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Pour Flush/ Low Flush toilet scoops SAB Foundation Social Innovation Seed Grant Award 

The Water Research Commission’s (WRC) newly developed innovative toilet, Pour/Low Flush Toilet was recognized by the SAB Foundation as one of the recipients of the Social Innovation Seed Grant Award Winners presented on 27 October 2016.

Dr Sudhir Pillay Research Manager responsible for sanitation-related projects at the WRC received the award on behalf of the organisation.

Presenting the award, the Foundation selected the Pour Flush /Low Flush toilet as an innovation addressing Full flush toilet combined with the logistical advantage of on-site pit toilets which does not need sewers or copious amounts of water for operation.

While presenting the awards, the SAB Foundation said”, There were over 600 submitted applications and 23 finalists across the Health, Disability, Education, Energy, Water and Sanitation and Livelihoods and Sustainable Agriculture sectors. It was no easy task for our final 12 judges to select the winners. Each and every idea received had the potential to change the lives of so many. But the winners demonstrated their ability to become commercial and scalable”.

The Pour Flush /Low Flush toilet is a new technology developed with funding from the WRC and aims to bridge this gap on the sanitation ladder while restoring dignity, privacy and safety to people who have been left behind in the drive towards basic services for all.

A significant step up the sanitation ladder from VIPs, a pour flush toilet is similar to a full flush toilet except that the water is poured in by the user rather than coming from a cistern. The system uses significantly less water – only 1-2 litres rather than the 5-7 litres needed for conventional flush toilets.

Some changes had to be made to the pour flush toilets usually used in Asia – for one, South Africans prefer to sit rather than squat, so a pedestal had to be provided. The toilets also had to be able to handle anal cleansing material, such as toilet paper or newspaper.

The WRC’s Pour flush toilet is designed to be as simple as possible to avoid parts which can break or block. While looking very similar to a full flush toilet, there is no water tank, cistern, flusher or liquefier. Since there is no plumbing no leaks are possible. The toilet is flushed by pouring one or two litres of water into the pan. The pan funnels steeply to a 70 mm-diameter outlet. Greywater can also be used for flushing.

The water seal works just like a regular flush toilet: water is trapped in the bend of the pipe sealing off any smell from the pit coming back up into the toilet. After the water seal, the pipe continues straight to a leach pit. A significant advantage over a VIP toilet is the fact that users cannot use the toilet as a rubbish pit, leaving the resultant sludge essentially free from general household solid waste.

Rather than a conventional sewerage system, the pour flush toilet block is attached to two leach pits. When one leach pit becomes full, then the pit is switched. The full pit is allowed to dry out normally over a period of two years and then emptied, ready to be used again once the operational pit reaches its capacity. The leach pits are fully offset from the structure, making them easier to access for maintenance. Studies indicate that the pits have a lifespan of around five years before they need to be emptied.

Pour Flush /Low Flush trials have been conducted in households and schools in KwaZulu-Natal, Western Cape, and Eastern Cape. After extensive testing, the first two toilets were installed in Pietermaritzburg in 2010. They have been in operation since then without problems or blockages. Consequently, a further 20 household demonstration units were built as well as three toilets at a crèche.

According to Executive Manager for Water Use and Waste Management at the WRC Mr Jay Bhagwan all is working well. For the users of the technology it adequately addressed the wish for a flush toilet.

Moreover, the technology costs considerably less than installing a full flush toilet connected to a sewer or a standard septic tank. In addition, it is not dependent on piped water supply, and can be used even if the water supply is cut off occasionally, as a small amount of water is required and greywater can be used. It is also less complicated than a VIP in terms of installation.

On Saturday, 12 November 2016 the Department of Science and Technology, under the leadership of Minister Naledi Pandor will be visiting the Eastern Cape for launching the implementation of the Pour-flush toilets in Amathole District Municipality.

For more on Pour Flush /Low Flush toilet system visit www.wrc.org.za

SAB Foundation award winners 2016
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