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Press Release 
Adriaan Taljaard 

Water Research Commission supports "World toilet Day" 19 November 2015

Toilet Day gets promoted every year via social media campaigns, online petitions, and by getting involved in a range of events held in different countries worldwide. More people in the world have a mobile phone than a toilet and of the seven billion people in the world six billion have mobile phones. The contrast to this is that only 4.5 billion people have access to toilets or latrines – implying that 2.5 billion people, mostly in rural areas, do not have proper sanitation.

World Toilet Day is about the 2.5 billion people who lack access to improved sanitation and the millions of children   whose prospects are compromised by poor sanitation. 

The Water Research Commission (WRC) is currently engaging in key strategic initiatives around sanitation research. Full waterborne sanitation coverage is difficult to attain for most developing countries nor is it recommended. For many years the Ventilated Improved Latrine or VIP has been considered the accepted basic standard for sanitation provision in South Africa. New toilet designs are needed which do not place the user above a pit.  Many new design ideas are being explored by the WRC and others. The following three have been implemented in various municipalities:

  • Pour flush or low flush:  The pedestal looks like that of a standard flush toilet. To flush, the user pours 1-3 litres of water into the pan (for the pour flush design) or uses the cistern flush mechanism to dispense 3.0 litres from the cistern (for the low flush design). The waste is flushed through a P trap and out to a simple soak pit.  The toilet is much like a regular flush toilet in appearance, eliminates dangers and smells, and can be installed inside the house.  Since 2010 pour flush toilets have been successfully piloted in homes in a number of municipalities around the country and in several schools. More information can be found on the pour flush design at: http://www.wrc.org.za/Knowledge%20Hub%20Documents/Research%20Reports/1887-1-12.pdf
  • Desiccating Toilet: Faeces falls onto a perforated plate or into a permeable bag which allows urine to drain through and evaporate.  The vault is not deep.  A wind-driven extractor fan pulls air through the toilet and out a pipe to remove smells and aid dehydration of urine.  This option is particularly suitable where the soil is very shallow or the water table is very high.
  • Urine diversion: The pan of the toilet has two sections: one collects urine and the other allows faeces to fall through into a vault. Urine flows into a pipe which then goes into the ground or is collected for dilution and use as liquid fertilizer. Sludge is drier because it doesn’t contain urine and the vault is too shallow to pose a serious risk of harm should the user fall in. eThewkini Municipality has used this design extensively for its rural households: http://www.susana.org/en/resources/library/details/911
  • Re-Invent the Toilet (RTTC) Challenge: In 2011, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation initiated the “Re-Invent the Toilet Challenge” (RTTC). The aim was to develop an off-grid sanitation system that completely removes pathogens, recovers valuable resources such as energy and water, an aspiration product that people want to use and cost no more than US$0.5 cents per user per day. Many of the toilet systems developed use treatment processes new to the sanitation, such as carbonisation. Today, there are demonstration-ready toilets ready – the WRC together with the Department and Science and Technology (South Africa) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have partnered in demonstrating these systems in South Africa. The Caltech Toilet is one such innovation that will be demonstrated: http://www.caltech.edu/news/caltech-wins-toilet-challenge-23635.

There are numerous technologies in the market today. Some of these technologies include package plants and other innovations that use of combination or hybridisation of different treatment process. Through the Sanitation Innovation Challenge “SanIC”, the WRC was, on behalf of the Department of Water and Sanitation, to collate information regarding different technologies and innovations available in the country.

To find out more about the WRC and initiatives around sanitation go to www.wrc.org.za.


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