Saltwater toilets, a thing of the future, may soon begin saving freshwater around the world thanks to a newfound red sea bacteria.
Global (10 February 2020) – The Red Sea has proven to be quite the resource to help save water across the planet. A research team from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) may have just found a possible way to preserve freshwater and instead use saltwater for flushing the toilet.
According to the team, less than 1% of the Earth’s water is fresh and drinkable. In a world where water is scarce and the population continuously growing, it only makes sense to start using other water sources for our daily bathroom habits.
The KAUST team found a salt-tolerant bacterium which was cultured from the Red Sea. It effectively removes nitrogen from salty wastewater; which could be used to treat sewage coming from toilets that use seawater for flushing in place of freshwater.
Toilet flushing accounts for about 30% of the world’s total domestic water demand, using freshwater for this cannot remain sustainable, which is why the use of seawater could alleviate that pressure on freshwater resources.
“Seawater toilet flushing is already in practice in Hong Kong, Singapore and Tokyo,” says KAUST research scientist Muhammad Ali.
Coastal cities are following in the footsteps of Hong Kong, Singapore and Tokyo; however, the high salt content of the seawater presents a problem. The bacterium used to remove Nitrogen from wastewater has a low salt tolerance. This is why finding the bacterium in the Red Sea is a massive win.
The Red Sea has a higher salinity than any other body of water in the world. Ali and Dario Rangel Shaw conducted three years of tests to find whether the bacterium cultured from the Red Sea, could effectively remove nitrogen from salty wastewater.
The bacterium showed to be 90% effective in treating the wastewater. Ali and Dario also made sure to use real seawater, unlike other studies that used artificial versions.
“The findings demonstrate a proof of concept, and the next step is to demonstrate this technology in a microbial granular system containing Candidatus Scalindua sp. AMX11 bacteria and the other types of bacteria necessary for a full-scale wastewater treatment process,” explains Saikaly.
This study, once completed, could change the face of toilet flushing across the globe. Should this interest you, you can read the detailed paper here.