Go Canucks fans Go: Flushing in unison, saving power too

Playoffs phenomenon to intensify, say utility engineers.

The Canucks’ playoff run has Metro Vancouver toilets flushing in unison with a precision not seen since the Olympic hockey finals during the 2010 Winter Games.

Metro engineers are measuring big drops in water pressure throughout the system at the end of each period in key Canucks games.

That shows there’s a whole lot of flushing going on as soon as cross-legged fans can safely tear themselves away from their TVs.

A Metro graph shows water pressure in Burnaby plunged 15 per cent immediately after the third period of Game 7 between Vancouver and Chicago.

“It just drops like a rock,” Metro utility systems control superintendent Rick Marchand said. “We saw the same effect everywhere throughout the Lower Mainland.”

His engineers have to keep an eye on each game so they can anticipate commercial breaks, intermissions and overtime goals and brace for when fans will make a mass dash for the can.

“We know we’re going to get hit, we know it’s going to happen,” Marchand said. “So we’ll try to anticipate by starting up a bunch of pumps and raising the pressure to maximum levels in advance.”

Metro engineers normally expect higher flows on the top of each hour as popular TV shows end but they tend to see the highest numbers during major televised events.

They even detected a royal flush phenomenon in the wee hours of April 29 during live coverage of the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.

But nothing so far compares to the more than 100,000 flushes measured immediately after Sidney Crosby’s overtime goal to give Canada men’s hockey gold at last year’s Olympics.

Marchand, however, said his staff think Canucks fans’ toilet power can top even that mark in the weeks ahead.

“These demands, this consumption draw is going to be more severe as we go through the playoffs,” he predicts.

Canucks games are also causing a surprising drop in the amount of electricity being used.

B.C. Hydro measured a 3.6-per-cent drop in power consumption during the deciding game against Chicago – equivalent to 48 million compact fluorescent light bulbs being turned off – and about a two-per-cent drop in Game 6 against Nashville.

That’s far better than the concerted effort made by many green-minded B.C. residents to light candles and cut power use during Earth Hour in March, when a mere one-per-cent saving was recorded.

“You might call it an accidental case of conservation,” said B.C. Hydro spokesman Greg Alexis.

His theory is that while at least one TV in most households is on, lots of people watch it and don’t do much else to suck power – like vacuuming, washing laundry or running other energy-guzzling appliances – while the game is on.

Less power may be used for cooking too, especially if fans are barbecuing or ordering in.

“We’ll continue tracking it – hopefully until the first week or two of June,” Alexis said.

While some money is being saved through power conservation, other costs go up because of the playoffs.

Municipalities, notably Vancouver and Surrey, expect to pay more in policing costs to deal with celebratory crowds, particularly if the Canucks advance to the Stanley Cup final.

Graph courtesy of Metro Vancouver