Your standard American toilet probably uses about one and a half gallons of water when it flushes. In parts of the world where water is scarce, these toilets are not feasible.

“I can remember, even in school, a school has 500 students but only five latrines,” said Samuel Kariuki, president of Focus Dream Center, a Kenyan foreign aid organization. Latrines are makeshift toilets that are hot spots for cholera and other deadly bacteria.

Providence College physics professor Stephen Mecca invented a toilet which requires less than a cup of water to flush.

“It’s simple to build, it’s cost effective, it reduces diseases and sicknesses,” said Kariuki.


Mecca died in August of last year, but his technology is now present in over 20 countries. Mecca’s organization has benefited from a federal grant to further expand the toilets in Africa.

The toilets are not only more sanitary, they’re big water savers -- which raises the question of whether Mecca’s efficient design could ever help solve water shortages in times of drought in America’s cities.

Mecca’s son, Steve Mecca Jr., sells the technology in America. He says that’s unlikely. “The issue I’ve observed in an urban setting is the structure would have to be designed around the toilet," Mecca Jr. said. "I mean I don’t see it being used in cities unless a building was designed that way or retrofitted."

You’re more likely to see Mecca’s micro-flush toilet on a golf course or campground than an American city, at least for now.