I love to flush my toilet. Actually, I love the fact that I have the luxury of flushing my toilet. In the detail of the painting, Netherlandish Proverbs by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, he depicted the worst-case scenario of what would happen in the absence of centralized sanitary sewer systems. Imagine a world without it.
The luxury of flushing my toilet, however, does not stop at our flush valves. As our wastes travel from our homes, through the pipes, to the wastewater treatment plants, and out to the Georgia Rivers, our responsibility does not end; we have a responsibility to ensure that the waste does not cause problems for the fish that live in the river or for the people that live downstream of us that will eventually use that water to bath, drink, and recreate. The wastewater treatment plant is actually an extension of us, and our responsibility continues, so we have to ensure that it is operated in such a way so that it meets all state and federal water quality effluent standards. We can do that by happily paying our utility bill, even when the costs increase over time, because there is no alternative.
Lack of a centralized sewer system is actually a reality for over 1 billion people. Today is World Toilet Day. According to UN-Water (unwater.org), this day is meant to bring awareness to the fact that over 2.5 billion people in the world lack the luxury of a flush toilet-sanitary sewer system: over 1 billion people still defecate in the open.
We are often so disconnected from our impact on the environment (flush it and forget it) we sometimes need a dose of reality. Happy Toilet Day!