Valley Permaculture Alliance

Greetings Valley Permaculture Alliance!

I am a Phoenix native and coming back to the valley soon after studying Sustainable Development in far-away Sweden. In Sweden I have learned a lot about the "composting toilet," a waterless toilet technology, that composts human waste to eliminate the dangerous stuff and turn it into a humus that can be used to enhance soil.

I have done some homework and Arizona state law permits composting toilet installation, even just with the motivation that the home owner wants to conserve water. Maricopa County controls the permit process and regulations for installation and maintenance. Some municipal or city ordinances in metro-Phoenix also permit the toilets!

When I come back to the valley this summer I want to work on promoting the composting toilet as a water saving and soil enhancing home technology option (especially important in our dry desert climate). I am just trying to find some people that have experience with them. I would be so happy if anyone has any leads to composting toilet users in the Valley, plumbers or engineers that know about the technology, or maybe you were interested in putting one in and then found out it was more complicated than you expected?

Thanks in advance!!

 

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Thank you for the tip on contacting Brad Lancaster, Peggy. I actually already did and he told me to look into the Valley Permaculture Alliance for some people that may be practicing the composting toilet method. He is more familiar with the Tucson area and says he knows of no one in the Phoenix area that has experience with it. My search for people with experience in the Valley is really turning out to be tough!

Hi Chris! Of course composting toilets are not new, they are as old as time. But they are actually re-emerging as the most appropriate sanitation technology in some conditions, especially where water scarcity is a main concern. In Sweden I worked with a research and capacity development organization that promotes site-appropriate "ecosan" technology- which could be an "arbor-loo"- where you plant a tree over the full composting site, or the "urine diverting dry toilet" which has been used as a solution for cholera outbreaks and lack of sanitation in Ethekwini municipality, Durban, South Africa, or the fancy summer house Clivus Multrum that is so popular in Sweden. 

With all honesty Christ, I am trying to gather a network of composting toilet users that could share experiences and perhaps even contribute to the popularity of the composting toilet in the valley. The way I see it, these manufactured varieties of composting toilets may be more troublesome than practical. At the same time, waterless sanitation could become an extremely valuable sanitation option in metro-Phoenix with growing population, climate uncertainty, and even the move for people to grow some of their own food. I think that policy in the valley needs to evolve, but policy changes will not happen without some experience and energy on the ground.  

If you would be willing to give me some more detailed insight into your experiences, I would be very happy to speak with you in more detail.

Here is a good link on some composting toilets. Many only use a bucket, so not very high tech and cheap.

I'm interested to hear more.  My husband and I have been reading up on humanure for a while now.  

The link that Ericka provided is someone in Arizona - their site is full of wonderful information on many permaculture topics.  He's got a very basic set up - but good to know that AZ law permits them.  

Yes AZ law permits them, but the permit process is very complicated and expensive. Maricopa County only approves certain manufacturers and models on top of that, which is more cost!! Furthermore, in my investigations I find that most of the municipalities in metro-Phoenix are very restrictive- they require sewer connections. Some of the less densely populated municipalities are more flexible. So if you have the money and your own residence, going the permit way is ideal.

I just wonder if the restrictiveness of the permit process in the valley causes more people to "go under the wire" so to speak and opt for home-made constructions. This could lead to dangerous sanitary and environmental conditions, which is precisely what the permitting process seeks to avoid!

I am still looking for someone with experience on this in the valley!!

Here was my email to and response from Maricopa County. I'm not sure how many other fees are on top of the permitting fee...

If I decide to build a house and put in a commercial waterless composting
toilet (non-homemade!) for ecological reasons, do I understand correctly
that I have to pay a $400 fee to have Maricopa county grant me a permit to
do so?
Thank you,
Rachel


Rachael,
Yes that is correct. For more detailed information on the submittal process, please
contact our program manager, Greg Maupin, at gmaupin@mail.maricopa.gov or at
602-506-6618.
Thank you,
Helen

Helen Robinson-Boswell, MS
Development Services Technician Supervisor
On-Site Wastewater Program
Environmental Services
Phone: 602-372-1568
Fax: 602-372-6925
"Working with our community to ensure
a safe and healthy environment."

Land of the fee and the home of the slave.

Thanks very much Rachel. So are you going to install one? Do you know of any other people that have done it in Phx? Have a nice day!!

Lauren

I don't know anyone that has one. In fact the last time I remember even using one was at a cabin in about 1985... I'm looking at building a tiny off-grid (120 sq feet-- the largest structure you can build without needing a permit. ;) ) Thoreau-inspired "guesthouse" in the backyard, and a composting toilet would make the most sense there. So, yes, eventually I hope to install one, though if I do, it's a ways out because of money and time.
At some point we have to practice nullification of laws, rules, regulations, and ordinances which absolutely make little to no sense.
The only composting toilet I know of locally is the one at Lost Dog Wash Trailhead in Scottsdale's McDowell Sonoran Preserve.

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