Youth for Water and Climate

The Global Youth Take Action 2nd edition call for projects has been designed to identify, encourage, and support youth engagement related to water resources management and climate change adaptation. More specifically this call for projects aims to support initiatives regarding water & health, water & agriculture, water-related risks, and water sharing. The Water and Health theme includes projects in WASH emergency response, good sanitation and hygiene habits to protect health, (e.g., health and water campaigns), water-borne diseases solutions, water availability, quality, and quantity for domestic uses, low-cost technology to ensure safe water quality, implementation and monitoring of sustainable sanitation systems, etc. The selected projects will receive financial support up to $5000 CAN each and technical support. The project must be conceived, led and implemented by youth aged between 18 and 35. Projects from low- and middle-income countries, projects targeting indigenous communities, projects led by young women and projects targeting women will be prioritized. Projects can be submitted in English, French, Spanish or Russian. See website for complete list of eligibility criteria and how to apply.

Non-sewered sanitation: the next gold standard?

This article is the first in a blog series exploring how the world can benefit from the latest advancements in fecal sludge management, non-sewered sanitation products and services. Visit the CAWST blog page in the weeks to come for more.

This article is the first in a blog series exploring how the world can benefit from the latest advancements in fecal sludge management, non-sewered sanitation products and services.

Visit the CAWST blog page in the weeks to come for more.

As progress in sanitation continues around the world, could advancements in non-sewered sanitation outpace those of traditional sewers? Could fecal sludge management (FSM) become the more sustainable sanitation solution?

Advancements in non-sewered sanitation have progressed rapidly in recent years. This includes improvements to conventional pit latrines, innovations in non-traditional onsite containment, and increased knowledge about fecal sludge characteristics and sustainable fecal sludge management. Meanwhile, a persistent “flush and forget” mentality continues to clog sewer systems; technology dating back to the 1800s.

What is fecal sludge management?

Fecal sludge management (FSM) is a rapidly growing field that works to solve a global need. “Fecal sludge” refers to the waste from onsite sanitation technologies, i.e., technologies that do not use a sewer and which contain the waste onsite. The most common onsite technologies are pit latrines and septic tanks. Fecal sludge contained in these technologies is very different from wastewater because of its composition. It can include excreta (urine and feces), blackwater (waste water from toilets, likely containing pathogens), greywater (e.g., household wash-water), groundwater, rainwater, and solid waste (trash).

Fecal sludge varies greatly around the world

But it can also vary between neighbourhoods in the same city. Groundwater levels, hygiene practices, access to solid waste management, and containment type are all things that can affect fecal sludge composition. This huge variation is one reason why fecal sludge is so difficult to work with, and why traditional wastewater management methods are not appropriate.

Why is FSM necessary?

Globally, 2.8 billion people are served by onsite sanitation and effective FSM is required to sustainably manage this waste. Sustainable sanitation requires more than simple containment. It needs an entire value chain of containment, emptying, transport, treatment, and safe reuse or disposal. FSM must occur all along this chain.

Source: BMGF, 2015. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sanitation_Value_Chain.jpg

The sanitation gold standard

Approximately 5.6 billion people worldwide have access to improved sanitation. Among these are the 2.8 billion who are served by onsite sanitation, and another 2.8 billion who use sewer connections as their primary sanitation service. It’s expected that the number of people reliant on onsite sanitation will increase by 2030. Contributing factors for this include the continued global push for progress in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 6 of clean water and sanitation for all, and the expected increase from one billion to three billion people living in slums or informal settlements where onsite sanitation is common.

Innovation: this is no longer a temporary solution

Onsite sanitation was traditionally considered a temporary solution until sewers could be implemented. It has become clear that sewers are not always a practical solution. The reality is that sewer expansion must keep up with continued urbanization, which can be both expensive and practically infeasible in many parts of the world.

Current sewer systems are being abused

While sewers have been around for hundreds of years, users continue to abuse them by flushing inappropriate items. This New York Times article discusses things that should not be flushed, many which cause unsafe working conditions for sanitation experts. Non-sewered sanitation options such as the composting toilets discussed in this article published by The Guardian are even becoming trendy in high-income countries where “sustainability” is a household term.

Overcoming taboos and enabling a better future

As taboos around sanitation are overcome and emphasis is placed on access to sanitation as a need equal, and inherently connected, to clean water, innovations in non-sewered sanitation will continue to develop. These have become more feasible, cost-effective, and sustainable throughout the years. Studies show that implementation of FSM systems can be cheaper than sewer-based systems. With this continued drive for improvements in the sector, will we see a shift in what we consider to be the “gold standard” of sanitation from sewers to FSM? It is very much possible.

Leandra Rhodes is a collaborative partner and guest writer with CAWST and a PhD candidate with RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia.

Learn about fecal sludge management from CAWST. Sign up and download our training manual and other resources here.