World Toilet Day: Local reinvention tackles leaky cisterns to prevent water loss
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Cape Town - On World Toilet Day, a little local toilet humour is shedding light on a serious issue; the lack of safe and sustainable sanitation for more than half the world’s population.
It is also turning the spotlight onto the lucky half who have access to safe sanitation, but at a massive cost to the planet. Leaking loos are wasting billions of litres of water per year which end up in sewerage, but a local cost-effective invention can put an end to it.
Recent studies show that one toilet can leak as much as 12 000 litres of water per month.
“That's a staggering 144 000 litres per toilet per year running into sewerage dams to be filtered along with the dirty water at a significant cost to service providers and consumers,” explains David Van der Spuy, the businessman who invented and patented the pre-fill cistern.
“Flushing does waste water, but leaking cisterns are by far the biggest cause of water loss in toilets” says Van der Spuy, who owns and manages GD Fittings, a local manufacturer of plastic plumbing products.
Van der Spuy and extreme eco-adventurist Braam Malherbe took to the beach today with the reinvented on-demand water cistern to illustrate how it can put an end to wasted drinking water which runs into our rivers and oceans.
“Flush toilets are considered the gold standard in sanitation, but what about the pressure it places on our declining water sources? We are literally flushing our most precious resource down the toilet,” said Malherbe who is known for embarking on extreme adventures to highlight the plight of our planet.
Amongst other feats, Malherbe launched the #DOT Challenge initiative when he rowed more than 8 000 kilometres to cross the Southern Atlantic in 2016. He also walked to the South Pole in 2011 and ran 4 000 kilometres of the Great Wall of China in 2006 to show us the impact of environmental devastation.
Thanks to initiatives such as World Toilet Day, safe sanitation construction and availability are increasing globally but, as toilet usage rises, so will water wastage.
It was the extreme drought in the Western Cape last year that prompted Van der Spuy to design a ground-breaking cistern that does not leak. “The cistern is empty in its resting state and only fills when necessary, at the push of a button. An empty cistern doesn't leak. A simple insight can sometimes have the biggest impact,” he explains.
Van der Spuy has developed his idea in such a way that his kits will fit all existing types of cisterns so that it can be adopted as widely as possible to achieve maximum savings.
If just a portion of SA households replaced their existing cistern with a water-on-demand cistern like the Pre-Fill Cistern, hundreds of millions of litres could be saved every year. This is good news for South Africa, a water-scarce country with a growing population.
The Pre-Fill Cistern is currently being trialled by various municipalities across the country and so far results show it pays for itself in a couple of months, it’s easy to install and easy to use.
Malherbe said: “The objectives of #DOT Challenge (Do One Thing), World Toilet Day and GD Fittings are aligned. When we hear about the global water crisis we assume that as individuals we an do little to stunt it, but we can each look at reducing our unnoticed water wastage. Look at your toilet and consider that it could be leaking as much as 12 000 litres per month. One small change and you could be saving thousands of litres a month.”