A Big Flush on Sunday?

Will you be watching Sunday evening? For many Americans, the day of the NFL’s Super Bowl is virtually a holiday. In fact, some people think it has been for many years. According to Joe Flint of the Los Angeles Times (Feb 4, 2011):

Forget the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving or New Year’s Day. Super Bowl Sunday has replaced them all as America’s No. 1 holiday. It has become so big that the National Football League is considering giving the game its own three-day weekend.

What are your plans for the night of the Big Game? Will you be going to a party? Hosting one? Or will you spend your time doing other things besides eating, partying, and watching commercials on TV?

Here are a couple of fun myths (and a fact or two thrown in for good measure) to consider regarding Super Sunday:

Image courtesy Steve Bugeja.

Image courtesy Steve Bugeja.

Flushing Toilets during the Super Bowl

From Parade Magazine:

If you flush your toilet at halftime, the sewers will overflow. One of the most frequently cited Super Bowl myths states that the simultaneous flushing of millions of toilets can overwhelm municipal sewerage systems, leading to broken lines and overflows.

According to Susan Bruninga of the National Association of Clean Water Agencies, we can flush without fear. She notes that municipal sewerage systems effortlessly handle huge surges every day between 6 and 8 a.m. when millions of people flush their toilets and take showers. And as more and more people gain the power to pause the big game when nature calls, she adds, “that’ll be the end of that myth right there.”

Snopes.com has weighed in:


Image credit Spaloo seats.

The rumor is based on an unfounded assumption, that millions of people will sit through the entirety of an hours-long program and only get up to use the bathroom at its conclusion. (Similar) reports of massive toilet-flushing were attributed to the heyday of the Amos ‘n’ Andy radio show…  …even though the program was broadcast in daily 15-minute segments. How many people really have to rush off to the bathroom after sitting still for a mere 15 minutes? The last episode of M*A*S*H was a two-and-half-hour movie with numerous commercial breaks, and the three- to four-hour Super Bowl program features almost as much advertising time as actual football action, affording those needing to heed nature’s call many opportunities to take care of business long before their conclusions. Only the chronically sedentary or those who need more than a couple of minutes in the bathroom and steadfastly refuse to miss even a few seconds of programming need to wait until the very end of a multi-hour event to relieve themselves.

The breaking of a 16-inch water main in Salt Lake City on Super Bowl Sunday in 1984 is often cited as affirmative proof of the “massive toilet use wreaks havoc” phenomenon, but no causal link between this occurrence and the Super Bowl was found. Salt Lake City’s sewage infrastructure is quite old and breaks in its waterline are far from uncommon; that one such break occurred on a Super Bowl Sunday was nothing more than an amusing coincidence.

Public water pressure loss due to toilets flushing after the Super Bowl

From Cecil at the Straight Dope:

(In 1987, on the) “…Friday afternoon before the Super Bowl, Harvey Schultz, commissioner of the New York City Dept. of Environmental Protection, issued a “bowl warning” (get it?) urging Super Bowl viewers, particularly those who planned to drink a lot of beer, to stagger (as it were) their trips to the bathroom so as not to put too much of a strain on the city’s water system. A city spokesperson cheerfully concedes that the whole thing was done tongue in cheek…

(Actually), there really have been occasions when the super flush effect did occur. The most recent, according to (NYC authorities), came at the end of the much-touted last episode of M*A*S*H, which aired in 1983. People were apparently glued to their seats during the entire two-and-a-half-hour show and then all headed off to the (bathroom) at once. The resultant pressure drop caused a pronounced surge in the two huge tunnels that bring water into New York each day from the Catskills. Similar surges have been observed during the Academy Awards, the first moon walk, and so on.”

But there was a Flushdown as reported by the New York Post in 2012:

In the moments after New England’s dreams of Super Bowl glory went down the drain with Tom Brady’s failed last-second Hail Mary toss, toilet use spiked a staggering 13 percent in the city, according to (New York City’s) Department of Environmental Protection. It was sweet relief for millions of fans — in more ways than one. The toilet-bowl shuffle — which came after tense hours of holding it in — was so strong that the 30-foot-deep water level in the Hillview Reservoir in Yonkers actually decreased by 2 inches after the contest. “This was certainly a significant jump — especially for around 10 p.m. on Sunday night. It’s only going to happen on the Super Bowl,” said a stunned Jim Roberts, deputy commissioner for the city’s DEP.

So who will win the Big Game this year?Brubaker Inc. football

That remains to be seen. We’ll just have to wait and see what the outcome will be. However, you are the winner when you dial 717.299.5641 or email us for all of your plumbing, heating, air cooling, electrical, appliance, and remodeling needs. Friendly, knowledgeable staff. Dedicated designers, technicians, and craftspeople. Family owned since 1945, we have been dedicated to providing Service that Exceeds Expectations for your home service needs.


1. Los Angeles Times  February 4, 2011
2. Parade Magazine  February 5, 2010
3. New York Post   February 9, 2012
4. Snopes.com
5. The Straight Dope  February 13, 1987