Smart Toilet Prevents Water Pollution in Disaster Areas

War or natural disasters often destroy or cause major damage to sanitary systems. The destruction of waste treatment systems can increase the risk of disease and even death among disaster survivors.

Some people dig holes in the ground that serve as individual toilets. However, micro-organisms from human waste can reach water supplies and cause cholera or other diseases.

A United Nations team is now developing a toilet for disaster areas. The experimental project is called eSOS -- for the Emergency Sanitation Operation System. The system is lightweight and operates on sunlight power.

Scientists are working on the toilet at the UN's Institute for Water Education in the Netherlands. Damir Brdjanovic is heading the project. He says his team hopes to bring disaster assistance into the 21st century.

The eSOS system has several 'smart' features, such as a self-contained energy supply unit. Another is a global positioning system sensor, very much like the GPS equipment in some vehicles. There is also equipment that measures waste buildup. All of the information from the toilet system can be shared with an emergency organization center. Officials at the center can then identify the needs of an affected disaster area. The eSOS system can also recycle liquid wastes into water that can be used for farming. This involves treating the urine with the help of a membrane bioreactor system.

The smart toilet is being tested. Damir Brdjanovic and his team plan to test the toilet at refugee camp in the Philippines later this year. The developers hope this disaster relief will save the lives of many refugees.

I'm Jonathan Evans.