As we reduce the amount of water in our sewage 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 amount of water required to get things flowing again.
Emails to the City of Cape Town calling for guidelines on domestic sewage 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.
Water wise bathroom tips
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. 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.
Then there is the Go Wild option where you 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!
For households inspired by being ‘off – grid’ then compost 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. Space needed to store the buckets may be an issue.
Getting back to water borne sewage, 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. Does anyone know what the implications are of flushing with sea water if the taps run dry? I asked the City this question and am still waiting for a response! Corrosion is a likely impact and what about our long suffering waste water treatment works?
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. In the meanwhile, 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 DIY sewage alternatives.
By Kim Kruyshaar. Source: Green Audits