Zimbabwe city deals with drought by flushing their toilets

Synchronized, city-wide flushing will keep waste from accumulating and creating blocked sewers when the towns go without water.
Written by Jenny Wilson, Contributing Editor
Image via Flickr / Greg Habermann

A city in Zimbabwe has ordered citywide toilet flushing once every three days as they face a drought, complete with water shortages and dams that have been drying up. They're currently on strict water rations, but when the water's turned on, residents' first order of business is to flush their toilets. In unison.

The first synchronized flush took place on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. The reasoning behind this--and subsequent flushes which will take place every three days--is to keep waste from accumulating and creating blocked sewers when the towns go without water. The city council has asked its over 1 million residents to literally flush out their systems.

"All residents of Bulawayo are invited and expected to participate in this exercise. Every household is requested to flush their toilets systematically at 7.30pm," says council spokeswoman Nesisa Mpofu. She explains that the reduction in water going through the sewage system created the need for this "water shedding programme." The first flush, however, was not much of a success. Mpofu

Notwithstanding the humor of a city-wide toilet flush, it is an important measure for public health reasons as well. If the sewage systems or not functioning properly, septic waste can seep into the streets, causing disease and infection. The solution seems reasonable, but is the problem only drought-related? According to Bulawayo South MP Eddie Cross, it also stems from lack of sufficient infrastructure. "We've been saying that Bulawayo's water pipes need attention for 30 years," he told the Guardian. "We haven't built a new dam since independence. There's no short-term solution and no miracle in sight."

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