Toilet Week 2021: When it comes to water, less is more

15.11.2021 08:00

© Kildwick

We rely on it daily, several times a day. Discreet and reliable, it helps us maintain our hygiene standards. A life without it would be unimaginable and it’s about time we thank it for its tireless service to humanity.

We concur: Thank you toilet, you're amazing!

In fact, we may forget that having a quiet place to do your business is certainly not commonplace everywhere which means many people have to give up the luxury of having their own toilet. That's why we want to give toilets the attention they deserve and take a peek behind the scenes of this natural everyday occurrence that is the use of toilets.

Let’s talk about water: 

At first, we look at how water usage became part of toilets, or in other words how toilets became inextricably linked to water and why it could make sense to seek alternatives.

Once upon a time there was, well, going to the toilet. Let’s go back: 00 to 100!

Even the Romans thought about the disposal of excretions. During that time going to the toilet was a social experience, up to 60 people gathered on the public latrines for a joyful ‘event’. Already then urine and feces were flushed into a sewer.

In the Middle Ages, however, this idea was literally thrown out the window (watch your head!) which means one had to be careful not to be greeted by falling faeces while walking in the alleys.

It was not until the middle of the 19th century that there was a significant change: the water closet was installed in the first houses. Towards the turn of the century, water connections, and therefore toilets, were standard in the apartments of city dwellers. Meanwhile, people in rural areas were still getting by with the outhouse. Even there, it wasn’t long until water flowed!

© Kildwick/Florian Manhardt

Out of sight, out of mind – our water consumption put to the test

A few years have gone by, yet nothing has really evolved. Modern cisterns are designed to save water, but a normal rinse cycle still consumes at least 9 liters of water. Even dual flush toilets, designed for low water consumption, still consume 3 liters of water that simply disappear through the pipe.

An average healthy person visits the quiet sanctuary that is the toilet about eight times a day which quickly adds up to a great amount of water usage. This means that every person consumes about 12,775 liters of water annually just by going to the toilet! Now we know that is quite hard to imagine, so we have broken it down: In Germany an average of 35 liters a day are used for flushing the toilet. That is almost four boxes of water a day or 120 boxes a month, which we simply throw into the toilet – imagine if you had to collect and carry it to your toilet.

Not all wastewater is the same – some is valuable, other harmful 

Wastewater consists of only 1% dirt and 99% water. Here we explain the distinction between different types of wastewater:

Blackwateris created when we go to the toilet. It contains only human excretion and is therefore actually very valuable.

Yellowwateralso has great potential, because it only consists of urine and water, making it a natural product that can be collected and recycled by separating toilets, for example.

This is not the case with greywater. This has been contaminated by washing dishes, showering or washing clothes. The pollution of the water is moderate, therefore it can be reprocessed relatively easily.

Last but not least, there is the brownwater, in which feces, urine, grey water and toilet paper come together, which makes the repurposing of this water more complicated.

The long purification journey – dirty to clean 

First the contaminated water ends up in the sewage treatment plant, where it goes through several clarification processes.

As a first step, it goes through mechanical cleaning, where it passes through grids and colanders that remove coarse dirt.

In the pre-clarification tank, the water flow is reduced, so even the smallest dirt particles sink to the bottom. In this step, oils and plastic settle on the water surface and can be skimmed off.

© Ivan Bandura on Unsplash

This is followed by a biological cleaning process using bacteria and algae that eliminate the rest of the dirt.
The final step takes place in wastewater treatment plants where the remainder of pollutants are irradiated by adding chemical solutions. In the post-clarification tank, the waste products and sludge is separated and removed from the purified water.

Clean enough, but far from ecological

After the clarification process, the water is 97% dirt-free and therefore clean enough to be placed into the natural water cycle and the rest is left to nature. Unfortunately though, residues of drugs and microplastics repeatedly end up in our waters.

In addition, the entire process also draws a hefty amount of electricity. Experts estimate that wastewater treatment plants consume up to 3% of the world's electricity. Worse yet, the ventilation system and the pumps are real energy guzzlers.

Besides, additional water is consumed in the clarification process.

Less is more – our water resources aren’t endless  

If we look at the fact that water is becoming scarce due to climate change, then it is apparent that this is not an ideal system. Because water, that in case of doubt should rather be used as drinking water, is being wasted.

© Kildwick/Florian Manhardt

As a result, there are organizations pioneering the concept of effective and sustainable “toilet flushing”. Japan is spearheading this with the "Tornado Flush" from TOTO which is said to consume less water due to its powerful rinsing technology. Furthermore, studies are being conducted to look at how nutrients could be filtered out of the wastewater and reused effectively.

The solution could be simpler though. A dry separation toilet consumes virtually no water (except for regular cleaning). In addition a composting toilet makes it possible to use the valuable raw materials contained in our excretions easily and without much high-tech.

Every person in Germany consumes an average of 35 litres of water a day which may not sound like a lot, but it adds up quickly.

Even if a dry separation toilet is only used on holiday, for example in a camper or van, this could save 2,000 litres of water in 14 days.

So let’s save every drop and work together to conserve our precious resource!

The Toilet Week discount promotion – for those who like to save water and money 

We’re in it together, so here is a discount on selected products.

Only this week:

25% on all separator inserts

25% off all FreeLoo kits

Together we can revolutionize the toilet system, one excretion at a time!