A lot of people think that in arid regions like New Mexico, it is advisable to deal with composting toilets - though they are expensive, somewhat smelly, require a fair amount of maintenance and are inevitably misused by guests unfamiliar with them. But don't they 'save' water?

In the Solar Ark there are three flushing toilets, none of them low-flush, since all water [after the proper septic treatment] ends up in the garden pictured on the right. Appropriately named 'Flushing Meadows' it features grasses, fuel- and fruit trees and berries surrounding an underground pumice wick.

Instead of standing there watering them with a hose [right after having cleaned the composting toilet] I just see to it that toilets are flushed and showers are taken.  The plants that live  in flushing meadows do not consider that water 'wasted' at all!

 As long as certain harsh chemicals are left out of the 'waste' water stream it can be reused many different ways, from wetland/pond combinations to lawn/meadow irrigation to fuel wood production.

Amazingly enough, some of these proven methods are even legal under New Mexico's plumbing code. While toilet and kitchen sink have to go through a septic tank, it is now approved to route shower, bath and laundry water directly to sub- surface irrigation.

At the Solar Ark, we recommend pumice wicks [as pioneered by Tom Watson] and the branched-drain system [credited to Art Ludwig].

Few matters demonstrate the permaculture credo "the problem is the solution" more clearly. While 'waste' water is a problem for the traditional planner, it is a 'free' resource for  the sustainable farm.

 ALGAE PRODUCTION FROM SEPTIC EFFLUENT                                                                                Another great way to turn 'waste'water into an asset is to use it for algae production.  Algae such as duckweed and azolla have a high protein           content coupled with an amazing growth rate. You can find more details and pictures on the methane page.