Water Research Commission commemorates World Toilet Day

Water Research Commission

The United Nations (UN) declared 19 November as World Toilet Day emphasising its campaign to promote safe sanitation and end open defecation.

In support of ensuring access to adequate sanitation for all, the Water Research Commission (WRC) has been at the forefront of finding solutions through scientific and innovative processes. As part of the campaign for less water-intensive sanitation systems, the WRC funded the development of a technology that uses only one litre of water per flush, in flushing toilet known as ‘pour-flush’.

In 2009 the WRC commissioned a research project to test the development of the one-litre pour-flush, a funnel-shaped pedestal which was tested according to the internationally accepted Maximum Performance (MaP) protocol and then piloted and demonstrated in 22 households. Over a two-year period, monitoring has shown that there have been no technical or operational problems with the technology (even when newsprint is used for cleansing) and that user satisfaction is high.

“Pour-flush toilet designs offer the benefits of flushing excreta past a water seal while not requiring connection to reticulated water or sewerage systems”, says Mr Jay Bhagwan, Executive Manager at the WRC.

After reviewing existing models and experiences with pour-flush technology, primarily in South East Asia, the team of researchers from Partners in Development developed a prototype for a pour-flush toilet designed to respond to the needs of households in a South African context. The key difference is that South African users, excluding those of Asian descent, are used to sitting rather than squatting. Although a case can be made that the latter is in fact more healthy, it is also less convenient if one is wearing trousers.

“The first known use of a water-seal pour-flush type toilet is attributed to Govern Sawadi Mahagayi of Thailand, who invented his ‘goose-neck’ toilet in 1924”, says David Still, the project leader.

Pour-flush systems are currently being demonstrated in and around Cape Town, in a crèche in the Klein Begin community in Grabouw, in the Klipheuwel informal settlement in Cape Town and in the Enkanini informal settlement in Stellenbosch. The toilet has also been developed to accommodate a 1.5 litre flushing cistern.

According to UN reports, about 2.5 billion people still lack access to proper toilets. Inadequate access to safe, hygienic and private sanitation facilities is a source of shame, physical discomfort and insecurity for millions of people across the world.

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