It’s not all about flushing

By Andrew ‘Andy’ Camphausen

Basic sanitation is a human right equal to all other basic human rights.

On 30 September 2010, the UN Human Rights Council, responsible for mainstreaming human rights within the UN system, adopted by consensus a resolution affirming that water and sanitation are human rights.

The resolution adopted by the Human Rights Council took an important further step in affirming that:

The human right to safe drinking water and sanitation is derived from the right to an adequate standard of living and inextricably related to the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, as well as the right to life and human dignity. This means that for the UN, the right to water and sanitation is contained in existing human rights treaties and is therefore legally binding. The right to water and sanitation is a human right, equal to all other human rights, which implies that it is justifiable and enforceable.

Minister of the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS), Nomvula Mokonyane, stated at a recent National Sanitation Indaba: “We must introduce new technologies that appreciate that water is a scarce resource and as such provide solutions to dispose of effluent via alternative methods. It’s not all about flushing.” She also said, “We must begin by challenging the property development sector through regulation and licensing requirements to invest itself in developing properties less reliant on water for sanitation in order to ensure we introduce the alternative solutions to low, middle and high income areas.”

After digesting what the minister has stated, this is very difficult to do when looking at the plumbing sector. But one needs to start somewhere. As plumbers, there are times where we can influence developers/built environment professionals like architects and quantity surveyors as to what should be installed into built environment projects.

“It’s not all about flushing.”

Essentially, it starts with us. Yes, we know that we are currently experiencing the single largest drought in 80 years; this is all the more reason to embrace alternative flushing mechanisms that use less potable (drinking) water to flush away solids in bathrooms or ablution areas.

To embrace the above facts is also difficult to do as a total mind shift needs to occur before we can promulgate radical change. But if we are not going to embrace this and use our influence in the built environment, who will?

When reading the statement from the minister, it is evident that policies and laws will be re-written to suit the current and ongoing drought we find ourselves. So, in my opinion, the regulated white papers on Water Supply and Sanitation (1994), National Water Policy of South Africa (1997) and Basic Household Sanitation (2001) will be reviewed by the DWS, and laws will be changed.

The single largest challenge with rewriting laws, policies or acts is the regulation thereof. Yes, we have bodies like the Plumbing Industry Regulation Board and National Home Builders Registration Council, but many things still fall through the cracks. Regulation of laws needs manpower and the proper skills in which to regulate or police this in the built environment. As we are all human, these regulations take time to promulgate. It also takes time to train people to adequately regulate water and sanitation within the built environment.

Until regulation is in full force, it should be our duty to change our mindset and embrace change to water saving products and alternative methods regarding flushing.

“It’s not all about flushing.” What are you doing to embrace change and influencing built environment projects to use less potable water?

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