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day zero - 6 toilet facts
6 toilet facts you need to know


1. If the taps are turned off how will I flush my toilet? 

You will be able to flush your toilets with rainwater or greywater. If absolutely necessary, use bottled water – but using drinking water is a dreadful waste and we need to preserve it for drinking. Ultimately, Cape Town will move away from using fresh water to flush toilets and the CoCT is currently investigating alternatives.

2. Can I flush my toilet with seawater?

No. Flushing with seawater is NOT an option.  Seawater increases salt in the waste water treatment plants, and if the salinity levels get too high the microbes which treat the sewage can’t survive and the treatment plants will stop working. The same principle applies to septic tank systems, which rely on microbes to decompose the sewage.

3. Will the sewer systems still work after Day Zero?

The City of Cape Town has indicated that the sewer systems will continue to work after Day Zero. They intend to flush the system at appropriate points to try and keep the sewage moving. However it is important for all of us to minimise (as much as possible) the amount of dry product put into our toilets such as toilet paper, wipes, tampons etc. Wherever you can, please use alternative, hygienic, disposal methods.

4. What is more dangerous: urine or faeces?

Faeces (poo) is more dangerous as it contains disease-carrying bacteria and microbes.  Good sanitation, combined with hand-washing/hand-sanitizers, dramatically reduces the risk of disease.

5. Is a dry toilet a realistic option?

The easiest option is a dry compost toilet. This is a bucket housed in a box to support your weight with a toilet seat of your choice and organic material to cover the poo. The cover material can be sawdust or decomposed compost (lots of good bugs). If you use a dry compost system it’s really important to keep your face well clear when handling the buckets and use a good pair of kitchen gloves that you can clean and re-use specially for the task.

6. How do I know if a dry toilet is working properly?

A dry (bucket) toilet works properly if your material doesn’t leak out of the container/bucket, if you can pick up the container comfortably, and if the container can be closed. A composting toilet (which is bigger than a bucket) works well if it doesn’t smell. If it smells of ammonia, add more organic material. If it rots, there is too much liquid, this may be a design flaw, so if you go the compost toilet route, try having a way to safely remove some liquid with a tap at the bottom.

Other options to consider are commercial composting toilets or chemical toilets.

Useful links

Whichever you choose, be sure to do thorough research on cost and practicality. And try to prevent further harm to our environment.

* information sourced from WWF

Article by Madge Gibson, Harfield Village Resident


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