Category Archives: Research

PLoS journals launch WASH collection

As a contribution to World Toilet Day, PLoS has compiled its 2014-2016 WASH-related articles at: plos.PNG

The 2016 studies include:

Interpreting the Global Enteric Multicenter Study (GEMS) Findings on Sanitation, Hygiene, and Diarrhea, PLOS Medicine : 03 May 2016

The Hygiene Hypothesis and Its Inconvenient Truths about Helminth Infections, PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases : 15 Sep 2016

Scaling up Rural Sanitation in India, PLOS Medicine : 26 Aug 2014

Knowledge, Attitudes, and Practices regarding Diarrhea and Cholera following an Oral Cholera Vaccination Campaign in the Solomon Islands, PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases : 22 Aug 2016

Ivermectin Treatment and Sanitation Effectively Reduce Strongyloides stercoralis Infection Risk in Rural Communities in Camb…, PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases : 22 Aug 2016

Who Delivers without Water? A Multi Country Analysis of Water and Sanitation in the Childbirth Environment, PLOS ONE : 17 Aug 2016

High-Resolution Spatial Distribution and Estimation of Access to Improved Sanitation in Kenya, PLOS ONE : 12 Jul 2016

Sanitation and Hygiene-Specific Risk Factors for Moderate-to-Severe Diarrhea in Young Children in the Global Enteric Multicenter St…, PLOS Medicine : 03 May 2016

A Global Perspective on Drinking-Water and Sanitation Classification: An Evaluation of Census Content, PLOS ONE : 17 Mar 2016

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UC Davis Researchers Streamline Fertilizer Production

UC Davis Researchers Streamline Fertilizer Production. WEF Highlights, November 11, 2016.

University of California, Davis (UCD) researchers are thinking outside of the box, using urine collected in the community to develop a more environmentally friendly fertilizer.

Harold Leverenz, lecturer and project scientist for the civil and environmental engineering program at UCD, works with his research team to create all-natural, locally sourced fertilizers.


While Sudwerk Brewery (Davis, Calif.) also features classic indoor restrooms, patrons who choose to use the Pee Hive receive a $1 discount on their purchases in addition to the knowledge that they are contributing to science. Photo courtesy of George Tchobanoglous, University of California, Davis.

His unique process, which offers significant energy and water savings over traditional fertilizer production methods, collects high amounts of plant nutrients from an unlikely source — the urine from customers of a local brewery.

Through a unique partnership with Sudwerk Brewery (Davis, Calif.) and generous donations from project contributors, Leverenz and his team have secured about 132 L (35 gal) of nitrogen- and phosphorous-rich urine each week since installing a specialized outhouse made from a sawed-off beer keg outside Sudwerk’s tasting room in June. Leverenz is hopeful that the collection rate will increase as UCD students settle into a new school year.

Read the complete article.

Recently published sanitation research

Have We Substantially Underestimated the Impact of Improved Sanitation Coverage on Child Health? A Generalized Additive Model Panel Analysis of Global Data on Child Mortality and Malnutrition. PLoS One, October 2016. | Summary in Science Daily | Improving sanitation coverage may be one of the more effective means to reduce childhood mortality, but only if high levels of community coverage are achieved. Studies of the impact of sanitation that focus on the individual’s use of improved sanitation as the predictor variable rather than community coverage is likely to severely underestimate the impact of sanitation.

Risk Factors for Childhood Stunting in 137 Developing Countries: A Comparative Risk Assessment Analysis at Global, Regional, and Country Levels. PLoS Medicine, November 2016.
Efforts to further reduce stunting should be focused on fetal growth restriction and poor sanitation, and this will require refocusing prevention programs on interventions that reach mothers and families and improve their living environment and nutrition.

Costs of Diarrhoea and Acute Respiratory Infection Attributable to Not Handwashing: The Cases of India and China. Tropical Medicine and International Health, November 2016. Results from this study suggest large economic gains relating to decreases in diarrhea and acute respiratory infection for both India and China from behavior change programs to increase handwashing with soap in households.

Early Childhood Diarrhea Predicts Cognitive Delays in Later Childhood Independently of Malnutrition. American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, September 2016. This study assesses the independent contributions of early childhood diarrhea (ECD) and malnutrition on cognitive impairment in later childhood. It provides evidence that ECD and stunting may have independent effects on children’s intellectual function well into later childhood.

Microwave Treatment of Faecal Sludge from Intensively Used Toilets in the Slums of Nairobi, Kenya. Journal of Environmental Management, December 2016. This study explores the applicability of microwave technology to treat fecal sludge obtained from urine-diverting dry toilets placed in slum settlements in Nairobi, Kenya.

Early Testing of New Sanitation Technology for Urban Slums: The Case of the Blue Diversion Toilet. Science of the Total Environment, January 2017. Inadequate sanitation in urban slums is a threat to the total environment. This study finds that source separation and onsite water recycling is feasible and has market potential.

2016 National Water Research Institute Clarke Prize Award

2016 National Water Research Institute Clarke Prize Award – Honoring Excellence in Water Research

Consisting of a medallion and $50,000 check, the Athalie Richardson Irvine Clarke Prize is one of only a dozen water prizes awarded worldwide. It has been distinguished by the International Congress of Distinguished Awards as one of the most prestigious awards in the world. clarke

We are pleased to announce that public health microbiologist Mark Sobsey, Ph.D., will be the twenty-third recipient of the NWRI Athalie Richardson Irvine Clarke Prize for excellence in water research. Sobsey is the Kenan Distinguished Professor of Environmental Sciences and Engineering at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.

Microplastics in agricultural soils: A reason to worry?

Microplastics in agricultural soils: A reason to worry? Science Daily, October 28 2016.

Microplastics are increasingly seen as an environmental problem of global proportions. While the focus to date has been on microplastics in the ocean and their effects on marine life, microplastics in soils have largely been overlooked. Researchers are concerned about the lack of knowledge regarding potential consequences of microplastics in agricultural landscapes from application of sewage sludge.

Sewage sludge is in principle waste, but it can also represent a resource in agriculture and horticulture. Fertilizer based on sludge contains valuable nutrients, but sustainable use requires that the levels of undesirable substances in the sludge is kept under control. Waste water treatment plants receive large amounts of microplastics emitted from households, industry and surface run-off in urban areas. Most of these microplastics accumulate in the sewage sludge.

Today, sludge from municipal sewage treatment plants is applied to agricultural areas as a supplement to traditional fertilizers. These applications are generally well regulated as sludge might contain hazardous substances of different sorts. Microplastics are however not currently on the regulatory agenda for the use of sludge in agriculture. The potential consequences for sustainability and food security have not been adequately analyzed.

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Science, Silver Bullets, and Sanitation: How Operational Research Improved Plan’s Global Programming

Science, Silver Bullets, and Sanitation: How Operational Research Improved Plan’s Global Programming. 

Plan International is a pioneer of the Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) approach — a method that triggers community-wide behavior change on sanitation practices, ending open defecation, and stimulating household investment in toilets.

We tested, implemented, and evaluated the relative effect of different CLTS facilitation methods to examine how scalability and sustainability improved under alternate models. This comparison was coupled with “deep dive” evaluations in Ghana, Ethiopia, and Kenya, complemented by seven rapid evaluations worldwide to compare and contrast the findings.

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UNC Water Institute WASH Research Policy Digests

These useful UNC research digests discuss a key article and include literature reviews on the selected topic:

Issue #1, July 2015: Sanitation Subsidies
Our first Digest deals with the difficult issue of when and how to use subsidies for on-site sanitation.

Issue #2, October 2015: WaSH in Healthcare Facilities
Issue two of the WasH Policy Research Digest digs in to the critical issue of WaSH in health care facilities, including a detailed review of WHO and UNICEF’s 2015 report on the topic and a synthesis of literature and solutions to address its impact on infection, mortality, maternal and neonatal health.

Issue #3, March 2016: Handpump Functionality Monitoring
The third issue of the WaSH Policy Research Digest focuses on handpump functionality monitoring. This issue of the Digest explores recent literature on this topic, focusing on policy implications, recommendations, and a call for standardized functionality measurements.

Issue #4, August 2016: Sanitation and Nutrition
Our fourth digest addresses sanitation and nutrition. This issue explores recent literature and the emerging evidence base on the connection between sanitation, nutritional outcomes, and child stunting.