I knew we were in trouble when I found myself Googling dry composting toilets. That was on Feb. 1, just after the mayor’s office here in Cape Town announced new water restrictions. We are now limited to using 13 gallons of water per person per day. That’s enough for a 90-second shower, a half-gallon of drinking water, a sinkful to hand-wash dishes or laundry, one cooked meal, two hand washings, two teeth brushings and one toilet flush. I figured I could save an extra couple of gallons by forgoing the daily flush in favor of a dry composting toilet. Hippie friends living off the grid in the country do it. How bad could it be?
According to current projections, Cape Town will run out of water in a matter of months. This coastal paradise of 4 million on the southern tip of South Africa is to become the first modern major city in the world to completely run dry. And even though residents aren’t responsible, the burden of making sure it doesn’t happen rests largely on our ability to cut down on water usage. Dramatically.