Yesterday was World Toilet Day, organised to support the provision of sanitaton to the 2.5 billion people in Africa, Asia and Latin America who don’t have access to proper, clean khazis. On one level this is a great campaign as open defecation (which 1.1 billion people have to do) spreads diseases and is degrading in heavily populated cities. Other claims for World Toilet Day include helping to keep girls at school and that it makes good economic sense.
Yet something niggles at me. The partners of the campaign include Domestos and it’s not clear if the others (World Toilet Organization and the Water Supply Sanitation Collaborative Council) are promoting water based toilets. In the UK, 16 billion litres of wastewater have to be treated every single day and the water industry contributes 1% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions (although this includes water treatment and supply, as well as wastewater treatment). It is bonkers that we have developed a system that treats water to drinking water standard, which is then used to flush toilets and the resulting effluent is sometimes treated almost back to drinking water standard.
Climate change will make water much scarcer, especially in the places which don’t already have have access to sanitation. Surely, a more sustainable solution for the 40% of world’s population is to concentrate on providing clean water for cooking and washing and use composting toilets for sanitation?