Ah the humble toilet. We mindlessly rely on its function several times a day -- until it stops working or unless we can't find one, which is now the topic of an international symposium.
The 8th annual World Toilet Summit (who knew?) opened Tuesday in Macau, and promises to tackle the sanitation challenges of the world. The meeting will address how to provide affordable, environmentally-friendly and basic access to sanitation for the estimated 2.5 billion people in the world who still do not have access to a hygienic toilet.
While a toilet summit sounds like a punch line (more on that later), health and hygiene are serious issues in developing countries, while water efficiency and clean complete flushing are issues for homeowners and building managers here in the U.S. and other developed countries.As an example, engineers have created toilets that use less water to flush more waste without clogging, as well as dual-flush toilets allowing the user to choose just the right amount of water to do the job (and lending new meaning the question "Was that a #1 or a #2?").
High-tech efficient toilets were also most recently made easier to spot here in the US via the EPA's new WaterSense designation, a labeling program that promotes water efficiency. According to the EPA, inefficient toilets are responsible for most of the water wasted in American homes. Replacing these toilets with WaterSense labeled toilets could save nearly two billion gallons per day across the country.
The World Toilet Summit continues for three days and includes displays of new sustainable technologies from self-cleaning toilets (who wouldn't love that) and solar-powered commodes that run without water, to recyclable systems which by converting waste into bio-gas, can be used to heat hot water for bathing and washing purposes.
The event also promises a spirited debate over global codes of practice for the design and construction of toilets, including an initiative entitled 'Potty Parity' to review and address the ratio of female to male stalls in public toilets (guys -- we'd lose that one for sure).
As a testament to the importance of the event, the World Toilet Summit opened with a keynote address from His Royal Highness, Prince Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, Chair of the United Nations Secretary-General's Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation.
Rumor has it upon completion of his speech, and his breakfast, Prince Willem immediately retired to his throne.
Tom Kraeutler is the Home Improvement Editor for AOL and co-author of My Home, My Money Pit: Your Guide to Every Home Improvement Adventure. He delivers plumbing tips each week as host of The Money Pit, a nationally syndicated home improvement radio program.