World Toilet Day: Wastewater and Sustainable Development Goal 6

World Toilet Day this year continues with the theme from World Water Day earlier this year, focusing on wastewater. Today 4.5 billion people (over half the world’s population) live without a household toilet that safely disposes of their waste.

At its conclusion the CS WASH Fund is projected to have supported more than 2.4 million people to access improved sanitation facilities; over 980,000 more people than originally planned. The number of private sector providers supported through Fund projects to sell sanitation products and services is estimated to have increased by 2,104 across the 19 Fund project countries, over 300 more than originally estimated.

Why waste?

According to the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Program 2017 update report, 2.3 billion people still lack even a basic sanitation service. While open defecation rates have fallen and billions have gained access to basic water and sanitation services, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) offer an ambitious new global benchmark of safely managed services for all. The SDG6 target also aims to halve the amount of untreated wastewater and increase recycling and safe reuse. To achieve SDG6, wastewater needs to take a four-step journey:

  1. Containment. Faecal matter is deposited into a hygienic toilet and stored in a sealed pit or tank, separated from human contact.
  2. Transport. Pipes or latrine emptying services move faecal matter to the treatment stage.
  3. Treatment. Faecal matter is processed into treated wastewater and waste products that can be safely returned to the environment.
  4. Disposal or reuse. Safely treated faecal matter is used for energy generation or as fertiliser.

Beyond Open Defecation Free

The inclusion of faecal waste management within the safely managed sanitation SDG target requires that sanitation facilities are not only safe but that the disposal of faecal sludge and effluent is also safe. The CS WASH Fund shone a light on the issues of safely managed sanitation in South Asia. The Learning Brief from the Fund’s South Asia Regional Learning Event held last year outlines faecal digestion processes, various latrine models, and the environmental and health risks associated with different faecal containment options.

The Fund’s report, Thinking beyond Open Defecation Free towards safely managed sanitation for all outlines current thinking among CSOs about the challenges in ensuring wastewater is adequately contained and treated. A Fund Learning Brief on the same topic identifies the scale of the ‘safely managed’ sanitation challenge in South Asian countries and provides an overview of CSO approaches and strategies to achieving and Open Defecation Free (ODF) and beyond.

CSO Resources

Here we highlight Fund project resources and publications that address safely managed services.

Following the South Asia Regional Learning Event, the Netherland Development Organisation (SNV) and the International Rescue Committee (IRC) hosted a regional face-to-face Learning Event in Cambodia on Thinking beyond the finish line: Sustainable Services for All. You can download the report from the event here.

Welthungerhilfe and IRC’s Innovation and Impact Grant briefing note and final report share findings from the Research into Sludge Enterprise (RISE) initiative in Norton, a small town in Zimbabwe. The project piloted a mobile desludging business with important lessons for other CSOs aiming to support market-driven sludge management in urban and peri-urban areas. Their project poster provides a visual summary of research questions, expected changes and lessons.

In Cambodia, iDE’s Innovation and Impact Grant researched the use of Smart Subsidies to increase sanitation coverage to the poor. The policy brief provides a summary of the evidence and outcomes of the project including the design and implications research findings may have for sanitation policy and future implementation.

In Bhutan, the long-term collaboration between SNV and the Ministry of Works and Human Settlement has led to Bhutan’s first ever faecal sludge treatment plant being commissioned.  

Wastewater as part of safely managed systems  

For more information and resources on the importance of moving beyond access to basic toilets to safely managed sanitation for all visit the World Toilet Day website.

World Toilet Day is a day to think and take action on the global sanitation crisis. Join the campaign to promote World Toilet Day and share your #WorldToiletDay stories with us on Facebook and Twitter.

Photo credit: Welthungerhilfe Zimbabwe