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Canadians: think before you flush Add to ...

Ever flushed a cigarette butt or leftover food down the toilet? You're not alone.

Nearly three-quarters of Canadians admit in a new survey they treat their toilet like a garbage can, flushing down food, hair, bugs, cigarette butts and other items they should throw away in another manner. Each flush wastes six to 20 litres of water, meaning the continued use of household toilets as trash cans significantly adds up, with potentially serious implications for Canada's water supply.

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The findings are contained in a survey being sponsored by the United Nations Water for Life Decade and released by RBC and Uniliver.

The survey reveals that while more Canadians might consider themselves environmentally-conscious, many are still in the dark when it comes to water and issues surrounding conservation.

Although nearly 80 per cent of those surveyed said they are trying reasonably hard to conserve water, and 55 per cent said it's the country's most important natural resource, many Canadians still waste vast amounts of water.

For instance, nearly half of Canadians leave the water running while doing dishes while 17 per cent use water to hose down their driveways. Six in 10 said they don't know how much they pay for water, but 70 per cent said they believed the price was high enough to prevent wasting of water.

"Water is a real bargain in Canada, which is another reason Canadians have no concept of its value," Bob Sandford, chair of the Canadian Partnership Initiative of the UN Water for Life Decade, said in a media release. "Compared to other developed nations, Canadians pay very little to have water delivered to their homes."

The survey noted that while Canadians use 329 litres of water a day on average, nearly 70 per cent underestimated the amount.

The survey also found that more Canadians (90 per cent) report trying to conserve electricity than water (78 per cent).

At the same time, more Canadians are abandoning the idea that tap water is substandard. The survey found that 86 per cent of Canadians believe the country's drinking water supply is safe and high quality, compared to just 72 per cent in 2009.

About half of Canadians say they get their drinking water from the tap, while 28 per cent say they drink filtered water, while 21 per cent drink primarily bottled water. An additional 14 per cent drink from a large water cooler.

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