When you hear the term "dry toilet" or "dry sanitation": does that include a pit latrine in your mind or not?

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When you hear the term "dry toilet" or "dry sanitation": does that include a pit latrine in your mind or not?

I would like to ask you all this simple question: "When you hear the term "dry toilet" or "dry sanitation": does that include a pit latrine in your mind or not?"

In my mind, a pit latrine might not really belong into the category of dry sanitation which is in most publications meant to refer to either UDDTs or composting toilets. But perhaps this is just my opinion/feeling. Do we have any publications that talk about this?

Looking at the Eawag-Sandec compendium, it is clear that according to their definition, a simple pit latrine does belong to the dry toilet category whereas a pour flush latrine does not. This is the definition (also the first sentense of the Wikipedia article on dry toilets): "A dry toilet is a toilet that operates without flush water, unlike a flush toilet."

And is dry sanitation equal to dry toilet? At the moment in Wikipedia, the term dry sanitation redirects to dry toilet (I added this redirect yesterday). Should there ultimately rather be a separate Wikipedia article on dry sanitation?

Why am I asking? It's because I want to get the Wikipedia article about dry toilets just right:
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dry_toilet

I recently did some work on it (prompted by some edits by Chris Canaday) to explain this issue of pit latrine belonging in the dry toilet category or not but I would need further references. I have used a paper by Christoph Platzer from 2008 to support my statement that many people in the sector use the term "dry sanitation" to mean NOT pit latrine but UDDT. But of course only citing this one paper is not sufficient.

So I am asking for your help to get this wording right (go to here to see it with the hyperlinks: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dry_toilet#Terminology ):

Terminology [edit | edit source]
In the WASH sector, the term "dry toilet" is used differently by different people. It is common that the term "dry toilet" or "dry sanitation" is used to refer specifically to a urine-diverting dry toilet or a composting toilet.[citation needed][3] Pit latrines without a water seal also fall under the category "dry toilet". However the pits can become much wetter than the collection container of other types of dry toilet because urine mixes with feces in the pit and drainage might be limited.[citation needed] Also, groundwater or surface water can also get into the pit in the event of heavy rains or flooding. Sometimes households discard greywater (from showering) into the same pit.[citation needed]


Do you agree with these statements? If yes, which other references could be cited? If not, how should it be worded differently?

Regards,
Elisabeth

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Re: When you hear the term "dry toilet" or "dry sanitation": does that include a pit latrine in your mind or not?

I cannot imagine anybody calling any form of pit latrine a 'dry toilet'.

For me, and I know I am a zealot, the only dry toilet is one where the the faecal matter is kept dry, i.e. not mixed at source with urine or wash water, at any stage of its composting process.

So, to answer your question, when I hear the term "dry toilet" or dry sanitation", a pit toilet never crosses my mind.

Hope this helps.
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Re: When you hear the term "dry toilet" or "dry sanitation": does that include a pit latrine in your mind or not?

hello Elisabeth,

I guess this definition may always stay open for discussion. A dry toilet could be understood as one which does not use water for flushing, neither full flush, nor low flush, nor pour flush. Thus a pit latrine under this definition would be considered a 'dry' toilet although .... what about a pit latrine equipped with a SATO pan which is cleaned with minimal water (0.5L they say): dry or wet toilet? And anyway the pit is never dry, at least urine goes into it, probably also grey water, surface water, ground water...

But one can also understand a 'dry' toilet as a toilet where the faeces stay completely dry, the classical case of UDDT. Where I disagree that a compost toilet can/must be a 'dry' toilet. Composting requires moisture, thus if the composting takes place on-site, the containment cannot be dry, otherwise it is not composting. I think we had the discussion before and I thought we had agreed that UDDTs are not composting toilets but de-hydrating toilets... as their name says. And vermi-composting toilets can actually be built with full, low or pour flush.

Therefore, if someone uses the term 'dry toilet' or 'dry sanitation' it should always come at first use with a short explanation whether it is a system without any flush or a system with a dry faeces containment avoiding any misunderstanding.

ciao
Hajo

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  • Ajira
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Re: Reply: When you hear the term

Dry toilets means a toilet that operates without water and has a divider so that the user, with little effort can divert the urine away from the faeces.
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Re: Reply: When you hear the term

What about dry toilets that do not divert the urine but dehydrate the contents?

Dean Satchell, M For. Sc.
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Re: Reply: When you hear the term "dry toilet" or "dry sanitation": does that include a pit latrine in your mind or not?

Thanks for your responses so far! Please keep them coming as I find it very interesting. It shows that - as I suspected - many of us mean different things when we say "dry toilet".

It seems that the definition that the people behind the Eawag-Sandec Compendium chose might not (yet?) be universally accepted amongst people in the sector.

They had a very simple definition. See here: ecompendium.sswm.info/sanitation-technol...-toilet?group_code=u

A dry toilet is a toilet that operates without flushwater. The dry toilet may be a raised pedestal on which the user can sit, or a squat pan over which the user squats. In both cases, excreta (both urine and faeces) fall through a drop hole.

Here, a dry toilet refers specifically to the device over which the user sits or squats. In other literature, a dry toilet may refer to a variety of technologies, or combinations of technologies (especially pits).


I wonder if anyone who worked on the compendium could tell us in this thread about the thought processes that went into this definition? Would there be any room for modifying it? Or do people have to get used to the idea that a simple pit latrine classifies as a dry toilet even if it goes against our gut feeling (as the pit is not dry at all)?

Meanwhile, Hajo's point was very valid, I think:

Therefore, if someone uses the term 'dry toilet' or 'dry sanitation' it should always come at first use with a short explanation whether it is a system without any flush or a system with a dry faeces containment avoiding any misunderstanding.

Greetings,
Elisabeth

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Re: When you hear the term "dry toilet" or "dry sanitation": does that include a pit latrine in your mind or not?

To me as a manufacturer of "Waterless or Composting Toilets" I could not describe a pit toilet as a dry toilet. Any sanitation that allows urine and solids to mix along with any other material deposited can hardly be "dry". These titles are not specific and nor should they be when considering that the application of non - flushing toilets is varied according to the situations in which they are applied.
Toilets are either flushing or non-flushing, and beneath that broad heading there are many sub categories. I supply pedestals and systems to all manner of sanitation applications, including over "pit" toilets, and I would not like the tag of pit toilet applied to my products.
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Re: When you hear the term "dry toilet" or "dry sanitation": does that include a pit latrine in your mind or not?

Hi Elisabeth,

My thoughts are as follows with the disclaimer that the terminology I use is native to South Africa. The brief version of the point I'd like to add is that a dry toilet and dry sanitation mean two very different things to me and my terminology.

"Dry sanitation" and "dry toilets" are not the same thing in my understanding and terminology, and therefore the definitions of each are different and not interchangeable. To me a toilet is the pedestal you sit on or squat over, whereas sanitation may refer to the model of pedestal+treatment solution, or pedestal+FSM chain, etc.

"Dry sanitation" to me is non-waterborne sanitation. Flush toilets part of a waterborne sewered network would not be "dry sanitation". VIPs are "dry sanitation", as no water is added to the toilet in a flushing manner or for transporting reasons.
Reference: "Dry sanitation is defined as the disposal of human waste without the use of water as a carrier", Scott, E. 2002, Dry Sanitation Solutions, Journal of Rural and Remote Environmental Health, 1(2), 23-25. This reference is useful for this definition, but it doesn't unpack the definition further.

A "dry toilet" definition is where it becomes a lot harder to define: A toilet can still be part of a "dry sanitation" model, but the toilet itself is not necessary a dry-operation pedestal. Pour-flush or low-flush toilets are "dry sanitation" in my mind, as despite them using water to flush the pedestal, as water is not used to transport the faecal matter offsite. The flush merely acts to create a water layer between the user and the pit where the feacal matter degrades, for hygienic and aesthetic reasons. Thus, I can imagine that a debate about "dry toilets" would have to look at system boundaries, on whether a pit is part of the boundary, since VIPs don't use water, but the pits themselves can be extremely wet (and sometimes almost entirely liquid). A dry toilet to me, is a pedestal where an effort is made in the design/concept to ensure that faecal matter remains as dry as possible, and perhaps even takes immediate dewatering efforts on/by the pedestal.

"Dry toilet" = A pedestal where water is not used to flush the pedestal, and inherent design efforts are made to dewater the faecal matter. E.g. UDDT, Composting toilet (e.g. EarthAuger).
"Dry Sanitation" = A sanitation model where water is not used to transport faecal matter off-site.
Note: A pour flush or VIP can be part of a "dry sanitation" model, but not a "dry toilet".

Stuart Woolley

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Re: When you hear the term "dry toilet" or "dry sanitation": does that include a pit latrine in your mind or not?

Dear Ross,

So if I understood you correctly you would prefer to see the term "non-flushing toilet" used and then below that category would be dry toilet (UDD, composting) versus pit latrine toilet. Correct?

Dear Stuart,

Thanks for your detailed post, very interesting and very good that you pointed out the differentiation between dry toilet and dry sanitation.
The paper that you mentioned has this URL, by the way:
jrtph.jcu.edu.au/vol/v01scott2.pdf

Your point really convinced me so I quickly made a change on Wikipedia: Before, the term "dry sanitation" redirected to "dry toilet". Now I have made the redirect to here:
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sanitation#Dry_sanitation

There it says:

Dry sanitation[edit | edit source]
Further information: Dry toilet

The term "dry sanitation" is somewhat misleading as sanitation includes hand-washing and can never be "dry". A more precise term would be "dry excreta management". When people speak of "dry sanitation" they usually mean sanitation systems with dry toilets with urine diversion, in particular the urine-diverting dry toilet (UDDT).[13]


This is actually something that I wrote about 2 years ago... Might be time to improve and expand on that. Suggestions?

I have always had a problem with the term "dry sanitation". In my opinion it is a complete misnomer. Why? Because sanitation is more than just excreta management. Sanitation is also greywater management, solid waste management and drainage. It also includes hygiene. Now can anyone imagine hygiene and greywater management without water? No. So "Dry sanitation" makes no sense and it should rather by called "Dry excreta management".

What do others think about that?

I think it is important to get our terminology right in the WASH sector because otherwise it all adds to the confusion that the general public has about sanitation. If we all agreed on the right terms, I think this would go a long way in improving understanding of all the issues.

Regards,
Elisabeth

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Re: When you hear the term "dry toilet" or "dry sanitation": does that include a pit latrine in your mind or not?

Yes Elisabeth that would make sense to me, as my particular interest is in the use or not, of water as a disposal method, and the re-use ideas that are out there.

Cheers
Ross
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Re: When you hear the term "dry toilet" or "dry sanitation": does that include a pit latrine in your mind or not?

Hi all,

I agree that ‘dry sanitation’ does not make much sense and should probably be scrapped from our vocabulary.

I also agree that ‘toilets without flush’ can be a ‘main group’ with ‘subgroups’ of 1) de-hydrating toilets (dry excreta management), 2) composting toilets, and 3) pit latrines, ... what else?.

Because Dean indicated that there can be de-hydrating toilets without UD, subgroup 1) may include UD and non-UD.

I disagree that a compost toilet is a ‘dry toilet’ because composting only works with water ( home.howstuffworks.com/composting1.htm ) even vermi-composting requires a certain moisture level for the worms to survive as far as I know.

… and suddenly I notice that we can also do away with the ‘misleading’ ‘dry toilet’. We can still use it for ‘de-hydrating toilets’ or for ‘dry excreta management’ but since we do not need 3 names for the same thing, let’s stick to ‘de-hydrating toilets’ and forget ‘dry toilets’ as well as ‘dry sanitation’.

Ciao
Hajo

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Re: When you hear the term "dry toilet" or "dry sanitation": does that include a pit latrine in your mind or not?

That's a good suggestion in my opinion... I agree with you about striking "dry sanitation" and "dry toilet" from our vocabulary. What do others think? It would only work if we reached a consensus on this.

One method that can help to cement a consensus that we have reached is to get the Wikipedia articles about dry toilet and dry sanitation right. Here I have the problem that I need to cite a reliable source for any statement that I make.
E.g. if I write: "In the WASH sector, the term "dry toilet" is used differently by different people. It is common that the term "dry toilet" or "dry sanitation" is used to refer specifically to a urine-diverting dry toilet or a composting toilet." - then what reference could I cite? A discussion here on the forum doesn't count. Someone would first have to publish a paper of sorts on this topic and then I could cite that. A website of a reputable organisation, like UNICEF, UN Habitat and alike would also count.

By the way, a somewhat related term that I see used more often these days, e.g. in grants by the Gates Foundation, is Non-sewer sanitation (NSS). E.g. in this grant:
"Leadership capacity development on non sewered sanitation and FSM"
www.susana.org/en/knowledge-hub/projects/database/details/485

I guess it's meant to replace "dry sanitation" but could relate to any type of toilet; it just means the excreta is not transported over longer distances in sewers.

Regards,
Elisabeth

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