I got an email from a reader telling me he had once queried Clay Thompson, our longtime sage, for his advice about saving water, specifically saving water by not flushing the toilet unless circumstances absolutely required it.

By that, the reader wrote, he meant following the adage, “If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down.” (Sorry if you’re eating breakfast.)

The motto was coined, the story goes, by hippies in the early days of the environmental movement. The reader remembers former Mayor Ed Koch using it sometime in the 1980s to encourage New Yorkers to curb water use during a shortage.

“This was in part to a husband and wife debate over the issue,” he wrote in his email. “Could you please re-print because the debate has resurrected?”

I was curious why the debate had resurrected. I called to ask.

“Did you get a new wife?”

No, he said, laughing. He’s still got the same one, married for 43 years.

The debate has resurrected because apparently the reader has resorted to his old ways. He doesn’t flush overnight. (At his age, he admits he gets up several times.)

His wife is not happy about it.


Cutting down on you water bill can be as simple as taking showers instead of baths and only using the dishwasher when it’s full.

He contends he’s saving water. He closes the lid and the bathroom door. Not flushing means he doesn’t wake his wife.

I didn’t talk to his wife. I suspect she thinks, “Ew.”

Clay was funny and diplomatic in his response. So diplomatic that the reader remembers Clay siding with him; his wife recalls he took her side. 

Listen, I’m not going to second-guess Clay’s wisdom. 

But if writing a column makes one an expert on these things, I’ll chime in:

I know you’re trying to save the planet, dear reader. But we’re a civilized people. The flush toilet has allowed us to live with ourselves in tight quarters.

So flush. Before your wife gets up in the morning.

Reach Karina at [email protected] or 602-444-8614. Read more at karinabland.azcentral.com.



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