What if everyone on the planet coordinated to perform the biggest “flush mob” in history? Pushing all the wastewater in the world down the drain, all at once?
Could the world’s sewer systems handle this kind of “flushpocalypse?” Or would the big flush clog up residential plumbing, and flood your home with, well, waste? Here’s what would happen if everyone on Earth flushed at the same time.
Ready for some toilet talk? Don’t be shy, we humans spend about 13 months of our life going to the toilet. Flushing may seem boring and routine, but only for two-thirds of the world population. Turns out, about 2.4 billion people lack access to proper sanitation.
That leaves us with over 5 billion “flush mob” participants and at least 2.5 billion flush toilets around the world. What’s the worst that could happen?
The effect of the big flush would be anywhere from “not much happened” to epic pipe explosions. And yes, the waste could back up into your home.
The moment you flush your toilet, your waste goes down the pipe and flows into a sewer system. First, it goes through a system of pipes under the street. Then, it runs into progressively bigger pipes all the way to your local wastewater treatment plant.
The treatment plant pipes are designed to hold a whole lot of wastewater. But are they big enough for everyone to flush at the same time?
That’s not something we can know for sure until we try. It could get ugly. The first thing to get overwhelmed by the vast amount of waste would be the lift stations. These are stations that serve to push your waste uphill toward its final destination – the treatment plant.
But you can only push so much poop up the pipe. Eventually, the pipe gets overwhelmed, and can’t handle anymore wastewater. At that point, it would back up to where it all started – your bathroom.
Your toilet would begin to overflow with substances that were supposed to be delivered to the treatment plant. And it wouldn’t stop there. The overflow would fill up every wastewater line in your home, including your shower, your sink, even your washing machine.
Not all of our pipes will be able to handle this excess, many will begin exploding underground and flooding the streets with waste.
Yuk. That’s quite a mess. But it’s not necessarily going to happen this way. You see, we might flush all our toilets simultaneously, but that doesn’t mean that the waste will be at the sewer system at the exact same time. Your waste might have to travel a further distance than the waste of your friend who is flushing two blocks away.
This means that the pipes might still be able to handle the “flushpocalypse,” depending on how good the sewer system is where you live.
In that case, the worst thing to come out of this “flush mob” would simply be a big ol’ waste of water. And while you’re flushing freely without guilt, some people live each day without that luxury. Making do outdoors, they might pollute their own water sources and get sick from water-borne diseases.