Flush less & avoid poop- pile ups in a drought!

As we reduce the amount of water in our sewerage system by flushing less and reducing the volumes of water per flush there is, logically, less water to transport sewage away.  So it is hardly surprising that an increasing number of households are experiencing poop pile-ups. The sad irony is the considerable amount of water often required to get things flowing again.

Emails to the City of Cape Town calling for guidelines on domestic sewerage management in a drought – have not resulted (yet) in any.  We are in a water crisis – but don’t have to be deep in the proverbial with the risk of serious health impacts.  Looks like we are going to have to develop our own guidelines by sharing common sense and experience. This is not the time to be delicate!  It is time to manage our shit.

Guidelines to avoid sewer-cide.

Bathrooms guidelines. Reduce the load that the water borne system must carry. Do not flush anything except urine and faecal matter (No 2) and associated toilet paper into the toilet. The City recommends using 1 ply toilet paper.   So no nappies, sanitary items etc.  Bin them. A build-up of toilet paper in the bowl can also cause a plug if you only flush after multiple pees.

`Go Greek’ is the message being circulated by the water wise on social media.  As in rural parts of Greece, place the paper used after a pee into a bin. Then either burn it, put it into the refuse or into your compost heap.  Only choose the compost option if you have a well managed system.  A dedicated bin in ladies toilets at schools, hostels, public toilets, etc. can work equally well with a hint of air freshener.

Or try the Go Wild option and pee in the garden. Urine has been used for generations as an excellent compost activator and a rich source of minerals. My husband went wild long before the drought and both he and the garden are thriving!

 A Sylvantutch compost toilet

A Sylvantutch compost toilet

For households inspired by being ‘off – grid’ then compost or dry toilets are an option. There are varying levels of sophistication from an Ecosan dry sanitation system approved by the CSIR and SABS to a DIY bucket and sawdust system. The DIY bucket system is used only for No 2 and each deposit is covered with a layer of sawdust or finely shredded dry leaf litter which eliminates odours. Once the bucket is almost full it needs to be stored for a number of months to compost properly.  The composted material is odourless and can be dug into the garden or added to your compost heap.  Space needed to store the buckets may be an issue. http://www.diyhousebuilding.com/bucket-toilets.html.  has an excellent explanation of the simplicity of DIY bucket toilets.  I would not suggest weeing / peeing in the bucket as wee does make it more difficult to manage odour and it fills the bucket too quickly.


Getting back to water borne sewerage, hopefully by now most of us are using grey water or non- potable water to flush the toilet.  Our showers are so short and only every alternative day so I am eyeing my neighbour’s swimming pool as a source of flushing water.

An important no no from the Kitchen!  Excessive fat build up in pipes adds to the potential for blockages. Instead of pouring fat down the drain, pour it into a container and bin it. Scrape excess fat off dishes before washing them. This reduces the amount of water needed to wash dishes.

Advice and recommendations welcome. It is reassuring to note the following from the City’s water shortage disaster plan: “In order to preserve the integrity of the sewerage system, the water system will not be shut down completely, as this will cause the sewerage system to fail. To keep the sewerage systems in flow and running, the City will inject supplementary sources of water at strategic points.  The available options for injection include treated effluent water, groundwater, sea water and non-drinking water.  For each of the aforementioned options, consideration for maintaining public health standards will occur in order to prevent the spread of water-borne diseases.”

If the ifs stack in our favour and if we can collectively reduce our water consumption, and if the City’s planned augmentation schemes are in time and if we get some good, unexpected rain this summer our dams may just make it to the winter rains and we will be spared the discomfort of blockages and DIY sewerage alternatives. 

Kim Kruyshaar  November 2017

For information on how dry or compost toilets work go to:  http://humanurehandbook.com/humanure_toilet.html

Also read http://greenaudits.co.za/how-why-of-living-on-less-than-87-liters-of-water/

7 Responses to Flush less & avoid poop- pile ups in a drought!

  1. Patrick Dowling November 9, 2017 at 2:23 pm #

    Thanks Kim – salutary words. I think dry sanitation should be the long term goal as all that flushing really is such a natural-system-polluting waste and classic externalization of our own problems.

    Don’t think that sea water flushing will go well with metal fittings in toilets or with the biotic processes at WWTW plants

  2. Erika Goertz November 10, 2017 at 1:09 am #

    When ever I am at Dinner with friends or out I always take every ones Paper serviette home
    and keep in a box in the kitchen to use when I need to wipe fatty utensils before washing

  3. Mariette Daubenton December 17, 2017 at 8:03 pm #

    Thanks Kim – such sensible tips!

  4. Bob Martin January 21, 2018 at 11:59 am #

    What about caravan ‘Porta Pottis’???

    • admin January 21, 2018 at 4:41 pm #

      Do you have somewhere safe and acceptable to empty them. I have no experience of them but thought they had chemical additives which means that the compost option for disposal won’t work well. Have a look at http://www.diyhousebuilding.com/bucket-toilets.html. We are going to try this route except that we are not going to wee in the `poo bucket’. Wee adds to the odour and fills the bucket too quickly. It is easier to dispose of wee in the garden, compost heap or possibly sprinkle diluted in a wild open space if your garden is not big enough. The City has been scarily quiet on the subject of sewerage management. Perhaps they will provide disposal points for buckets on the main sewerage lines or at pump stations. I am pushing them for answers- hopefully we will hear soon.

  5. Anne Alessandri January 22, 2018 at 9:37 pm #

    You have a photo of the Sylvantutch compost toilet, but no reference to their website (Www.sylvantutch.Co.za) They have an amazing range of compost toilets available, with info about how to manage the pee and poo. The urine separator (available on their website, or thru http://www.we-pee.com) is a great solution to the dilemma of wee vs poo, and keeping them separate.

  6. Harriet January 26, 2018 at 6:56 pm #

    I have been using a dry/sawdust/composting bucket toilet since August 2017. I live in the CBD. I have a small garden and use green genies (two on rotation) to compost ‘my shit’. I sometimes urinate in my compo-loo, but mostly I harvest it for fertilizing the veggie garden (if its good enough for farmers in Burkino Faso, its good enough for me).
    It works really well. There is no smell – even when it is in the compost bin, at best there is an aroma of composting vegetable matter. To be really sure there is no health risk, the compost needs to mature for 12 months (or in a very hot pile) before you can use it in the garden.
    It is cheap, easy to maintain AND you get something useful out of it in the end.
    Keep Calm…Compost!

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