Guest writer Mike Oluwabunmi: Toileting, With or Without Water

This article was written by guest writer Mike Oluwabunmi. Mike is a Technocrat in the water and sanitation engineering industry. He has made successful contributions to Nigeria water and Sanitation industry in his professional career till date. He is ever ready to improve with every challenges and to keep touching peoples life positively in his own capacity. You can connect with him on linkedin by clicking here.

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Toileting is the act of ejecting/discharging waste from the body in a toilet facility. This is done through the outlets of the digestive and urinary systems in the human body. Depending on the location and the finance capacity of the provider, toilet facilities could be the modernized water/septic system toilet, pit toilet, composting toilet, bucket toilet or the short-put toilet. The provider of the toilet could be the government, an NGO, cooperate body, community or an individual.

The water system toilets are commonly found in the cities, in homes, offices, schools, hotels, banks, eatery joints, airports, sports stadiums etc. This type of toilet is associated with all the urban cities globally. The pit toilet is common in rural communities and villages. In some cases, it is also found in the homes of some low-level income earners in the cities who cannot afford the cost of putting in-place and maintenance of the water/septic system toilet. Pit toilet is squat toilet modified or vice versa, depending on the provider, relative to space, as the occasion may be. The pit toilet is a common feature in Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean Island and some parts of Europe. Composting toilet is an indoor toilet used continually and in the process, the human feces are converted into usable soil nutrients.

This type of toilet requires no plumbing work, no septic, and can be install anywhere, either in the bathroom, or any preferred room or space in the house. Composting toilet can be self- contained unit or central unit for the whole family. It is common in Australia and Europe and always goes with a composter.

There is also the bucket toilet. Very similar to composting toilet, for home use, and in its function and design. Like composting toilet, it is designed that sawdust/earth materials (top soil, leaves, grass chippings etc) is added after each usage, thereby decomposing human waste into fertilizer. Fully used bucket or composting toilet can be emptied from the bucket or the decomposer into a dug pit or large drum place at least 20m away from the house.

This will allow for further decomposition as the users want it to be. In this way, the spread of any contaminated disease is controlled. Bucket toilet is commonly in use in the Europe, Asia and the Caribbean island.

This fifth one, short – put toilet, seems not so popular but is found in-use on a daily and regular basis. It can be describe as a form of mobile toileting whereby the user spread leaf, polythene, or paper on the ground and discharge his/her feces. There after he look for a public dug-pit and put. Where there is no such pit, the user dig a small-shallow pit and put.
Alternatively the user look for a thick forest, an isolated place or free flowing river/water and throw. Funning enough, this type of secret way of toileting is associated with urban and rural settings. The users normally have different reasons for engaging in the act of shot – put toileting. To some it could be that they are so pressed and don’t want to mess on their body and cloth. The way out is to look out for the easiest way to discharge.

This happens to people traveling on long journey and to site workers, where there is no public toilet to use. This type of toilet is an open – secrete in Africa. It is very possible that it is associated with some of the under developing nations in the world, which I have no knowledge of. So far we are human being either white, black or half-caste some funny things do happen that we cannot control at that instance, such as the act of shot-put toileting. Other type of mobile toilet includes portable bucket toilet, camping toilet, and party/event (in-door or out-door).


The water/septic system toilet, is the best and more comfortable, taking environmental health hazards into consideration. If the system is designed well and the system work well as designed, the immediate and distant environment would be safe from any contamination and spread of any disease. In the developed nations of the world, the sewage/waste water is re-cycled into cleaner and useful water for other domestic usage. On the contrary, the pit and short-put toilets can constitute great health hazards to the immediate and distant environment where they are located. If properly managed the health risk can be minimized to the immediate environment or prevented for the case of pit toilet, composting toilet or bucket toilet.

However, for the short-put toilet the health risk for the immediate and  is high. , critically high. The human excreta contain , unseen bacteria and sometimes urine. Decomposition of human waste in an open and uncovered space spread diseases with the help of tiny air particles. In the study of optics and waves, light wave travels at a speed of 3.0 x 108m in one second in air. The air current move as air wave with respect to the speed of light. This gives us the picture as well as the graphic description of how fast air particles travel from one end to the other end. This movement is a continuous process every day. In an uncontrolled environment, people can easily get infected with disease from the air they breathe-in, dirt’s that fall on them and their clothes, food, etc. In the process, the products of the chemical reaction from the open decomposition done on human excreta get spread at a very high rate and especially with heavy wind. Such diseases can become contagious and spread like fire, thereby resulting into epidemic situation in the immediate and distant environment. In situations where this occur, it becomes a great concern for WHO experts whereby the need will arise for them to meet and start brainstorming to find a lasting solution to stop the spread of the disease as well as giving medical attention to the already affected people in such community.


The volume in cubic meter (m3) of water per day needed to run the toilets differs. For example much more water is needed per day to run such toilets in hospitals, hotels, airports, schools, etc.

Starting with the short-put toilet, this mobile toilet can run without water except in occasion whereby the user is in possession of water when the need arises to hurriedly discharge. Means of cleaning-up, even though not so that comfortable for the users can be paper, clothing, leaves and some times water (not common). For the composting and bucket toilets little or no water is required to run. Tissue paper is used for clean-ups after usage. However, in the cleaning of the room or space for toilet placement, water is required. To wash/clean the bucket (in and out)/composter body etc, water is required to make them look good. Volume of water requirement depends on the availability of water and the space to clean. There is the need for regular disinfection of the bucket, composter compartment and the room/space that housed the toilet. Liquid antiseptic or other disinfectant agents can be used. In doing this, water is needed. Personal hand disinfection is very important by the users after every usage. This cannot be fully achieved without water. Hand disinfection is important so as to kill any germs in the hand after using the toilet.

The pit toilet can not be run successfully without water. To put the toilet project in place, water supply was the key raw material used during the construction of the facility. Majorly, the users of this type of toilet make use of water for clean-up after performing the act. Depending on the population of the community vis a vis the users of the toilet, there is the need for constant water supply in any pit toilet facility to run effectively. Good management and maintenance structure is very important. This structure must be working effectively such that at the close of everyday work, the toilet and the surroundings must be washed clean and necessary sanitizing be done to kill germs and unseen bacteria. To effectively achieve the cleaning and sanitizing process of the pit toilet and its environs, on a daily basis large volume of water is required.

By its design, the water/septic system toilet must have regular and constant water supply. Considering the design of the water system toilet, the users must have constant water supply any time they chooses to use the toilet in the 24 hours of everyday. There must not be water failure at any time, to prevent any epidemic spread of diseases. In the corporate settings, contracts are awarded to cleaning companies to ensure that the water/septic system toilets are kept clean always. These cleaning companies duty is to always clean-up and fumigate the toilets and the immediate surroundings regularly. In the homes, the occupants ensure that their toilets are well clean-up and sanitized on a regular basis. In achieving all these as well as the daily water requirements of the users, large volume of water supply is required


Sources of water supply for the pit toilet are majorly hand-dug well. In some few places, shallow hand-drilled boreholes by locals/quacks serve as means of water supply. This is associated with public toilets. In the extreme rural settings and villages, they depend mainly on water from the streams, rivers and very few hand-dug wells, if there is any, to run their pit toilets. Depending on the provider of the water/septic system toilet, relative to large volume of water requirement to run the toilet, source of water supply could be directly from the government waterboard, borehole, surface water project, re-cycled waste water, etc. Where water supply from the government water agency could not reach or in case water requirement per day is not sufficient, government, corporate bodies, NGOS’ community or individuals employ the services of water professionals to drill industrial or domestic boreholes as occasion demands. In areas where the drilled borehole could not produce enough volume of water requirement per day or no water at all, alternative means of water supply is sourced for. On so many occasions, surface water projects are put in place, whereby water is sourced for in the very nearest river or stream and pumped into storage tanks to be used. This is done by qualified professionals, to achieve the desired result.


Sir Isaac Newton’s first law of motion in mechanics, states that “every object continues in its state of rest or along its uniform motion unless an external force compels it to act otherwise”. Suppose the object in this regard is a vehicle, an airplane, a ship/boat or a train. What keeps the object moving, flying, or running is the engine. When the engine of the object have problem, the motion of the object automatically have problem. It is either the motion of the object slows down or the object comes to a stop. For an airplane or a train, if care is not taken, a crash is immanent.

We can imagine how messy our toilets would be without constant water supply. We can imagine the health risk in our environment without regular supply of water. Water is the engine room that keeps our toilets running on a daily basis. Keep the water flowing. Keep our toilets running. Help to maintain a health hazard free environment.

With regular cleaning and sanitizing of our toilets, the immediate and distant environment will be safe from epidemic diseases. The providers of toilets projects should put in place good management team and maintenance structure to achieve this. With speedy infrastructural developments and developmental programmes that will improve the value of lives, social life and living standard of the people from the urban cities to the rural places, government can reduce health risks that could be caused by composting, bucket and short-put toilets.



Guest writer Mike Oluwabunmi: Toileting, With or Without Water

One thought on “Guest writer Mike Oluwabunmi: Toileting, With or Without Water

  • February 14, 2016 at 11:04 am

    Very insightful article, thanks for the thoughtful contribution.


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