Published: Jan. 24, 2019

Ability and potential of Sanitation Systems to address sanitation priorities

Prof. Sherri CookCEAE Department Professors Sherri Cook and Amy Javernick-Will published the research they conducted with PhD student Allie Davis on the effectiveness of sanitation systems to meet user priorities. They studied the factors affecting sanitation acceptance in communities and considered methods to improve usage. They identified that high rates of system failure as well as the inability to meet community priorities were hindering the development of adequate sanitation systems. In order to improve sanitation acceptance rates, the researchers developed a priority addressment protocol that can help communities identify and implement appropriate systems.

Prof. Amy Javernick-WillWhile the UN has recommended increased focus on sanitation as part of Goal 6 of the Sustainable Development Agenda, 60% of the world’s population does not have access to adequate sanitation systems. Many systems do not meet the priorities of users, contributing to a 70% failure rate within two years. The CU researchers realized that it was crucial to identify priorities for each community when implementing a sanitation strategy. This requires focusing on local context and identifying which priorities are most important. The research team developed a “priority assessment protocol” and applied it to 20 resource-limited communities in India. This protocol first identified how effective a current system was at addressing sanitation priorities. Next it evaluated how the same system would operate if it was fully Allie Davisfunctional. Finally, the research team used a hypothetical scenario to examine how the system would meet priorities if it were designed to recover resources including biogas, water, and compost.

The researchers found that while each case had different sets of priorities, the existing systems were not meeting them well. They believe this is mostly due to the lack of priority assessments before the systems were installed or because some systems were also not functioning as designed. Additionally, some priorities were unaddressable. However, all systems, even those that had failed, showed potential to meet priorities if use and maintenance were improved and systems functioned as their designs intended. The most effective systems utilized resource recovery to limit the negative impacts the system had on the surrounding communities.

Water CollectionThe research done by Cook, Javernick-Will, and Davis demonstrates the need for understanding priorities when implementing sanitation solutions. Instead of attempting to find a universal solution, authorities need to focus on what will help their constituents most. The research group noticed that none of the cases’ most important priorities had been identified in previous assessments. With improved priority assessment, sanitation projects worldwide can better meet the needs of their users and become more viable long-term solutions.

"We are excited to share our research on how well different sanitation technologies address user priorities. The sanitation sector recognizes the importance of choosing and implementing technologies that are appropriate for the local context, but we found that there are still large barriers to this happening often in practice. We hope that this work can make identifying priorities and evaluating how well previously implemented and potential designs meet priorities more accessible to implementers, municipalities, and other researchers," Allie Davis said

Publication: Davis, A.L.; Javernick-Will, A.; Cook, S.M.* Priority Addressment Protocol: Understanding the Ability and Potential of Sanitation Systems to Address Priorities. Environmental Science & Technology (2019), 53 (1), 401-411.