Dealing with your wastewater

Wastewater

The wastewater network is even more vulnerable than the drinking water network - its broken pipes would take even longer to find and fix, and there'd be more of them.

Have you got a plan for what to do with your ones and twos?

Wastewater isn't just about toilets - you'll also need to think about how you would dispose of water used for cooking and hygiene. Water from cooking can be tipped into gardens, but keep water used in washing clothes or yourself away from food producing gardens. 

After a large natural disaster (such as an earthquake or major flood), it's more than likely that the wastewater network will be broken. This means that you won't be able to flush your toilet, use your shower or turn on your washing machine for days, weeks or even longer.

Making an emergency toilet

Being prepared to make your own emergency toilet is easy.

Two bucketsYou'll need:

  • Two 15-20 litre buckets with lids (if you have a large family you may need more buckets)
  • A supply of dry material or mulch - such as straw, sawdust, cat litter, shredded newspaper
  • Toilet paper
  • Water
  • Gloves
  • Disinfectant - such as bleach

What to do:

  • Use one bucket for liquid waste (i.e. urine) only. Add 2-3cms of water to the bottom of the bucket before use. Empty it daily - first dilute the liquid waste with extra water before pouring it onto a disused area of your garden or other green space.
  • Use the other bucket for solid waste (i.e. faeces and toilet paper). Add a layer of dry material to the bottom of the bucket before use. After each use, add a handful of mulch to the bucket to cover the deposit. Try to keep this bucket as dry as possible as this will help keep the smell down. Empty the bucket at least every three days. Either dig a hole at least 30cm deep to put your waste in, or empty it in a plastic bag before putting it in a wheelie bin for later collection. You may have to walk some distance to a waste collection centre.
  • Keep both buckets covered when not in use. Use gloves when emptying the buckets. Rinse and disinfect bucket two after emptying it.

Making a seat will help with using the buckets. You can cut a hole in an old chair or build one from plywood. Camping and hardware stores sell toilet seats, or you can unscrew the existing toilet seat from your bathroom and attach it to the bucket.

ShovelIf you have a garden you can dig a long-drop for use. Dig a hole up to one metre deep and 30-40cm wide. Keep the hole covered after each use (for hygiene and safety reasons - you don't want anyone falling in!). Fill the hole in once the level gets to 30cm below the surface. Cover the hole with soil and dig a new long-drop. 

No garden or buckets?

If you haven't got buckets or a garden, you can dispose of solid waste by using your regular toilet and compostable bags (not plastic or bio-degradable).

Lift the seat and cover the toilet bowl with a compostable bag. Now lower the seat and cover the seat with another compostable bag. After use, tie up the inner bag and dispose of it in a bin (do not flush the waste or bags down the toilet!).

If you live in an apartment you'll need to get in contact with the building owner or manager to see what their plans are for waste collection. Some apartment buildings have wastewater holding tanks which would allow disposal of liquid waste by pouring it into the toilet. Solid waste still needs to be bagged and put into a bin.

Useful items to have at home

• A spade/shovel
• A supply of dry material or mulch - such as straw, sawdust, shredded newspaper
• Toilet paper
• Water – minimum 2 litres per person, per day
• Gloves
• Disinfectant - such as plain unscented bleach to clean wastewater buckets
• Hand sanitiser
• Compostable bags (not plastic or bio degradable)
• Wheelie bin.