. Meanwhile, they’ll be running 1,205 gallons of freshwater through the discharge pipe every minute. Additionally, they will utilize 4,000 gallons of salt water a minute drawn from the bay. 1,205 gallons per minute is the equivalent of 753 toilets with a flow rate of 1.6 gallon per flush being flushed once every minute. 753 toilets flushed once per minute, 60 times per hour, 24 hours a day, is 1,084,320 flushes per day. Think of how many guests we could invite at that flush rate.

Part of the city of Belfast’s agreement with the proposed fish farm is that the farm will buy a minimum of 100 million gallons of freshwater from the city each year for at least six years. I was thinking of this number, trying to get a handle on it, when I passed a parked school bus. When I was in my 20s I was buying, restoring and selling old houses. Large checks passed through my hands every few years. The numbers were unrelatable. To get a grip, I needed to translate those numbers to a tangible currency. For me that was albums. At the time I was buying used records for about two dollars each. I could then think of house purchase and sale in terms of records. When I was mulling over 100 million and passed the school bus, I thought of Walter. Walter was the ultimate school bus driver. Many of the drivers attempted to subdue that wild-kids-on-bus energy. Walter channeled it into song. If you were on Walter’s bus you were singing at the top of your lungs. The three basic hits were “Old MacDonald,” “BINGO,” and “100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall.” So, how long would it take to sing One Million Bottles of Beer on the Wall? I needed data. Since the vast majority of verses would involve numbers with six digits, I timed myself for 10 verses with six-digit numbers. At my rate it took three minutes. That means to sing 1,000,000 verses would take 300,000 minutes, or 5,000 hours. If Walter’s bus was traveling at an average speed of 60 miles per hour, we could travel 300,000 miles during the song. From Belfast to San Francisco is 3,300 miles, so a round trip of 6,600 miles. In the time it takes us to sing One Million Bottles of Beer on the Wall, we could make the round trip 451⁄2 times. Singing 100 million verses would allow us the time for 4,5451⁄2 drives to San Francisco and back. If you put your 5-year-old on that bus ride of 100 million verses, they’d be back 57 years later, just in time for their 62nd birthday.