What about the sanitation solutions we do have? What are the problems with those?
Water-borne waste sewage and sewers was an excellent solution in the 19th century. But infrastructure is pushed to capacity. The design itself is flawed. It's really silly to take clean drinking water, throw filth in it and spend millions of dollars as well as lots of energy cleaning it again, especially when water is becoming quite short in supply.
Most of these systems are combined systems. They take the rain and everything that goes down toilets. An inch of rainfall or less can overwhelm them and then they do a perfectly legal discharge into the nearest river or sea. In 1993 Milwaukee had an outbreak of cryptosporidium [a parasite that causes diarrhea and results from inadequately treated water supplies] and more than 100 people died. There isn't enough money to clean all this sewage.
Is there a way of alleviating pressure at the source? Ecological sanitation advocates have this dream of everybody having a composting toilet and putting safe compost out with their recycling. That's not realistic.
So what are some intermediate steps?
Low-flush toilets that use less water. Vacuum toilets, like the ones you get on a ship or a plane that make that shoop sound, are good. But so far they're not cheap. I don't have a magic bullet solution.
Anything else to add?
I have no particular fascination with the substance itself. I don't like it anymore than the next person. The thing about shit, the reason it smells, at least according to the London School of Hygiene, is because it can be so toxic and carry so many diseases. We're not going to be able to overcome that.
But the first step is to put the issue out there and talk about it. The conversational taboo is such a big impediment. With the flush toilet, we've been able to flush [sanitation as an issue] out of our minds as well.