Composting Toilets And The California Water Shortage

For those who aren’t already aware, the state of California is in a water crisis.  More than two thirds of the state’s water supply comes from the Sacramento Delta, an area poised for catastrophe when the next major earthquake hits.  According to scientists, such an event isn’t just a possibility, but rather a probability, and they estimate that there’s a 75% chance of such an earthquake occurring before the year 2040.  The problem is further complicated by an aging infrastructure, insufficient levies, droughts, and ecological concerns in the area.

All this begs the question, what can California residents do to ensure that there will be enough water in the coming years to support the needs of their growing population?  While the state of California realizes that major steps must be taken to overhaul and revamp the Sacramento Delta area, state agencies are also campaigning to raise public awareness about the need for water conservation.  Though conservation alone won’t solve the problem in its entirety, encouraging residents to use less water is one important piece of the puzzle.

One of the biggest sources of water waste in the average American home is the toilet.  It’s estimated that approximately 25-30% of the average household’s water consumption is flushed down our toilets.  If the state of California could conserve even a part of that water, multiplied across its millions of residents, the savings would be staggering.  One possible solution to water savings in the bathroom are composting toilets.

Composting toilets have been around for decades in one form or another, all with the same basic goal-to convert human waste into compost, a harmless substance that looks and smells like ordinary garden soil.  Like most products, composting toilets have moved through a product development life cycle that began with fairly primitive fixtures and has evolved into a very sophisticated and highly effective product.  The modern composting toilet is not only 100% odorless, but it’s also easy to maintain and operate and is aesthetically pleasing in today’s residential bathrooms.

Composting toilet systems are not cheap.  A single, self-contained unit retails around $1,500, or a large, whole-house system with toilets in multiple bathrooms can cost around $3,500.  How can the state of California make it financially feasible for their residents to install these pricey fixtures in their homes?  One possible solution is to subsidize the cost of the toilets with tax incentives.  Many states offer tax breaks to homeowners who install high-efficiency windows, doors, and HVAC units, so why not offer a tax credit to homeowners who install approved composting toilet systems?

The state could gather an independent panel of plumbing and home repair experts to evaluate the various models of composting toilets on the market today, and identify one or more particular brands and a group of models within those brands that the state could deem to be “approved fixtures.”  The state could even subsidize part of the tax credit offered to homeowners by cooperating with the manufacturers of those composting toilets.  For example, for every tax credit the state of California gave to a homeowner who purchased a qualifying system, the state could then provide that same documentation to the composting toilet manufacturer to receive some credit or rebate on the sale, payable directly to the same funds that the tax credits come out of.

While this may seem fairly simplistic, the state of California has to start somewhere if they want to encourage water conservation on a large scale.  Reducing residential water use by even 10-15% would make a huge difference in the state’s water situation, and composting toilets might be just the product to help them accomplish the task.  For Californians, at least it’s worth some consideration.

Leave a Reply