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Matt Damon sets the Toilet Challenge - Can You Take It?

No Waterloo

Matt Damon has helped launch World Toilet Day to highlight a desperate challenge - the threat of the water running out to flush toilets in our growing cities... Meanwhile a campaign to raise awareness of water in urban planning has launched a photography competition.

World Toilet Day

The well-being toilet woman holding up a sign saying  I give a shit


The humble toilet has become the focus of attempts to reduce our demands for water. You may have missed it but 19 November was UN World Toilet Day with the help of Matt Damon as seen in the video above. As part of the festivities the University of Central London organised a special celebration.

The idea was to encourage new designs of toilet that don't use much water. For instance in the UK, every person flushes away 50 liters of expensively purified drinking water. While waterless urinals, composting toilets, low flush toilets, greywater recycling and rainwater harvesting for toilet flushing all contribute, the UCLoo Festival showcased four cutting-edge toilets, displayed a history of toilets and new research about sanitation and hosted a make-a-thon in conjunction with the UCL Institute of Making.

The modular construction toiletThree post-graduate students from London's Central Saint Martin's entered their designs for the toilet of the future. The 'Wellbeing Toilet' (above) promotes correct ergonomic body position, in an effort to reduce the risk of intestinal cancer and haemorrhoids. The 'Modular Construction Toilet' (middle) runs on grey water collected from showers and sinks, while the 'Zero Waste Toilet' (bottom) is a waterless system that converts waste into grey water, fertiliser and biogas. 

The Zero waste toiletThe UCL Provost Michael Arthur even came along to open the ecological toilet on display and there was a new commode design where Tiger Worms dined on users' offerings, quickly processing them into useful compost. In the local press there was plenty of opportunity for toilet humour.UCL Provost opens toilet

The Photo competition

 photo competition

The photo campaign is the initiative of the International Federation for Housing and Planning. Every contestant will have a photograph exhibited at the organisation's conferences in the Hague on February 28th next year and in Copenhagen in October 2014.

The photographs judged to be in the top three will win a free membership of IFHP for 2014, while the grand prize winner will have the chance to connect with the world's leading expertise in housing and urban planning.

According to IFHP President, Flemming Borreskov: "Water is one of the world´s most pressing challenges today. Whether it´s lack of water, too much water or unclean water, all societies of today are dealing with the issue. In many places people are in fact struggling to secure the future."

Water is key to human settlements large and small. As cities grow, so does the demand for water supplies. Thus water and urban resiliency go hand in hand. Water is a topic the IFHP is pursing through a number of activities such as Water and Planning the Fluid Challenge at the beginning of November. This was the theme of the fifth annual online conference celebrating World Town Planning Day.

Delegates were urged by Cliff Hague of the Commonwealth Association of Planners and RTPI that there is a pressing need for the international planning community to get their heads around water. "With our climate changing and the world becoming more urbanised, we are no longer able to take certain basic commodities such as water for granted."

Water issues are complex and require insight and know-how from a broad range of professions and across sectors. The IFHP hopes with this competition to inspire and incite a broad cross-section of people, eager to search for wiser "water" solutions.

A powerful photo can capture a complex concept. Photography has the ability to communicate across geographies, languages and cultural borders. A photo may not reveal the underlying details of the subject. But it can introduce its existence and give us a sense of the importance of paying attention.

All submissions will be profiled at particular IFHP events and activities, ranging from roundtables, webinars and workshops to study tours and large scale conferences. Last but not least photos will be shared for everybody to see on the IFHP websiteInstagram and Facebook.