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Duke Engineers Tell PBS NC Why Flush Toilets Are Wasteful—And How They Can be Made Better

Duke research is finding ways to save water, get rid of human waste efficiently

Every time a toilet flushes, a gallon and a half of clean, treated water ... literally goes down the toilet. Not efficient. That fact, and others about the Duke Center for Water, Sanitation, Hygiene and Infectious Disease (WaSH-AID), were shared in this short video produced by Sci NC, the PBS North Carolina science program.

First, a Video Flush with Facts

“We use drinking water to flush our toilets,” WaSH-AID research scientist Lena Trotochaud told PBS NC's Rossie Izlar. “And as the climate continues to change and water becomes more scarce, and we have more droughts and more fires, we’re going to be using more and more drinking water and having less and less of it. We really need to conserve that precious resource.”

WaSH-AID at Duke is engineering a new kind of toilet—one that treats human excreta onsite, with ultrafiltration processes that leave the liquid fraction of the waste clean enough to use for flushing the toilet.

Their “Reclaimer” toilet is currently being tested at a textile mill in India, but Trotochaud said it might someday also be a good solution, for example, in fast-growing but dry and drought-stricken regions of the United States.

And, No. 2, a Podcast

Learn more about the Reclaimer on Duke Engineering’s podcast, Rate of Change:

Listen Now