Alternative Sanitation: the modern dry toilet

Image  The Clay House Project in Namibia has developed a dry toilet system that has demonstrated itself to be a viable alternative for CHP clients, especially those who do not earn enough money to pay the monthly water costs. More important, because water is a scarce resource in Namibia and the water sources can't meet the rising demand, it shows municipalities an alternative sanitation system that could help develop their informal areas.

How the toilet works
Image This modern, hygienic and odorless dry toilet system works in the following manner. A perforated bucket with an perforated plastic bag under the toilet bowl separates solid from liquid. The solid stays in the rubbish bag, while the liquid goes through a perforated concrete panel into a second room. >From there, the liquid filtrates into the ground.

After about four months the bucket is filled with solids and is moved to the back of the toilet tank. There it will dry out completely, while a second bucket collects the droppings under the toilet bowl. After another four months, when the second bucket is full, the rubbish bag with the dry solids is taken out from the first bucket, which then can be used for the next turn.

The 2m³ room under the toilet is large enough to store at least 6 dry rubbish bags. Every two years the dry rubbish bags should be taken out and dumped. In this way the toilet will never fill up, neither with solids nor with liquids. The two-room-system keeps the tank clean and hygienic.

ImageA sun and wind based ventilation system at the back of the toilet provides fresh air, which keeps it dry and ensures an odorless environment.

Last year the CHP installed 13 of these toilets in Orwetoveni. None of the users has any complaints. Residents of this “squatter area” view the dry toilets in clearly economic terms. Saving water equals saving cash!

Municipal authorities are enthusiastic about the potential benefits of this alternative sanitation system, as they hope to convert the informal settlement of Orwetoveni into a formal area. However, limited financial resources, together with Namibia´s scarce water sources. make modern water-based sanitation an unrealistic option.

Nonetheless, the rising expectations within the population for formal dwellings and modern amenities creates impossible demands on local governments, not only in Namibia, but throughout the southern hemisphere.

For the Municipality of Otjiwarongo, the dry toilets are a way to develop the unserviceed plots in Orwetoeni. The Clay House endeavors with these toilets has made previously impossible areas habitable. “In the long run it is VERY important,” stated one municipal official. “The savings in water are super important.”

While the implications are obvious for Namibia, a desert country with little rainfall, this alternative sanitation could also be a solution for rural improvement programs. It is a highly developed and modern system, light-years away for some of the rustic and uncomfortable experiments known in many countries.

For more information please contact the Clay House Project This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

You are here: Home Past editions Edition #6, September 2004 Alternative Sanitation: the modern dry toilet


Víctor Martínez
Civil Engineer
MCR tiles, instruction, quality control, project management.


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