Human waste management workshop

Canberra and Jindabyne, March 27-31
Karen Civil, Environment ACT, Brett McNamara, Australian Alps national parks
March 2000



From the fingers of open space that permeate the urban area to the Alps, Canberra has some spectacular natural landscapes. Not surprisingly people like to congregate at many of the more easily accessible areas to enjoy the delights of the wonderful natural settings. This leads to the inevitable need for the addition of ‘amenities’, or put more simply, ‘bush dunnies’.

Fifteen years ago the standard ‘amenities’ block consisted of four flushing toilets, equally shared between male and female, surrounded by concrete block walls and a reinforced concrete roof External work consisted of a water tank filled from a stream and a septic tank with associated dispersal trenches.

Septic systems constructed during the 1970’v made many sites more accessible for outdoor recreation. This was particularly the case for river recreation areas where a permanent water supply was not only the attraction for people but also the supply of water for the flushing toilets.

The need to he close to a permanent water supply in order to fill a tank, and the consequent need to dispose of effluent immediately adjacent to the source of water, now seem strangely incompatible objectives.

The last 10 years or so has seen a turn around in the way we addressed the common needs of our park visitors. Rather than recreating the visual and toxic blots of the past, briefs for new toilets promoted unique design approaches, which demanded attention to aesthetic and environmental considerations.