Tucked away at the busy intersection of Alvernon and Speedway is Watershed Management Group. The serene campus is covered with food-producing plants and trees that juxtapose the rubber smells coming from the tire shop across the street.
One wouldn’t know that those plants are growing with the help of humanure or fertilizer from human feces.
It’s not a new concept. In fact, different countries, like China, have been taking advantage of this abundant, natural resource for thousands of years.
But since the United States is a country of convenience, we’ve adopted a septic system that allows us to forget about our bathroom experience as soon as we flush the toilet.
We put a lot of energy into cleaning the water to make it okay to drink and then we make it dirty again,” WMG Program Educator Charlie Alcorn said. “And that idea in general is likewe just put all these resources into making it clean, why are we making it dirty again?
Watershed aims to reduce and recycle their water usage as much as possible, and that’s where compost toilets come in.
It’s a fairly simple system that helps decompose the poop and turn it into usable fertilizer:
You use the bathroom like normal, but itll go in a barrel which fills up in five to six months. Urine is separated out to reduce moisture. The substance is churned, or aerated, once a week to help with decomposition using a tool called a compost crank. And to manage the smell, users sprinkle carbon-heavy materials like sawdust on top that neutralize the odors.
Alcorn said compost toilets are great ways to save money and water people just need to get over the “yuck factor.”
Interacting with those systems and seeing that theres nothing there that is like an automatic gross thing that is offensive,” he said. “Its just a little bit different than weve become accustomed to.
Pre-manufactured compost toilet installations range from $1,100 to $1,300. But the Pima County Department of Environmental Quality requires that each household have a permit beforehand.
This process can save up to 10 gallons of water per person every day because “25% of water that we use in a house here in Tucson, we flush in the toilet,” Joaquin Murrieta said.
Murrieta also works at WMG and is a proud user of his own compost toilet which he has had for about six years.
He said its saved him money and helped him grow food in his backyard.
For the first time in my life, I made apple pies this year. We got so excited. That tree produced so many apples.
Murrieta also grows citrus, almonds, tomatoes and other produce with the help of humanure, which has high amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.
He said most people prefer the convenience of having a bathroom just a few steps away, but his favorite part is the walk through his backyard.
That brings all the quality of life. Because I hear birdsI see birds, I see butterflies, I see tortugas, I see fruit trees. All that in the process to get to the compost toilet.”
Watershed holds workshops through its Living Lab a few times per year to educate people on how they can add a compost toilet to their home.
The next session is scheduled for Dec. 5 from 5:30-7:00 p.m.