Urine provides excellent sanitation solution

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 27 October 2010

The separate collection of urine provides innovative opportunities for the improvement of sanitation and the recycling of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Urine separation is an excellent sanitation solution, particularly in places where classic sewer-based sanitation is not sustainable. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is providing a grant of 3.0 million US dollars to support a joint project by the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag) and the eThekwini Water and Sanitation utility (EWS) in South Africa to continue developing practical, community-scale nutrient recovery systems.

Urine-diverting dry toilet

The project, covering a period of four years, focuses on the further development of technical solutions for urine processing for nutrient recovery. In addition, project participants, together with experts from the University of KwaZulu-Natal and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich, will study the logistics of collection and transport of urine from toilets to processing facilities. The Swiss aquatic research scientists and their partners in South Africa will also examine ways in which sanitation can be paid for by the production and sale of urine-based fertiliser, thus enabling a cheap, efficient and widely-accepted sanitation system to be set up.

Alternatives are urgently needed

There is a growing awareness that in many parts of the world an alternative is needed for the conventional sewer-based sanitation and central wastewater treatment system – if only for the reason that not enough water is available for drinking let alone to be used for flushing. There is a pressing need to reduce the number of people with no access to basic sanitary facilities and safe drinking water, as required by the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). As well as endangering people’s health, inadequate disposal of faecal material poses a risk to the drinking water supply and contaminates the natural environment. Last but not least, the global demand for fertiliser is so great that interest in local sources of nutrients is growing. Continue reading