Desperate efforts to save water in drought-stricken South Africa have led scientists to develop the world’s first waterless urinal.
Under the proposals, special urinals could convert Cape Town residents’ urine into fertiliser, without the need to flush.
The ‘golden’ idea comes as the city battles an unprecedented water crisis.
City planners have been braced for Day Zero – the day that Cape Town must turn off its taps – since February, following three years of low rainfall.
Thanks to tough water restrictions, reports suggest residents may have managed to push the dreaded Day Zero back to 2019.
However, conservation efforts remain crucial in a country that is almost entirely reliant on the collection of surface water.
A team from the University of Cape Town (UCT) hope that the ‘liquid gold’ produced by their new urinals could save Cape Town huge amounts of water.
We combine our faeces and urine with really good quality water and we send it to a waste water plant,’ team leader Dr Dyllon Randall told this week’s Water Institute of Southern Africa’s biennial conference in Cape Town.
‘Urine only makes up about 1 percent of the waste water but it contains over 80 percent nitrogen, 70 percent potassium, and 50 percent phosphorus – these are three key nutrients needed to make any inorganic fertiliser.
‘The urinal houses calcium hydroxide (lime) which helps with the formation of a solid fertiliser.
‘Once the container is full, it is removed by an operator and transported to a resource recovery plant where the fertiliser is recovered,’ he explained to News24.
As well as water, the urinal may also save money amid increased water tariffs and be a more cost-effective way to meet the need for more toilets in schools.
Randall continued: ‘UCT used about eight Olympic-sized swimming pools – based on 2017 values – of flushing water just to flush urinals each year.
‘If you collected all the urine on campus just from the urinals, we could produce seven tons of fertiliser – offsetting the need to buy fertiliser,’ he suggested.
UCT reportedly requires about four tons of fertiliser for their sport fields.
Randall said the fertiliser-producing urinal was still in development and would eventually be suitable for households or commercial buildings that wanted to further reduce their water consumption.
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