Lake in drought

Rethinking water use – the role of the compost toilet in a drought-prone world

In the UK, the average direct water consumption is 141 litres per person, per day, with up to 30% of domestic water consumption is used for flushing the toilet. The water used is drinking quality water and will therefore have been cleaned, filtered and processed to a high standard, only to be poo’d and pee’d in and flushed ‘away’.

The 141 litres excludes indirect water consumption – this is water used on your behalf to produce the goods and services (such as food) that you purchase and consume.

As I write this, the UK is in the middle of a severe drought and we’ve experienced record-breaking heatwaves. But the story is not unique to the UK, most of Europe and many parts of North America, Australia and the rest of the world have experienced extremes of wet and dry weather as old records have fallen.

Toilet flush

Experts warn that this is the shape of the future and that we now need to be prepared for more extreme weather patterns each year as a result of climate change.

England drought: Everyone must rethink their water use, experts say

BBC News website 14/8/22

Whilst there are many small changes people can make to slightly reduce their individual water consumption, (and let’s not get started on the amount lost by the water companies through leakage in poorly maintained infrastructure – around 130 litres per day, per person is lost through leakage!), having a compost toilet will immediately save 20-30% in your personal water use.

Having a compost toilet will immediately save 20-30% of your personal water consumption – that’s around 35 litres per person, per day, or 1,000 litres a month, per person!

Off the back of that, you’ll also be saving carbon and global energy too – water doesn’t just magically appear at your tap – it needs pumping and before that, cleaning, purifying and processing – all of which are energy intensive operations.

And when you flush – once again, that sewage needs pumping, processing and treating, again, using more energy.

A compost toilet is looking like a necessity as we head towards adapting to a warmer, drier climate.

What’s stopping wider adoption of compost toilets?

There’s no simple answer to this question – partly it’s because the flushing toilet has become so synonymous with modern lifestyles and people assume that a compost toilet is stepping back in time to the days of the plague! People are very ‘faecophobic’, so a toilet which doesn’t immediately take the excreta ‘away’ is met with suspicion and we have the whole building codes etc that are completely geared around having a flushing toilet.

But, little by little, attitudes are changing. Modern compost toilets are far removed from the stinking thrones you might have experienced at festivals years ago. They can look like a flushing toilet, be completely odourless and ultimately provide a safe, rich compost to put back in the ground.

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