Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Faecal Attraction Redux

Just when you thought it was safe to take the provenance of your drinking water and the disposal of your feces for granted, I give you:

Faecal Attraction: Political Economy of Defecation

This is worth three minutes of your time. Watch, then continue below...


Unfortunately this lack of knowledge is not unique to India - most of us in the West would be hard pressed to answer the same questions with any more eloquence.

Here are a couple of select Youtube comments so you don't have to read through them all:
  • Super! although it would be great if you also gave us the answers to the questions being asked...coz i don't know shit either(pun intended!)!
  • Hmmm
  • So...this wonderful video only offers the problem, not the solution. WHAT THE F___ IS THE SOLUTION? MAKE A VIDEO ABOUT THAT.
  • this is nice probably they should put this on tv

Agreed that it belongs on TV (a 30 minute documentary in prime time would be a good start).

Agreed that the video only offers education and awareness-raising. For some answers to these questions (at least in the US), I offer:

From the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency:

"Drinking water can come from either ground water sources (via wells) or surface water sources (such as rivers, lakes, and streams). Nationally, most water systems use a ground water source (80%), but most people (66%) are served by a water system that uses surface water. This is because large metropolitan areas tend to rely on surface water, whereas small and rural areas tend to rely on ground water. In addition, 10-20% of people have their own private well for drinking water. To find the source of your drinking water, check your annual water quality report or call your water supplier."

Also visit EPA's Local Drinking Water Information page.

Now, where does your poo go?

The Water Environment Federation is a leading source of water quality information. They deal with the least sexy thing that we all take for granted: pipes - to bring us clean water and to take dirty water far away and treat it. WEF's newest campaign is called "Water is Life, and Infrastructure Makes It Happen."

WEF's job is to take the mystery out of where your poo goes. Click here for a nice Flash diagram of wastewater treatment - believe it or not this stuff is reasonably entertaining.

Be in the Know...Go With the Flow

So how do you solve the sanitation problem in many parts of the world? Here is a good start - from the most simple (latrines) to one of the seven wonders of the industrial world, London's sewage system.

And one of my perennial favorites: Sulabh International and their two-liter pour-flush latrines.


Nate said...

Hi John,

I was wondering if you've discontinued your blog? I just found it a few weeks ago, and have really enjoyed the posts.

John Oldfield said...

Hi Nate,

Thanks for the good words. Back at it after some weeks on the road.


rose said...

i am writing a book about this unmentionable public health crisis. I've hung out with Sulabh; seen Faecal Attraction; spent eighteen months living (but not breathing) poo and the disposal - or lack of - thereof. Your blog is great. I'll be checking in more often.

John Oldfield said...

Hi Rose,

You probably already know of these too, but just in case:

1) Dave Praeger's work and book at


2) Poo! - a taboo subject, yet it is one we can ignore no longer. Poo
Productions is focused on sanitation needs in Mozambique and other African
countries, but the site also provides a compilation of information on
the topic that may help everyone promote the UN International Year of
Sanitation which will be launched in the U.S. on November 21, 2007.