It is time to stop flushing away money and sustainability down the loo

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By Bernard Wainaina

Imagine flushing your toilets using milk. My apologies for using such imagery but every day, millions of Kenyans and billions around the world do exactly that. It may not be milk that we use to flush our toilets but we often use clean drinking water, the very water that we use for cooking.

Most houses don't separate kitchen water from bathroom water. Consequently, clean and drinkable water ends up being flushed down toilets numerous times daily. In the US, nearly half of the water consumed in the average home is used in the bathroom, with almost 27per cent being flushed down toilets.

The scenario in most urban homes in Africa may not be exactly the same, but it is just as bad. It is time for us to embrace water efficiency and stop flushing our priceless water down the toilet day in day out. The good news is that you can save and make money by integrating water efficiency into your toilets. The lowest hanging fruit when it comes to toilet water efficiency is the toilet cistern itself. Most toilet cisterns in Kenya are highly inefficient, using between twelve and twenty litres of water with every flush. To put it into perspective, every time you flush your toilet, it's like you are flushing away 25 packets of milk — only that the packets contain water.

There are more water-efficient toilet cisterns that use a maximum of six litres, which is half as much as the minimum used by the inefficient cisterns. They are reasonably priced. Therefore, I suggest that the National Assembly and County Assemblies enact legislation that will require all new toilets be fitted with the water efficient cisterns. That will save at least half of the water that we keep flushing down our toilets. It will also open a business opportunity for entrepreneurs to buy and sell the modern water efficient cisterns.

There is another low hanging fruit that requires a paradigm shift that will inform considerably smarter ways of flushing our toilets. This entails recycling the water that we use in the showers, sinks or even the very water that we flush. The recycled water can then be reused again and again. This can save a lot of water and money. Recycling systems that can undertake this vital recycling can be retrofitted into existing plumbing for costs that range from Sh50,000 to Sh200,000 depending on the size. Although this cost may be prohibitive to most Kenyans, real estate developers need to integrate recycling systems into new houses. Home owners should also seriously consider making the investment because it will save thousands of litres of water in the long term.

All this water efficiency measures can be vastly scaled up in factories. Industrial water efficiency operating on similar principles will save industries huge sums of money and affect their bottom line in a very healthy fashion. Indeed, it is time to stop flushing away money and sustainability. Think green, act green,live green!


Bernard Wainaina is an Independent Agribusiness Advisor and CEO at Profarms Consultants®,Nairobi,Kenya. He mainly works with Agribusiness Youth Groups in Eastern African Region.