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Water has always been an integral part of civilization, and mankind has harnessed its power for different purposes for millennia. Dams large and small, and old mills along a riverbank are familiar examples of how we’ve used water as a power source for everything from sawing timber to processing grain to lighting up our homes. Hydropower has many advantages, with obvious benefits specifically for the environment. It is self-sustaining. Because it doesn’t burn any fossil fuels, it plays a role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. And it goes a long way toward reducing or even preventing deforestation. In the Pacific Northwest, for example, 90% of the region’s renewable energy comes from hydropower.
Today, new ideas in hydropower are bringing this electricity-generating innovation right into homes and bathrooms. With the average person flushing nearly 2,000 gallons of water down their toilets every year (and trillions of gallons wasted similarly by people worldwide), finding ways to harness water’s power in smaller ways is gaining interest. One smart idea tested by a British graduate student, for example, outfits wastewater pipes in high-rise apartments with turbine blades. As runoff water from toilets, sinks and showers falls over the blades, generators fire up. The resulting power can be used for other purposes in the same building – for air conditioning, perhaps – or sold back to the power grid.
Looking at overlooked areas for new ideas is always a smart way to start solving problems. TOTO is in the front lines of this research today, innovating hydropower for products like our Ecopower faucets and toilet and urinal flush valves. And when the issues are as vital as water conservation, ecological balance and our carbon footprint, welcoming a reimagined role for hydropower in our daily lives is one way each of us can play a role.