Category Archives: Research

A financially viable and safe solution for managing human waste

Collecting small monthly payments will help waste collectors build their business.

Bangladesh - pit latrine empytiers

Pit latrine workers in Bangladesh collecting and transporting human waste to a site where it is processed into fertiliser. Image: Neil Palmer (IWMI). Credit: University of Leeds

Spreading the cost of emptying pit latrines over a series of monthly payments could make it more affordable for poor households and help kick start the safe reuse of faecal sludge as fertiliser and biogas. This is the conclusion of a willingness-to-pay study carried out in a rural sub-district of Bangladesh covered by the BRAC WASH Programme II.

The study has already caught the attention of policymakers, and influenced the development of Bangladesh’s first regulatory framework for faecal sludge management. Some of the authors are members of the Bangladesh National Committee for Fecal Sludge Management.

Currently, households struggle to pay a lump sum of US$13 every three to four years to empty their pit latrines. This is approximately 14% of their monthly income. Instead, the study found they could pay small monthly payments of as little as US$ 0.31 per month, comparable to what they spend each month on a mobile phone service. These up-front payments help waste collectors to invest in the development of their service. Nevertheless, a government subsidy would still be needed to cover the full cost of safe removal and transport of faecal sludge.

As mentioned above, there is potential for waste collectors to generate extra revenue by converting faecal waste into fertiliser and biogas. The profitability of these waste by-products, however, can be effected by existing subsidies for chemical fertilisers and conventional fuels. Another factor that can reduce profitability is the low energy or calorific value of human waste compared to other organic wastes. A companion study carried out as part of the BRAC WASH Programme II tested solutions to increase the calorific value by co-processing human waste with other agricultural wastes.

The willingness-to-pay study is an output of the Value at the end of the Sanitation Value Chain (VeSV) research project, lead by the University of Leeds. VeSV was one of six action research projects funded by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands (Bangladesh) through IRC. Additional funding was provided by the CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems.

For more information read “Spreading the cost to transform sanitation“, published by the University of Leed’s School of Civil Engineering, 22 March 2017.

Citation: Balasubramanya S, et al. (2017) Towards sustainable sanitation management : establishing the costs and willingness to pay for emptying and transporting sludge in rural districts with high rates of access to latrines. PLoS ONE 12(3): e0171735. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0171735

This news item was originally published on the IRC website, 27 March 2017.

The role of nanomaterials as effective adsorbents and their applications in wastewater treatment

The role of nanomaterials as effective adsorbents and their applications in wastewater treatmentJournal of Nanostructure in Chemistry, March 2017, Volume 7, Issue 1, pp 1–14.

Nanomaterials have been extensively studied for heavy metal ions and dye removals from wastewater. This article reviews the role of nanomaterials as effective adsorbents for wastewater purification.

In recent years, numerous novel nanomaterial adsorbents have been developed for enhancing the efficiency and adsorption capacities of removing contaminants from wastewater.

The innovation, forthcoming development, and challenges of cost-effective and environmentally acceptable nanomaterials for water purification are discussed and reviewed in this article.

This review concludes that nanomaterials have many unique morphological and structural properties that qualify them to be used as effective adsorbents to solve several environmental problems.

Tender: SuSanA Stakeholder Market Study

On behalf of SuSanA (Sustainable Sanitation Alliance), the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) has launched an open and global Invitation to Tender  to produce a Stakeholder Market Survey consisting of a baseline market assessment, a communications strategy for SuSanA and a template for measuring the impact of SuSanA on the targeted market. All this to improve SuSanA’s reach, its content as a Knowledge Management (KM) platform and its impact on stakeholder’s work. Tenders are due April 3rd, 2017.

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See also here on SuSanA Discussion Forum.

Recent WASH research

Community Based Problem Solving on Water Issues: Cross-Border “Priority Initiatives” of the Good Water Neighbors (GWN) ProjectEcoPeace, November 2016. This publication describes the 2016 efforts of EcoPeace’s GWN project team to identify environmental challenges and provide feasible solutions for “Priority Initiatives” in participating communities in Palestine, Jordan, and Israel.

A Long Way to Go—Estimates of Combined Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Coverage for 25 Sub-Saharan African CountriesPLoS One, February 2017. The authors state that estimates in this study help to quantify the scale of progress required to achieve universal water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) access as envisaged under the water and sanitation Sustainable Development Goal (SDG). Monitoring and reporting changes in the proportion of the national population with access to WASH may be useful in focusing WASH policy and investments toward the areas of greatest need.

Recycling and Reuse of Treated Wastewater in Urban India: A Proposed Advisory and Guidance DocumentWater and Sanitation ProgramInternational Water Management Institute, 2016. This document on wastewater recycling and reuse in urban India focuses on identifying the economic benefits of wastewater recycling from the perspective of public spending. The note also provides supporting information on the evolution and current practices of wastewater recycling internationally.

Participatory Science and Innovation for Improved Sanitation and Hygiene: Process and Outcome Evaluation of Project SHINE, a School-Based Intervention in Rural TanzaniaBMC Public Health, February 2017. The Project SHINE model shows promise as an innovative capacity-building approach and for engagement and empowerment of youth and communities to develop locally sustainable strategies to improve sanitation and hygiene.

Business Models for Fecal Sludge ManagementInternational Water Management Institute, 2016. Based on the analysis of more than 40 fecal sludge management (FSM) cases from Asia, Africa, and Latin America, this report shows opportunities as well as bottlenecks that FSM is facing from an institutional and entrepreneurial perspective.

Chickens Don’t Use Toilets: Why Managing Animal Feces Helps Children Grow TallerWorld Bank Water Blog, February 2017. The authors recommend that the predominant WASH focus on reducing exposure to human feces needs updating by including animal feces.

Nonrandomized Trial of Feasibility and Acceptability of Strategies for Promotion of Soapy Water as a Handwashing Agent in Rural BangladeshAmerican Journal of Tropical Medicine & Hygiene, February 2017. Soapy water may increase habitual handwashing by addressing barriers of cost and availability of handwashing agents near water sources. Further research should inform optimal strategies to scale-up soapy water as a handwashing agent to study health impact.

Rushing into solutions without fully grasping the problem

Which factors in the enabling environment and which links between actors are key to achieving reliable sanitation services?

Tanzania did not reach the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) concerning improved sanitation facilities in 2012 (JMP Report 2014). Several years later – in the era of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – there is still a lot to be done in the sanitation sector.

Angela Huston (IRC Programme Officer) and Dr Sara Gabrielsson (Assistant Professor at Lund University) are working on an upcoming book chapter about deconstructing the complexities that perpetuate poor water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services in East Africa. Departing from Sustainability Science, the chapter aims to identify which factors in the enabling environment are key to achieving reliable WASH services. This article highlights Huston’s and Gabrielsson’s insights into this topic.

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Recent sanitation research

Children with Access to Improved Sanitation but Not Improved Water Are at Lower Risk of Stunting Compared to Children without Access: A Cohort Study in Ethiopia, India, Peru, and Vietnam. BMC Public Health, January 2017. Results from this study indicate that access to improved sanitation is more frequently associated with reduced stunting risk than access to improved water. However, additional studies are needed before drawing definitive conclusions about the impact of toilets relative to water.

Soil-Transmitted Helminth Infections Fact Sheet. WHO, January 2017. With the goal of meeting the global target of eliminating soil-transmitted helminth infections by 2020, WHO updated this fact sheet with information on its strategy for control. It also provides information on global prevalence, transmission, and symptoms.

Universalising Water and Sanitation Coverage in Urban Areas: From Global Targets to Local Realities in Dar es Salaam, and Back. IIED, December 2016. This paper demonstrates how global monitoring often fails to reflect and support local efforts to improve water and sanitation in low-income settlements.

Solar Water Pumping: What You Need to Know. The World Bank, December 2016. The World Bank has developed an accessible and interactive knowledge base on photovoltaic water pumping (PVP). This online repository aims to raise awareness about the technology and provide resources that help incorporate PVP into operations.

Water and U.S. National Security: A CFR Discussion Paper. Council on Foreign Relations, January 2017. The author states that pragmatic policies are necessary to address global water issues, such as elevating the importance of water at the highest levels in the U.S. Government and developing public-private partnerships to increase water supplies, water conservation, and to waterproof at-risk infrastructure.

On the Identification of Associations between Five World Health Organization Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Phenotypes and Six Predictors in Low and Middle-Income Countries. PLoS One. January 2017. Using comprehensive WHO data on drinking water quality and sanitation in the developing world, this study seeks to determine which kinds of WASH interventions are most effective in improving public health outcomes, and an important corollary–whether the right things are being measured

School WASH Reports. WaterAid, December 2016. WaterAid recently published four reports that analyze the status of WASH in schools in Bangladesh, Nepal, India, and Pakistan. Each report draws policy and practice recommendations to contribute to sustainable and inclusive WASH services in schools.

Tracking Progress and Sustainability: Monitoring, Verification and Certification of CLTS. CLTS Knowledge Hub, January 2017. This learning brief considers the issues and challenges that are emerging around monitoring, verification, and certification as CLTS is being used at scale. While there has been progress, significant gaps in practice still remain.

Recent WASH research

Estimating the Cost and Payment for Sanitation in the Informal Settlements of Kisumu, Kenya: A Cross Sectional Study. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, January 2017. This study aimed to estimate the cost of sanitation and investigated the social and economic dynamics within Kisumu’s informal settlements that hinder provision and uptake of sanitation facilities.

WASH’Nutrition: A Practical Guidebook on Increasing Nutritional Impact through Integration of WASH and Nutrition Programs. ACF International, January 2017. This operational guidebook demonstrates the importance of both supplementing nutrition programs with WASH activities and adapting WASH interventions to include nutritional considerations (i.e., making them more nutrition-sensitive and impactful on nutrition). It has been developed to provide practitioners with usable information and tools so that they can design and implement effective WASH and nutrition programs.

A Mobile Platform Enables Unprecedented Sanitation Uptake in Zambia. PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, January 2017. Akros, in partnership with Zambia’s Ministry of Local Government and Housing and UNICEF, has developed an innovative community-led total sanitation (CLTS) monitoring system called CLTS M2W. It uses mobile phones and engagement of traditional leaders to provide communities with the ability to clearly see their progress toward sanitation goals. CLTS M2W paved the way for unprecedented CLTS uptake in Zambia, facilitating the creation of over 1,500,000 new users of sanitation in 18 months.

Measuring Global Water Security towards Sustainable Development GoalsEnvironmental Research Letters, December 2016. In this study, the authors present a spatial multi-criteria analysis framework to provide a global assessment of water security. The selected indicators are based on Goal 6 of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Disposal of Children’s Stools and its Association with Childhood Diarrhea in IndiaBMC Public Health, January 2017. Researchers found significant statistical association between children’s stool disposal and diarrhea. They conclude that gains in the reduction of childhood diarrhea can be achieved in India through the complete elimination of unsafe disposal of children’s stools.

Place and Child Health: The Interaction of Population Density and Sanitation in Developing Countries. Demography, January 2017. In this study, researchers assessed whether the importance of dense settlement for infant mortality and child height is influenced by exposure to local sanitation behavior.

Towards “Sustainable” Sanitation: Challenges and Opportunities in Urban AreasSustainability, December 2016. This paper reviews challenges associated with providing sanitation systems in urban areas and explores ways to promote sustainable sanitation in cities. It focuses on opportunities to stimulate sustainable sanitation approaches from a resource recovery perspective, generating added value to society while protecting human and ecosystem health.

Publications on Water, Sanitation and Health: 2016. WHO, 2016. This page provides links to WHO 2016 reports on quantitative microbial risk assessment, protecting surface water for health, and household water treatment.