Approaches for urban sanitation – which tool to choose?

2 min read
Image: WaterAid/ GMB Akash/ Panos

Do you know your shit-flow diagram from your SaniPath? Rémi Kaupp, WaterAid UK’s Urban Sanitation Specialist, navigates the array of approaches available to today’s sanitation planners working towards solutions.

As my colleague Andrés recently said, we are living in exciting times when it comes to urban sanitation, my main passion. After decades of only large sewers being considered as a solution (despite being unaffordable for municipalities and for residents), a wider variety of solutions is now considered. Options now include decentralised systems and faecal sludge management for pit toilets – by far still the most common type of toilet in developing cities. The thinking has evolved too, from a multitude of isolated pilot projects to more city-wide work hand-in-hand with authorities and utilities.

With this progress has come a wide range of approaches and tools, especially in the past few years. It’s now hard for planners and for us NGO workers to choose what to use; you may have heard of shit-flow diagramsSanitation Safety PlansSaniPath... so where do you start?

To find my bearings, I recently did a quick review and prepared these tables (pdf, plus a pdf version in French), to give my WaterAid colleagues and me a better idea of which tool is useful for which stage and which context. It includes the tools used to engage municipal authorities to, for instance:

  • Choose how to represent the scale of the issue.
  • Advocate for including on-site sanitation.
  • Prioritise which areas to concentrate on first.
  • Choose specific technologies.
  • Include communities in planning services.
  • And so on.

The tables also include examples of the tools’ use in case studies. Four of them are being used by WaterAid: shit flow diagrams in Ethiopia; sanitation plans in Mozambique; and SaniPath and the faecal waste rapid assessment in Cambodia.

Shit flow diagram

A ‘shit-flow diagram’ recently made in Bishoftu, Ethiopia, by the University of Leeds with the support of WaterAid Ethiopia.

The idea now is to combine this information with what we learned through the A tale of clean cities research, to see how we can adapt our approaches to urban sanitation to the opportunities for change in cities and the stage of development of sanitation there.

Rémi Kaupp tweets as @RemKau