Photograph of a waterless composting toilet Buyer's Guide to Waterless Toilets, No-water toilets & Low Water Usage or Water Conserving Toilets

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This article provides information about waterless & low water septic systems, waterless toilets, chemical toilets, incinerating toilets, holding tanks, disinfection septic systems, & greywater systems.

This document also has links to septic design engineers, advanced septic system products and books. Guide to choices among chemical toilets, composting toilets, low water toilets, no-water toilets, electric toilets, & incinerating toilets as components of alternative septic systems - Toilet product sources & product comparisons

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Buyers' Guide to Waterless Toilets, No-water toilets, Low Water Toilets & Greywater Toilet Flush Systems

Water saving toilet: toilet tank-sink combination (C) Daniel FriedmanWaterless toilets, low-water toilets, holding tanks, and graywater systems are alternative designs for sites where a septic system can't be installed or where water is in limited supply or not available at all.

Photo at left: this water-reusing toilet shown above combines a sink for hand-washing with the toilet flush tank. Water used to wash one's hands is directly recycled into the toilet flush tank for the next toilet use. This Stilfor [citation needed] toilet uses 1.6 gallons of recycled water per flush.

A similar toilet lid conversion accessory from SinkPositive can be used to convert any tank type toilet lid into a hand-washing sink.

[Click to enlarge any image]

Examples of advanced septic designs which may need to employ waterless or low-water usage toilets include aerobic septic systems, chemical, composting, incinerating & waterless toilets, evaporation-transpiration (ET) septic systems, septic media filters, greywater systems, holding tank septic systems, mound septics, raised bed septics, pressure dosing septic systems, sand bed filters, peat beds, constructed wetlands, and septic disinfection systems.

Alternative onsite wastewater disposal systems can reduce the soil absorption area or leach field size requirement substantially and can in fact in some cases reduce the needed area to zero. For problem sites where space or soil conditions make it difficult to install a conventional leach field these designs are very important alternatives.

Alternative Septic System Designs for wet sites, steep sites, rocky sites, limited space, and other difficult site conditions. Consultants in this field can be listed at our alternative septic designers page at no charge by contacting me. Also see The Septic System Information Website. Massachusetts Title 5 Licensed Septic System Inspector, & New York State H.I. License # 16000005303 (inception to 2008). Technical reviewers welcomed and are listed at Reviewers.

Each of the links below presents an InspectAPedia article providing more in-depth information about each of these alternative toilet designs and wastewater disposal methods.

  • CAMPING & EMERGENCY USE TOILETS - for camping, or for emergency home use we discuss a variety of temporary, portable and camping toilets. Camping toilets typically store wastewater in a reservoir for later dumping into an approved dumping station or septic system. Simple camping and emergency toilets typically use a plastic bag to contain solid waste for later pack-out and disposal.
  • CHEMICAL TOILETS: use a chemically treated reservoir located directly below the toilet seat. The chemicals reduce odors and perform partial (incomplete) disinfection of the waste. While RV chemical toilets may store large quantities of wastewater, portable chemical toilets have limited storage capacity and must be emptied manually or pumped and periodically cleaned by a septic company.

    Similar to simple chemical toilets but more sophisticated in design are recirculating toilets which separate the waste from the chemical and then re circulate the fluid through the toilet tank. Chemical treatments stabilize the waste both for safety (avoiding a methane gas explosion), sanitation, and odor control. There may be concerns with over-use of stabilizing chemical treatments if you are emptying larger RV chemical toilets into a private septic tank.
  • COMPOSTING TOILETS: may be used where the water supply is limited or not available at all, or where a building owner for other reasons wishes to conserve water use. Other wastewater treatment will still be required for handling graywater from sinks and showers. Composting toilets, properly maintained and used, can produce treated waste that can be used as fertilizer.
  • DISABLED or ELDERLY-USE TOILETS discusses Use of Chemical or Composting Toilets by the elderly, disabled, sick, or injured
  • DISINFECTION SEPTIC SYSTEMS: use chlorination or ultraviolet light (UV) to disinfect wastewater effluent before it is discharged to the environment.
  • DRIP DISPERSAL SEPTIC EFFLUENT SYSTEMS - (Jantrania/Gross wastewater system type III or if treated to level 2 or better effluent, Jantrania/Gross wastewater system type VII). Drip dispersal systems may include pressure dosing or systems that dispose of effluent using only gravity.
  • GREYWATER TOILETS & SEPTICS aka GREYWATER SYSTEMS: refer to systems which reduce the liquid effluent load on a septic system by separating greywater (or graywater) from sinks and showers from blackwater (black water) from toilets. When we inspect a home which uses a separate drywell to handle greywater we presume that the owners discovered that their septic system, or at least its leach field, was of limited capacity or life.
  • HOLDING TANK SEPTIC SYSTEMS: use a sealed tank to hold household waste and wastewater until the tank can be pumped out by a septic pumping company. Most jurisdictions do not permit septic holding tanks as a permanent wastewater handling method for full-time occupied residences, but holding tanks may be permitted during new home construction and in other special cases.

    In New York State we've seen holding tank systems in use on small-lot properties located along the Hudson River. Generally such systems will not be acceptable for full time occupied residences as even a large tank of several thousand gallons will require frequent and costly pumping and disposal.
  • INCINERATOR TOILET SYSTEMS: incinerator toilets use electricity or gas to burn the waste placed into these systems. Like chemical toilets and holding tanks they have limited capacity, are used where water is not available or must be conserved, and they do not address the handling of remaining graywater from sinks and showers.

    My favorite of this type was the "Destroylet" incinerator toilet which was electric/propane fueled and which is no longer on the market. Each flush resulted in a more than 10-minute burn cycle which produced a pretty smelly exhaust.
  • OUTHOUSES & LATRINES - Outhouses, or latrines or simple trench systems, useful in remote and impoverished areas to improve sanitation and thus the quality of drinking water and other special, extremely low-cost waste handling, wastewater treatment systems are ignored by most modern texts on onsite wastewater treatment, excepting perhaps military manuals which address field toilets and sanitation for military operations. This topic needs considerably more attention as a step in assisting rural, poor areas in developing nations.
Water saving toilet: toilet tank-sink combination (C) Daniel Friedman
  • TOILET TANK LID LAV-SINKS - combine the provision of a lav for hand washing, space-savings in small bathrooms, and direct re-use of hand-washing graywater in the toilet flush tank. Several companies produce a toilet top sink that replaces the conventional toilet tank lid; some are more accessible than others, all conserve both space and water.

    • Toilet tank based hand washing sink shown at left: Stilfo, installed in Guanajuato, Mexico [citation needed]
    • Caroma products, with offices worldwide including Caroma National, Tel: 1-300-227-662, Australia, include the Profile Smart 305 sink/toilet that includes a toilet top sink fixture, Website - contact information at the company's website does not clearly indicate a company or corporate address. Canada tel: 800-460-7019 x2; Caroma USA Email: Phone + 1800 605 4218, Australia Tel: 1300-CAROMA, New Zealand: Caroma Auckland 17 Allens Road, East Tamaki, Phone 64 9 279 2700 Auckland,New Zealand 2013 Fax 0800 423 825
    • Coroflot displays the Eco toilet designed by Jang Woo-seouk, incorporating a toilet top mounted sink that looks more easily accessible than the toilet tank sink we show in the little bathroom in our photo at left. Website: - contact information for the product is unclear
    • SinkPositive, 4716 Hilltop Rd., Greensboro NC 27407, USA, Tel: Email: , Website:
      Quoting: SinkPositive is a retrofit for your toilet lid that turns it into a sink, delivering a clean, environmentally friendly, and touch-free hand wash with every flush
    • Smeg, an Italian company produces both sink top over a clothes washer and a sink top over a refrigerator! Smeg S.p.A Via Leonardo da Vinci, 4 42016 Guastalla (RE), ITALY Tel. +39 0522 821 1 Fax +39 0522 821 452, Website

  • TOILETS, WATERLESS ALTERNATIVES (this article) and GREYWATER SYSTEMS: provides a detailed discussion of each toilet type, see the various toilet types and greywater/graywater links shown above on this page and re-listed below. (Jantrania/Gross consider this septic design option "Wastewater System Type IV").

    • Envirolet Low Water Remote Composting Toilet System (120v Electric)
      The Envirolet Low Water Remote (120VAC Electric) Composting System has the highest capacity of all the Low Water Remote Systems and allows for up to three toilets to be connected to the composting unit. Each Low Water Toilet flushes with as little as one pint. Included with system purchase: 1. Envirolet Low Water Remote (120VAC Electric) Composting Unit, 2. Premix Starter Kit, 3. Envirolet Compost Accelerator (8oz), 4. 4" Wind Turbine, 5. 2-Stage Pre-Sediment Filter Drain Kit (Filter Tray, 5' Nylon Drain Line Quick Connect Breather "T"), 6. Luxury Low Water Toilet (White), 7. Vent/ Drain Kit (3' x 3" Flex Drain Duct, 4' x 4" Flex Vent Duct, Gear Clamps, Water Supply, Floor Flange, Coupling, Silicone, and Rubber Roof Flashing)
    • Envirolet Waterless Toilet (Black Granite), This toilet is easy and sanitary to clean with its removable bowl. Used with Envirolet Waterless Remote Composting Toilet Systems, but can also be used with existing outhouse or other composting toilets -- not that anyone would choose anything other than an Envirolet! This toilet is 16.5" W x 22.5" L x 20.5" H (15" height to seat). Waterless toilet (black granite), toilet seat (oak), rubber floor gasket and hardware included
    • Envirolet Waterless Toilet (Cream)
    • Envirolet Waterless Remote Composting Toilet System (120v Electric)
      The Envirolet Waterless Remote System (120VAC Electric) is ideal when you have space directly below your bathroom either in a basement or outside. The Waterless Toilet goes in your bathroom and is connected to the Waterless Remote System (shown above). The highest capacity Envirolet System available. This System was feature in the Field & Stream "Dream Cabin" magazine! Included with system purchase: 1. Envirolet Waterless Remote (120VAC Electric) Composting Unit 2. Waterless Toilet (White) 3. Premix Starter Kit 4. Envirolet Compost Accelerator (8oz) 5. 4" Wind Turbine 6. Vent/ Drain Kit (Includes: 2' x 8" Flexible Drain Duct, 8" Gear Clamp, 4' x 4" Flexible Vent Duct, 4" Coupling, 4" Gear Clamp, Silicone, and Rubber Roof Flashing.
    • Nature-Loo composting toilet is an Australian product includes ceramic and plastic models
    • Nature's Head composting toilet
      • Nature's Head is a U.S. made stainless-steel composting toilet, designed originally for the marine environment (use on boats). This is a portable, self contained, urine separating dry toilet that can be used where electricity is not available.

        The liquid waste compartment can store 2.2 U.S. gal. which the manufacturer recommends disposing of in a public restroom. Liquid urine waste is automatically separated from the solids. Solid waste that has composted (decomposed) for 3 months or more can be used as plant fertilizer; solid waste that has not composted that long can be bagged and disposed-of in a dumpster. The base product cost is about $850.00 U.S.

        The manufacturer notes that the toilet system does not produce the odors associated with holding tank toilet systems. It is suitable for cabins, cabanas, boat houses, hunting camps, RVs, basements, semi-trucks, and even pick-up trucks. The unit is vented to outside a venting kit chosen depending on the installation requirements. A 12-V fan is used to operate the ventilation system, powered by battery or a solar vent with backup solar-charged battery pack.The composting system is primed with damp, crumbly peat moss. Telephone: 251-295-3043 email:
    • Phoenix Composting Toilet from Advanced Composting Systems (Montana), requires 5 watts of electric power. Hand pump to remove excess liquid; rotating tines to move compost to the removal area. DC fan; can run on photovoltaics. Composting Toilet Prices: $4100. to $6100.
    • * SunMar provides low water and no-water composting toilets, and stand alone toilets as well as equipment to provide central composting supporting multiple toilets. (Their website says there are 20 models of low water or no water toilets.)

      SunMar uses a rotating drum to mix the compost. Sun-Mar is described by some vendors as not a true composting toilet but as a "dry toilet", smaller than true composting toilets, and using supplemental heat, air, and mixing to assure waste decomposition. Waste is kept on an outside compost pile for six months before spreading on soils.

      More frequent emptying and smaller capacity than "true composters" this toilet may be a best fit for a low-use remote cabin. SunMar offers a variety of composting toilets including a self-contained composting marine toilet model, the SunMar Mobile, certified by the U.S. Coast Guard ($1,489.00). Shown here is the SunMar Excel ne composting toilet [Click image for larger photo]. SunMar composting toilets are described below.
    • Thetford Corporation 7101 Jackson Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48103, Phone: 1-800-543-1219, 734-769-6000, Fax: 734-769-2023; Thetford produces a wide range of permanent and portable alternative toilet designs. Quoting:
      Our [toilet] products are easy to use at bedside and indispensable for the physically challenged, the aged, and small children.
      Thetford's list of toilet products suitable for home or bedside health care are listed at
    • Photo of the Centrex 2000 A/F central-flush waterless air flow composting toilet which uses  a below-floor composting drum - a composting toilet
      • LetsgoGreen is not a toilet manufacturer but rather a Canadian supplier of SunMar and other electric and non-electric versions of composting toilets (Ontario, Canada).

        The toilet shown here is the Centrex 2000 A/F central-flush waterless air flow composting toilet which uses a below-floor composting drum (110V, Composting Capacity: 4-6 Residential, 6-8 Weekend/Vacation Use, cost $1,795.00). Other self-contained composting toilet models are available.

Product submissions are welcome Contact Us. to list your product or service here - if you are a manufacturer of waterless toilets, no-water toilets, low-water consuming toilets or other alternative wastewater treatment system equipment your product may be listed at no fee. Website content critique, additions, and suggestions are also invited. No conflicts of interest: We have no financial business relationship nor any other economic relationship with any product or service discussed at this website.

General Categories of Onsite Residential Wastewater Treatment Systems

Because various texts provide so many different views of categorizing wastewater systems, we have made this simple list which groups wastewater treatment systems into a few major categories:

(1) Conventional septic tank and drainfields using native soils for effluent absorption and treatment

(2) Raised bed and septic mound systems which take a similar approach but have to bring in fill to treat effluent

(3) Septic filter systems: various types of advanced material media filtration systems (sand beds, filter beds, synthetic textile filters, foam media filters including above-ground self-contained systems)

(4) AEROBIC SEPTIC SYSTEMS which insert additional oxygen into and agitate sewage in the primary treatment tank

(5) Waterless and low-water and greywater-separation systems, which may not really treat effluent, may not discharge anything into the environment, but which form another set of alternative designs where water supply or land use restrictions mean that a conventional system is not permitted.

Adding to the complexity of what to call various septic systems, there are also categories of methods of septic effluent dispersal such as gravity-fed, trickle-down, pressure dispersal, sprinkler dispersal, and intermittent effluent dosing systems which use gravity or pressure.

In case this is not enough, there are also various levels of degree of treatment of septic effluent achieved by different versions of these systems. So you may read about more than one type of pressure-dosing filter bed system which look a lot alike but which achieve different degrees of effluent treatment.

Keeping these general categories in mind when reviewing various off-the-shelf packaged systems or wastewater treatment systems with interesting but non-descriptive names (like the "magic bullet treatment box") will help you to understand the general approach which has been taken. Further reading will be needed to understand the installation cost, maintenance cost, and level of management required of each type of septic system.

Continue reading at CAMPING & EMERGENCY USE TOILETS or select a topic from the More Reading links shown below.

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ALTERNATIVE & WATERLESS TOILETS at - online encyclopedia of building & environmental inspection, testing, diagnosis, repair, & problem prevention advice.

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