Flash, goes the toilet in my apartment. This sound of flashing water is replicated every so often everywhere on the block where I stay, so much so that I was obliged to sit down one day – not idly – and calculate the amount of water it takes to carry away about, say, 200 millilitres of urine that someone has deliberately run into the house to oblige the creaking and inadequate water system to dispose of.
I found out that every flash of the toilet requires Electrogaz to replace immediately between seven to ten litres of water that literally goes down the drain.
If one does the arithmetic, this translates into 70 to 100 litres of water – five jerry cans of water – for ten flashes, which is more than adequate for all the daily water needs of an average family of five. Drinking, washing, bathing, and cleaning a house without a water closet take about that much.
We need to rethink environment – and water – conservation. Many people in the country, and even right in the town, do not receive good and clean water to use.
The reasons for this are pretty obvious – the water companies are not in position to cater for all people’s water needs, even if everyone is entitled to clean water.
The cost of producing the water is prohibitive, and even more so the cost of transporting this water through pipes, to the desired destinations. The infrastructure for this is very expensive.
So only very little water is produced, and this little is to pander to the few individuals who use most of it to flash down the toilets.
Yet, what if the technology world got unstuck from the water closet thinking, and moved to something like the eco san public toilets that Kigali City Council constructed and opened a few months ago as a public utility?
These are utilities that do not run on water to keep clean.
Necessity is the mother of invention, so the oft-repeated adage goes.
From pretty good authority, the culture of cremating bodies in India did not start until the demands on the earth’s surface area could no longer meet the necessity of burying their departed beloved.
So they moved swiftly to find another means of disencumbering the overburdened earth, and lit on burning the dead to ashes, which can then be either buried easily, or simply sown to the four winds, whether on earth or on rivers and seas.
We need to move fast and produce water for everyone, and this can only be possible if we invent mechanisms to minimise its wastage. This becomes even more urgent when one views this business from another angle.
The person who pulls the plug to dispose of the waste is normally not very concerned with where it will all end up. Only very few will be bothered, and this is where you and me have to sit up and begin caring, because this is where it hits everyone – everything ends up in our lakes and rivers, the very water bodies where we get our tap water pumped from.
Grim reality, but nonetheless true. Of course the water technocrats will say that what goes in there is treated. As opposed to raw sewage.
The technology here is that the raw matter is secreted somewhere in pools and lagoons for sometime, as chemicals are added to kill off all the germs, then recycled back to the water bodies.
With Kigali’s Master Plan catering fully for a central sewerage system, this is where we are headed – where rich and bustling metropolises are nonetheless fighting a losing battle to provide enough water for their citizens, as well as efficacious sewer systems.
The infrastructure is always inadequate to cater for high figures. Sewer pipes break, spewing unwelcome matter in the streets and into houses, and also merge into storm drains which spill storm water directly into lakes and rivers. Right now this is Dubai’s outstanding problem – managing sewerage.
Sometimes it gets to be so bad that open sewage renders some fashionable beaches inhabitable where the moneyed would wish to spend a lot of their time swimming and lolling about. Nearer home, talking about Nairobi, or Kampala’s sewage headache will give a more clearer picture.
How many times have both cities had scares of tainted lakes and rivers that serve as their home and industrial water sources?
Without being squeamish, cities can reap huge benefits from what would become very cheap and abundant human manure for infertile crop fields.
The technology of the eco san toilets is such that when faecal matter is separated from the water (urine), it can be made to dry up quickly, taking up a very small space.
This can then be removed and spread in barren fields to give them a new lease of life, or even thrown away (for the faint hearted) – but all pretty much like assisting the environment to reinvent itself.
We conserve this water, we conserve the environment in ways that we cannot even begin to fully appreciate. There needs to be a bold city or person to move this notion another step from where I have left it.