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Are there more flush toilets than pit toilets in the world?

Rémi Kaupp

A deceivingly simple question went through my mind: globally, do we find more flush toilets or pit toilets? Intuitively, because a large part of the 2.5 billion people who don't have improved sanitation are using pit toilets, and because some of those with improved sanitation also have pit toilets, I would think that this kind would dominate, but I'm wondering if there is evidence about it somewhere!

Thanks, Rémi

5 Answers


Hi Remi,

Curiosity is always a great thing. Out of intuition, I would say that more people rely on flushing as this is the preferred option for most of Asia, Europe, Russia and the America's (pit latrine can be off-set flushing - and thus there are flushers who squat). Though it does make me wonder: any statistics on rural china? Though we do need to distinguish between the amount of toilets and the number of people using it - with indeed pit latrines often in higher usage than the modern toilets in America and Europe.

The interest in the question actually lies in the water consumption; if half of the people rely on flushing, then we really create a lot more sludge than if we use pit latrines. Inventions such as the Satopan can have massive consequences on water consumption and saving.

However, there are two other interesting questions: - What is more popular: squatting or sitting? - What is more popular: water or toilet paper?


Thank you Arjen! On squatting vs sitting, watch out for this survey...

Rémi Kaupp gravatar imageRémi Kaupp ( 2015-06-01 15:39:40 )

Can't point you to any evidence. But I would think so.
But I'm a little confused - My (limited) understanding is that the World Bank's definition of improved sanitation includes 'pit latrine', so that the statistic should be 2.5 billion people who don't even have access to that. And if it is also correct that only about 1/3 of the world population have access to a flush toilet then we could approximate that it is also 1/3 of the worlds population using pit latrines (and 1/3 using something less than that).

If so, I would think that the number of flush toilets would by far dominate. There is probably about 1 flush toilet for every 2 people in places where they exist (Think family of 5 with 1 or 2 (in most developed countries), they also schools, offices, restaurants, shopping centers and other public facilities). As for pit latrines, I have no idea, but it would be less than one per household (say 5 people)?


Well the JMP includes pit toilets as "improved sanitation" only if the slab is solid enough to prevent collapsing and contact with faeces, and you can argue that many pit toilets don't meet that criterion! Thanks!

Rémi Kaupp gravatar imageRémi Kaupp ( 2015-05-28 09:31:36 )

I doubt one will come to a conclusion. Flushing toilets are constructed with "licenses" or purchased from manufacturers who count sales. Pit "anythings" are "homemade" and are not counted. They also get torn down or filled up and new ones built (aka dug up) with no licenses or supervision. And so, what do you count? New pits or replacement ones? And of these, how deep does the hole have to be to be counted?

And this leads me to ask - what are you trying to get to?


Oh it was mere curiosity! And getting a sense of global practices. For instance on SuSanA there is a debate on whether squatting or sitting is more widespread (see this thread). I agree it's impossible to know for sure but having a rough idea would be interesting.

Rémi Kaupp gravatar imageRémi Kaupp ( 2015-05-28 09:20:21 )

Hi Rémi, on the squatting versus sitting issue, there are many schools and hospitals where squatting flushing toilets were installed. I guess as a combination of "traditional habits" and sanitation. There is a debate going on regarding squatting as a preferred position. Not only in defecation but also in child birth. I personally think that in toilets a semi-sitting position is the best of all worlds. i.e. a low toilet seat where the person can be almost squatting but supported by the seat. It is much better for a more comfortable (easier) bowel movement. Much easier for children too. regards, 'nando

Elisabeth von Muench

I don't fully understand your question, Rémi. You said: "A deceivingly simple question went through my mind: globally, do we find more flush toilets or pit toilets"

What are you regarding a pour flush pit latrine as? Is it a flush toilet or is it a pit latrine? In my opinion it is a flush toilet.


Oh yes I agree, definitely on the flush side! I was just making some kind of broad generalisation...

Rémi Kaupp gravatar imageRémi Kaupp ( 2015-07-05 17:20:29 )