Cistern Flush Toilet

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Applicable to systems:
6, 7 , 8
Urine, Faeces, Flushwater, Anal Cleansing Water, Dry Cleansing Materials

Cistern flush toilet.png

Icon cistern flush toilet.png

The Cistern Flush Toilet is usually porcelain and is a mass-produced, factory made User Interface. The flush toilet consists of a water tank that supplies the water for flushing the excreta and a bowl into which the excreta are deposited.

The attractive feature of the cistern flush toilet is that it incorporates a sophisticated water seal to prevent odours from coming back up through the plumbing. Water that is stored in the cistern above the toilet bowl is released by pushing or pulling a lever. This allows the water to run into the bowl, mix with the excreta, and carry them away.

Design Considerations

Modern toilets use 6 to 9 L per flush, whereas older models were designed for flushwater quantities of up to 20 L. There are different low-volume flush toilets currently available that can be used with as little as 3 L of water per flush. In some cases, the volume of water used per flush is not sufficient to empty the bowl and, consequently, the user has to flush two or more times to adequately clean the bowl, which negates the intended saving of water. A good plumber is required to install a flush toilet. The plumber will ensure that all valves are connected and sealed properly, therefore, minimizing leakage.

Advantages Disadvantages/limitations
- The excreta of one user are flushed away before the next user arrives.

- No real problems with odours if used correctly.
- Suitable for all types of users (sitters, squatters, wipers and washers).

- High capital costs; operating costs depend on the price of water.

- Requires a constant source of water.
- Cannot be built and/or repaired locally with available materials


A cistern flush toilet should not be considered unless all of the connections and hardware accessories are available locally. The cistern flush toilet must be connected to both a constant source of water for flushing and a Collection and Storage/Treatment or Conveyance technology to receive the blackwater. The cistern flush toilet is suitable for both public and private applications.

Health Aspects/Acceptance

It is a safe and comfortable toilet to use provided it is kept clean.

Operation & Maintenance

Although flushwater continuously rinses the bowl, the toilet should be scrubbed clean regularly to maintain hygiene and prevent the buildup of stains. Maintenance is required for the replacement or repair of some mechanical parts or fittings. Menstrual hygiene products should be collected in a separate bin.

Manuals, videos and links


  • Vandervort, D. (2007). Toilets: Installation and Repair. Describes each part of the toilet in detail as well as providing links to other tools such as how to install a toilet, how to fix a leaking toilet and other toilet essentials.


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The material on this page was adapted from:

Elizabeth Tilley, Lukas Ulrich, Christoph Lüthi, Philippe Reymond and Christian Zurbrügg (2014). Compendium of Sanitation Systems and Technologies, published by Sandec, the Department of Water and Sanitation in Developing Countries of Eawag, the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, Dübendorf, Switzerland.

The 2nd edition publication is available in English. French and Spanish are yet to come.