More toileting

Still getting confused by experts and their opinions on flush toilets until Neil Macleod weighs in … 

This week George Ekama – *the* wastewater guy in SA, in some ways, said that we can’t go off-grid with our greywater (and by extension, I guess, our toilets) because the is then lost to the system. I am not sure what this means, I asked him and still waiting for a reply. I think it means that *if* we reuse most of our wastewater (an interesting concept if 80% of our plants aren’t working properly and we don’t have the resources for the basics) then we need to get our wastewater back to the treatment works to recycle back into the system (let’s say for industrial use if you’re iffy about drinking it). The assumption alongside is that we use rainwater or something (or nothing at all) for gardens?

This is related to Neil Armitage who argues that we need the sewers anyway for the shower and kitchen wastewater so we can just as well flush our toilets too.

Just about the only thing we agree on is the need for urine diversion.

But today I also found a youtube clip of Neil Macleod – a hero of sorts in the industry for very innovative management of eThekwini’s water management (kwaZulu Natal) via the Sustainable Sanitation Alliance (SuSanA) forum:

Kindly transcribed by susana user muench:

[…] We are saying that we cannot carry on using flushing toilets. Nobody can. Not even the rich people.
And so it’s trying to move away from this idea that a flushing toilet is something to aspire to.
And also to deal with this perception that a flushing toilet is what the wealthy people have and a dry toilet is what you give to poor people.
And rather try and move that debate to saying that everybody needs to change their toilet: the toilet that was invented in 1860 is no longer relevant in the 21st century.
And so we’ve made basically no technology advances in those 160 years and we need to do something new. So, the work that we’re doing is trying to find ways to replace the old fachioned toilet with something that doesn’t need water.

And we could have a decentralized system, process the effluent, recover the nutrients – which is another big concern, we’re running out of nutrients for agriculture. Then what goes to the sewage works will be clean, the sewage works will be a lot simpler, we won’t pollute the environment, the solution will be a lot more affordable to our customers and to ourselves.
So, there’s a win-win all the way around. […]

So there are people who are very experienced (and old and white and male) who believe in this idea of dry toilets. I just have to keep reminding myself of that.

Ironically I found this because I was trying to find out if it’s true that “80 000 UDT’s in KZN labelled as an unsuccessful project/sanitation solution for Africa by UKZN”. It’s not, see this susana post and links therein. Interestingly also, this provocatively titled post “Why did the world’s biggest urban eco-toilet scheme fail?” also turned out to be incorrect, in a whole lot of ways.

There are many ways in which individual projects fail, and I would say that most of them stem from this approach as the dry toilet as a poor person’s temporary solution.

I also learnt that it is much better to refer to my toilet as a UDDT – urine diverting dry toilet. Even if the collecting vault for the faeces is a bucket, it is not a bucket toilet. The difference is in managing the material afterwards, this susana forum post tackles the confusion.


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