Innovative ways to avoid Day Zero
(This article was first published on 27 January 2018 in the Weekend Argus, a weekly regional newspaper distributed in the Western Cape, South Africa.)
Written by Yazeed Kamaldien
Local environmentalists want Capetonians to consider creating compost called humanure, the result of harvesting human faeces and urine to be fed back into the eco-system.
This is one of numerous ways in which suggestions are popping up all over the city in a desperate rather-late-than-never bid to save water. This would ultimately avoid or delay proposed water cuts.
Cape Town-based non-profit Guerilla House is hosting the humanure workshop called Giving a Sh*t – Building and Using a Compost Toilet. Details of this and other workshops – at a cost to participants – are on their Facebook page.
“When there’s no water to flush your toilets, do you have an excretion contingency plan in place?” asks the non-profit.
Its proposed toilet system requires no water to operate, “while at the same time building soil and the capacity of our landscapes to retain moisture and creating major economic opportunities”.
The workshop will show participants how to build a compost toilet and minimise nasty odours. Its other workshops over the next few weeks will cover grey water harvesting as well as “water resilience through the crisis”.
The Sustainability Institute near Stellenbosch has recently installed a prototype waterless urinal at its office, as reported on the World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF South Africa) website.
It does not need a flush system – eliminating water completely – and was invented by locals Bradley Bergh and Faan Swiegers.
It comprises a retrofitted bidet and can be assembled using “off-the-shelf plumbing equipment”.
“The bidet’s plug hole was the perfect receptacle for fitting a non-return valve similar to those used in men’s urinals. Also required was piping to reduce the size of the outlet at the back from 110mm to 50mm and to fit the top of the bidet with a proper toilet seat (glued on),” informs the WWF website.
“To keep the toilet smelling fresh, use standard industrial urinal deodorant pellets from G Fox in Paarden Eiland. Because the urinal is waterless, the pellets last a long time and dissolve very slowly and so do not upset their septic tank system.
“A couple of deodorant balls also go into the bottom of the toilet paper bin which is emptied once or twice every day. Making use of slightly more expensive compostable toilet paper also means the paper can be disposed of in a compost heap.”
The article elaborates “urine is sterile so there are no health issues to worry about”. The total cost comes to R1650 for this waterless urinal.
The City of Cape Town is meanwhile pushing ahead with its desalination plant in Monwabisi near Strandfontein. It is intended to produce fresh drinking water by removing salt and impurities from salt water.
With so much of the water crisis being a dreary affair altogether, solutions and active citizenship feels like a sprinkling of fresh water to calm everybody down.