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Summer Series – Liquid Gold

Summer is here and I’m taking some family time. I’ll be back later this week with more fresh content, in the meantime, check out this post from the past!

Urine diverting flush toilet in Stockholm
Image by ecosan via Flickr

I grew up in a city of about 5 million people, where just about every house had at least one toilet, (this was not North America, where the average is closer to 2.5 per household), and every one of those toilets was flushed an average of 6-10 times a day per person. The idea of if it’s yellow let it mellow was not particularly popular in Australia growing up, maybe it was because of the heat, I don’t know. I was surprised when I attended a meeting in Castlegar about two years ago and someone suggested that it might be appropriate to not flush once in a while and an older gentleman stood up and accused the speaker of “wishing for us to be like animals” – as though the only thing that separated us from the apes was the invention of the full flush toilet. Give me a break.

Despite digging latrines while in the Army, my appreciation for the no-fuss flush toilet was still strong until a couple of years ago when I was struck with just how much nutrient was being flushed away. Somehow all the mention of nitrogen in wastewater engineering classes didn’t seem to be the same nitrogen that is necessary to grow just about any type of plant, including the food we eat. Sometimes we are blinkered in our response to a problem. As a professional I was taught to dispose of the “waste”, to collect it in sewers and transport it to million dollar facilities, screen the solids, then clean the liquids to discharge back into the river, lake or ocean – often at great cost.

Read more at the original post – Liquid Gold – Posted May 2009

Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas P.Eng. ENV SP, is the author of UrbanWorkbench.com and Director of Engineering at the City of Revelstoke in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada. If I post something here that you find helpful as you navigate the world of engineering, planning and building communities, that’s wonderful. But when push comes to shove: This is my personal blog. The views expressed on these pages are mine alone and not those of my employer.

One thought on “Summer Series – Liquid Gold

  1. Hey Mike,

    Metro Vancouver is looking at harvesting phosphorous from sewage at its treatment plants–a good thing for agriculture. Do you have any thoughts on this?

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