There's a good chance that you're already familiar with one of the oldest water-conserving life hacks in the book: ye old brick-in-the-toilet tank trick. Or maybe, in lieu of forking over the cash to replace a water-guzzling commode with a newer, more efficient one, you’ve opted to plop a water-filled 1-liter plastic soda bottle, weighted down with sand, in the tank. Whatever the method, the end results are very much the same: each time you flush, an impressive amount of H2O is conserved.

Now, water-thrifty toilet-tweakers have a new water-displacing option to choose from: A hydrogel-filled thingamabob made from eco-friendly bio-rubber that's capable of saving you in the ballpark of 50 gallons of water per week without disintegrating and damaging your plumbing system like a red clay brick is eventually likely to do.

Dubbed Drop-A-Brick, this clever new innovation was created by San Francisco-based nonprofit Project Drop A-Brick in direct response to California’s historic drought.

Functioning kind of like one of those dinosaur-shaped expanding foam “magic capsules” that no doubt blew your mind as a kid, the water-displacing Drop-A-Brick — the "most technologically advanced toilet brick ever designed" — ships as a flat, squishy piece of rubber. When the nontoxic hydrogel powder inside of the brick comes in contact with water, the unit swells to nearly 200 times its original size — from a mere 9 ounces to a hefty 4 pounds. Once expanded, simply plop Drop-A-Brick into your tank, watch it sink to the bottom and then sit back and let the water savings commence. The folks at Project Drop-A-Brick estimate that with each flush, the brick saves roughly a half gallon of water.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, toilet flushing accounts for 30 percent of residential water usage, making it the most water-intensive of all household activities — more so than dish-washing, laundering and showering. If all Californians were to collectively plop a Drop-A-Brick into their tanks, roughly 67 million gallons of water would be saved per day.

And in addition to not breaking into little pieces or leeching toxins into the water supply, Drop-A-Brick boasts another benefit over traditional clay bricks and weighted-down water bottles: they can squeeze into tight, oddly shaped toilets with ease. Added bonus: they've also been shown to improve toilet performance in both older water-hogs and newer, low-flush models.

As you can see in the promotional videos embedded above, Project-Drop-A-Brick is relying on good, old-fashioned potty humor — “the brick I dropped was the same size of my dad’s," exclaims one young brick-dropper — to help push their product through a recently launched Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign. In total, Project Drop-A-Brick is seeking $80,000 to bring its product to market, a product that, by the way, is domestically manufactured by Level 2 Industries, the same San Francisco product incubator that helped to build David de Rothchild's Plastiki catamaran from recycled plastic junk. The bricks themselves are made from natural rubber made from the sap of Hevea trees.

While individual bricks start at $15 a pop during the crowdfunding phase, Project-Drop-A-Brick is also enabling backers to flex their altruistic muscle with a buy-one-give-one option ($27) in which a brick will be donated to a household in a severely parched California community.

Elaborates Project-Drop-A-Brick on the Indiegogo campaign page:

With your generous donation, we will distribute Drop-A-Brick's to toilets in communities like East Porterville, CA, whose residents have literally run out of water. One Drop-A-Brick can save a household 2 gallons a day per person. For a family of four, that's 50 extra gallons a week that can be used for bathing, doing laundry and flushing the toilet. In order to distribute donations, we will collaborate with water districts, non-profit organizations, sponsors, businesses, plumbers unions, schools and public servants. If we reach our funding goal, our first priority will be distributing bricks in Tulare County and the city of East Porterville to help provide families there with a simple way to stretch their water supply. Next on the list will be Colusa, El Dorado and Butte Counties.

Also available as "bonus gifts" in the form of votive candle holders and flower vases that serve as delightful as tank-top decor items, the Drop-A-Brick is slated to ship in November — just in time for stocking-stuffing season! Think you'll opt to drop?

Via [Grist]

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Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.