Dry compost toilets: sustainable sanitation for water conservation

Climate change is an issue that has become increasingly urgent as global temperatures continue to rise and the negative effects of greenhouse gas emissions are felt across the globe. Only 3% of the earth's water is fresh, and out of that 2.5% of the earth's fresh water is unavailable: locked up in glaciers, polar ice caps, atmosphere, and soil; highly polluted; or lies too far under the earth's surface to be extracted at an affordable cost. Human beings have only 0.5% of the earth's water available as fresh water. Fresh water is a finite resource and essential for all life on earth.


However, water scarcity is becoming a pressing issue due to increasing population and climate change. Recent data from the UN reveals that 2.2 billion people still do not have access to safe drinking water. As per the UN data, the changing climate is destroying, drying up, and contaminating water sources, and about 600 million children will live in areas of water stress by 2040 if the current situation persists.

Amidst the water crisis that we are witnessing all over the globe, we still have access to safe water for drinking and other household chores. Have you ever wondered how much water you are consuming daily when you press that flush button in your toilet? As per the studies, the amount of water used in flushing a toilet depends on -type of toilet; and when it was manufactured. Older toilets typically use between 13-20 litres of water per flush, while newer, more efficient toilets use 4-6 litres of water per flush. Low-flow and dual-flush toilets can use even less, with some models using as little as 2 litres for a flush. Despite this, it is estimated that toilets account for around 30% of household water usage. 

One of the ways individuals and communities can take action to reduce this water usage and mitigate the impact of climate change is by implementing sustainable practices, such as using dry compost toilets. Dry compost toilets are a great example of this, and this article will explore the benefits of dry compost toilets, how they work, and how they can be adopted in the urban landscape.

The traditional toilet system in many parts of the world involves flushing waste away with water, which then goes to sewage treatment plants or septic tanks. However, this method of waste management is not sustainable in the long run. Firstly, it requires a large amount of water, which is a precious resource, and secondly, sewage treatment plants and septic tanks generate large amounts of greenhouse gases. These greenhouse gases, which are mainly methane and carbon dioxide, contribute significantly to climate change. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, methane is a potent greenhouse gas with a global warming potential 28 times greater than carbon dioxide over a 100-year time frame.

Dry compost toilets provide a sustainable alternative to traditional toilets. These toilets do not require water and instead use organic materials to convert human waste into compost. They are a great solution for both rural and urban areas, as they can be used in any location with or without access to water.

Composting toilets have been around for centuries, and were commonly used in rural areas where there was no access to modern sewage systems. However, in recent years, they have gained popularity among environmentally conscious individuals and communities as a way to reduce water usage and waste. Dry compost toilets are one type of composting toilet that operates without water, making them a great choice for off-grid living, rural areas, and eco-friendly homes.

Unlike traditional flush toilets, which use water to transport waste through pipes to a sewage treatment plant, dry compost toilets use the natural process of decomposition to turn waste into compost. The toilet is designed to separate liquids and solids, which are then stored separately. The solids are mixed with a composting material, such as sawdust or peat moss, which provides the necessary carbon and nitrogen to promote decomposition. The liquids are typically collected in a container and used as fertilizer for plants.

Now, let's dive into the important aspects of dry compost toilets.

How do dry compost toilets work?

Dry compost toilets work by separating solid and liquid waste. The solid waste is collected in a container, where it is mixed with organic materials such as sawdust, wood chips, or shredded paper. These organic materials provide carbon, which helps balance the nitrogen-rich waste. The mixture is left to decompose, and after a few months, it becomes a nutrient-rich compost that can be used as fertilizer for plants. Liquid waste can be treated with various systems, including a soakaway pit or a constructed wetland.

Design and Installation: Dry compost toilets come in a variety of designs, from simple DIY models to high-end, professionally designed units. The basic design involves a seat or platform with a hole, a container to collect the solids, and a separate container to collect the liquids. Some models have ventilation systems to control odours and promote airflow, while others rely on natural ventilation. Installation can range from simple DIY projects to more complex installations requiring professional help.

Maintenance: Maintaining a dry compost toilet is relatively simple, but it does require regular attention. Solids need to be regularly added to the composting container, along with a carbon-rich material like sawdust or peat moss. This helps to balance the nitrogen-rich waste and prevent odors. The compost should be turned regularly to promote decomposition and prevent any buildup of gases. Liquids should be emptied regularly and used as fertilizer for plants. Ventilation systems should be checked and cleaned periodically to prevent blockages and promote airflow.


Dry compost toilets offer several benefits over traditional flush toilets. They are eco-friendly, using little to no water and turning waste into valuable compost. They are also ideal for off-grid living or rural areas without access to modern sewage systems. There are several benefits to using dry compost toilets, including:

  • Saving Water: Dry compost toilets do not require water, which can save up to 30% of the household's water usage.
  • Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Dry compost toilets reduce greenhouse gas emissions by diverting waste from sewage treatment plants and septic tanks, which produce significant amounts of methane and carbon dioxide.
  • Creating Nutrient-Rich Compost: The compost produced by dry compost toilets is a valuable resource that can be used as a natural fertilizer for plants.
  • Cost-Effective: Dry compost toilets are relatively inexpensive to install and maintain compared to traditional toilets. The cost of a dry compost toilet varies depending on the type of toilet you choose, the materials you use, and the labor costs involved in installation. However, in general, dry compost toilets are less expensive to purchase and install than traditional toilets. A traditional toilet typically costs between 5,000 and 10,000 Indian rupees. This includes the cost of the toilet itself, as well as the cost of installation. Dry compost toilets, on the other hand, can cost as little as rupees 2,000 per toilet. This includes the cost of the toilet, as well as the cost of materials and labour for installation. The initial cost of installing a dry compost toilet can be higher than that of a traditional toilet, as specialized equipment and materials may be required. In addition to the initial cost, dry compost toilets also require less maintenance than traditional toilets. This is because dry compost toilets do not require water or sewer connections. Traditional toilets, on the other hand, require regular water and sewer connections. This can add to the overall cost of ownership. 
  • Reducing Water Pollution: Dry compost toilets reduce the amount of sewage that enters water bodies, reducing the risk of water pollution and its adverse effects on aquatic life.


There are some challenges associated with using dry compost toilets. One of the main challenges is odor control. While composting toilets are designed to minimize odors, they can still produce unpleasant smells if not maintained properly. Ventilation systems should be checked and cleaned regularly to prevent odors. Another challenge is the need for regular maintenance. Composting toilets require more attention than traditional flush toilets, and if not maintained properly, can become a health hazard.


Before installing a dry compost toilet, it's important to check local regulations. In some areas, composting toilets may not be allowed or may require special permits. Additionally, the compost produced by the toilet may not be suitable for use on edible plants, depending on local regulations.

Adopting dry compost toilets in the urban landscape

Although dry compost toilets are more commonly used in rural areas, they can also be adopted in the urban landscape. One of the ways this can be done is by promoting the use of community composting toilets. These toilets can be installed in public spaces such as parks, community centers, and public toilets. Community composting toilets can be used by anyone and can be maintained by community members or local authorities.

Another way to adopt dry compost toilets in the urban landscape is by promoting the use of household composting toilets. Households can install dry compost toilets in their homes or apartments and use the compost produced in their gardens or for indoor plants.

Switching from a traditional toilet to a dry compost toilet can be a feasible option for many people. There are a number of factors to consider when switching from traditional to dry compost toilets. 

The upfront cost of a dry compost toilet is typically less than the cost of a traditional toilet. This is because dry compost toilets do not require water or sewer connections, which can add to the cost of a traditional toilet. In addition, dry compost toilets require less maintenance than traditional toilets, which can save money in the long run.

One of the biggest challenges of switching to a dry compost toilet might be changing the habit. With a traditional toilet, you flush away your waste and forget about it. With a dry compost toilet, you need to be more mindful of your waste and how you dispose of it. This can take some time to get used to, but it is not difficult.

It may take some time to adjust to using a dry compost toilet, especially if a person has only used traditional toilets in the past. However, with proper education and training, the adjustment period can be relatively short. Many people who switch to dry compost toilets report that they are happy with the switch and feel good about reducing their environmental impact. Such an initiative is being promoted by the Prakruti Prerna Foundation located in Gajraha, MP,  where they are using dry compost toilets and using the harvested compost as manure for organic farming.

Switching to a dry compost toilet is a great way to reduce your environmental impact. Traditional toilets use a lot of water and energy, which can contribute to water pollution and climate change. Dry compost toilets, on the other hand, are a waterless and energy-efficient option. They also help reduce the amount of waste that goes to landfills.

Dry compost toilets are a sustainable solution for waste management, can help mitigate the impact of climate change, and can help in water conservation. They provide several benefits, including saving water, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, creating nutrient-rich compost, and reducing water pollution.

Written By:

Manvender Pratap Singh

Manvender is a passionate content creator with a journalism degree who has a knack for developing human-interest content. In the past, he was involved with a National News Channel and a video production company and has experience in writing, designing and video production.

Leave A Comment