Drought is a major concern in the western United States, and with water in short supply, homeowners need to do everything they can to conserve water. The average American family flushes 27% of their household water down the toilet, so if you want to save water, you can start there. Standard flush toilets aren't the only option any more, and replacing them with urine-diverting toilets can help you save water. Here are five things you need to know about urine-diverting toilets.
What are urine-diverting toilets?
Urine-diverting toilets are an alternative toilet type that were designed to use less water. They look similar to the standard flush toilets that you're used to, except that the bowl is split into two compartments instead of just one.
The urine is collected in the front portion of the bowl, while the feces is collected in the back portion. Both bowls have their own flush mechanism, drain, and pipes. The two compartments are designed to catch waste where it naturally falls, so you can sit on it the same way as you sit on your existing toilet.
How do they use less water?
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, standard flush toilets use 1.6 gallons of water per flush. This same amount of water is used regardless of the contents of the toilet bowl, which is unnecessary.
With urine-diverting toilets, the urine and solids collection bowls are flushed separately. Gravity drains the urine collection bowl, and afterwards, about 0.05 gallons of water is used to rinse the bowl and prevent odors. The solids collection bowl is flushed with about one gallon of water, though some models use even less.
Since people typically urinate more frequently than they defecate, this nearly-waterless urine flush saves a lot of water.
How are urine-diverting toilets installed?
Since urine-diverting toilets have two separate bowls and two drains, they require separate piping systems. One pipe is connected to the urine bowl, which takes the urine to an on-site storage tank. The other pipe is connected to the solids bowl, which takes the solids either to the city sewers or to your septic tank, depending on your existing set-up.
Why is the urine diverted?
Flushing the urine separately allows for much less water to be used, but water savings aren't the only good thing about urine-diverting toilets. This diverted urine can be stored and later used as fertilizer for flowers, vegetables and lawns.
Urine contains many of the same elements that traditional fertilizer does, like nitrogen and phosphorus, and studies in Finland have shown that it works just as well as traditional fertilizer.
One person's daily urine production is enough to fertilize one square meter (10.7 square feet) of soil, so a family can fertilize their garden in this way.
Are you allowed to use urine as fertilizer?
While urine may seem gross, it doesn't pose any health risks, according to Scientific American. It's feces that contains dangerous bacteria, like E. coli, and when urine is kept separate from feces, it remains safe.
Since laws vary so much across the country, make sure to check your state and municipal laws to make sure that this safe practise is allowed in your area. If you aren't allowed to fertilize with urine in your area, ask your plumber to connect both the urine and solids pipes to the sewer system. While you won't get the benefits of fertilization with this method, you'll still be able to save lots of water.
If you need to cut back on your household's water usage but don't want to alter your habits too much, ask your plumber about alternative toilet designs like urine-diversion toilets. Learn more by contacting companies like Shakley Mechanical Inc.