Developing urine diversion systems in a developed world context

  • RowanBarber
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Re: Developing urine diversion systems in a developed world context

Hi Elisabeth,

Sorry. I tried to provide some context for my question, as it is a first world situation, rather than a developing community context.

In summary: my local water authority is using water quality offsets. They are new.

They are applying to the State Government regulator to increase their environmental licence for nutrient discharge on the basis of preventing erosion of a river bank.

My question is basically would it make sense to use the same logic to prevent nutrients upstream of sewage treatment plants and is this being done elsewhere?

regards,

Ro

Rowan Barber
Australian Sustainable Business Group
Engineers Without Borders Australia
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Re: Developing urine diversion systems in a developed world context

Rowan, Elisabeth,

Thank you for picking up and continuing this important discussion.

To commemorate World Toilet Day 2013, PHLUSH is working with [url=http://http://www.thepoopproject.org]The POOP Project[/url] and others to make known groups in the US working on toilet issues. We are particularly interested in bringing together those working in a developed world context to solve problems right under our eyes. Jack Sim will be in New York for the official launch of WTD at the United Nations and we hope to engage him in encouraging a movement to look not only at the MDGs but also local needs.

For example, PHLUSH made some headway in official recognition of urine diversion in post earthquake situations
www.phlush.org/emergency-toilets/ but we're still a long way from getting policy change at the level of FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency). You are familiar with a whole range of other topics - infrastructural constraints and expense, eutrophication, struvite production, urine reuse in agriculture, etc. - that need to be part of the public discussion.

THIS IS AN INVITATION to you and to other readers working in industrialized countries to help this movement by submitting short but high interest blog posts (300-800 words with links and illustrations) that we can use on our websites and in our social media campaign. Submit to PHLUSH editors at info AT phlush.org Longer pieces we can edit quoting you as experts and submit to the US media.


Carol McCreary
Public Hygiene Lets Us Stay Human (PHLUSH)
1240 W. Sims Way #59, Port Townsend, Washington 98368 USA

Toilet availability is a human right and well-designed sanitation systems restore health to our cities, our waters and our soils.
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  • Geoffroy Germeau
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Re: Developing urine diversion systems in a developed world context

Dear Christoph,
I think article you refered might be :
Wilsenach J. and van Loosdrecht M. (2003). Impact of separate urine collection on wastewater treatment systems. Water Science and Technology Vol 48 No 1 pp 103–110.


++++++++++
Note by moderator (EvM): I had to remove this paper because it has a copyright with IWA Publishing. We will ask them though if we could get a copyright waver for this 10 year old paper. If we get that, then I will re-attach it. --> edit on 21 November: Good news, IWA has waived the copyright for this paper! You find it here:
susana.org/lang-en/library?view=ccbktypeitem&type=2&id=1888

This is the abstract:
Impact of separate urine collection on wastewater treatment systems
J. Wilsenach and M. van Loosdrecht
Department of Biochemical Engineering, Delft University of technology, Julianalaan 67, 2628 BC, The Netherlands

Wastewater treatment should not only be concerned with urban hygiene and environmental protection, but development of a sustainable society must also be considered. This implies a minimisation of the energy demand and potential recovery of finite minerals. Urine contains 80% of the nitrogen (N) and 45% of the phosphorus (P) in wastewater. Separate collection and treatment would improve effluent quality and save energy in centralised biological nutrient removal (BNR). BNR processes are not optimal to treat water with very low N concentration resulting from separate urine collection. Relying on nutrient removal through sludge production, methanation of the sludge, subsequent nutrient removal from the digestion effluent results in optimised and more sustainable wastewater treatment. This paper quantitatively evaluates this option and discusses the potential.

Keywords Energy; nutrients; Sharon/Anammox; struvite; urine; wastewater

Conclusions:

1. Advanced biological nutrient removal processes would benefit from separate collection
and treatment of urine. Total nitrogen effluent concentrations could be reduced
from 7.5–2.5 gN/m3 at around 60% urine separation. Separation efficiencies over 60%
show little further improvement, because the process is not optimal for low ammonium
influent concentrations.
2. Existing processes can be integrated and optimised to treat urine and wastewater on
central scale, with more than 60–70% urine separation. Effluent with very low ammonium,
nitrate and phosphate concentrations can be produced (all less than 1g/m3).
3. The actual nutrient content of particulate influent COD and nutrient content of sludge strongly influence the nutrient removal efficiency. Default values of N and P content in sludge suggest that complete nutrient removal is possible with 75% urine separation.
4. Urine separation decreases the energy requirement for wastewater treatment radically.
Where advanced BNR processes require around 6 W/p, an integrated process to treat
urine and wastewater separately could produce more than 1 W/p. The energy available
for separate collection and transport of urine may therefore not exceed 7 W/p.


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Re: Developing urine diversion systems in a developed world context

Hi Rowan and others

A couple of years ago, Eawag (Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology) investigated, whether urine source-separation would be a good option to improve the wastewater management and nutrient recovery in industrialized countries. Many aspects were investigated including process technology and social acceptance. You can find all publications and the final report on the internet at: www.novaquatis.eawag.ch/index

The project in Durban which Christoph is referring to is the VUNA project: www.vuna.ch
It is a collaboration between Eawag, eThekwini Water and Sanitation, the University of KwaZuluNatal and the two technical universities in Switzerland (ETHZ and EPFL). In some sense, it is a follow-up project of Novaquatis and we are developing technologies, which can also be used in industrialized countries. Actually, we installed a reactor for fertilizer production from urine at Eawag ( www.eawag.ch/forschung/eng/gruppen/vuna/...Urine_Separation.pdf )
In this process, we aim to recover all nutrients, while struvite precipitation is a process, which produces a phosphorus fertilizer.
This process has also been integrated in Eawag's RTTC project ( www.eawag.ch/rttc ).

Regards, Kai

Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag)
Process Engineering
Dübendorf, Switzerland

Recover nutrients!
www.vuna.ch

On-site treatment going to extremes: www.bluediversiontoilet.com

On the bookshelf: Source Separation and Decentralization for Wastewater Management
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  • muench
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Re: Developing urine diversion systems in a developed world context

Dear Rowan,

You said:

In summary: my local water authority is using water quality offsets. They are new.

They are applying to the State Government regulator to increase their environmental licence for nutrient discharge on the basis of preventing erosion of a river bank.

My question is basically would it make sense to use the same logic to prevent nutrients upstream of sewage treatment plants and is this being done elsewhere?


Could you explain a bit more about these "water quality offsets"? Is this a uniquely Australian thing or also practised e.g. in Europe? Maybe in Great Britain? Also, how do you value "prevention of erosion of a river bank" compared to "nutrient load discharged into water bodies"? Who determins what is "equal" when you compare one environmental damage against the other? What is the metric?

Your idea on urine diversion flush toilets has a flaw in my opinion: The water utilities have no influence on what the customers install at their homes. Their sphere of influence only starts in the sewer systems and ends with the receiving water body, doesn't it? Whereas it would be the local government and municipalities who would "prescribe/encourage/subsidise" the use of urine diversion toilets at the homes. Who would then be responsible for removing the urine and doing something with it? OK, that could be the responsibility of the water utilities. In any case, the water utilities and the councils or developers (in the case of new properties) would need to work very closely together...

About the Novaquatis project that Kai mentioned: I think it was an awesome project, well ahead of its times. However, I think the conclusion was that in Switzerland or Germany - with existing sewer infrastructure and with rather shrinking populations - this approach (urine diversion flush toilets) is not going to be financially attractive for a long, long time (i.e. until phosphorus really gets scarce and expensive...).

But it may well be different in other countries, which still have a growing population and not so much infrastructure buried under the ground yet...

Regards,
Elisabeth

P.S.
I attach an interesting presentation about a urine diversion system in Western Australia. I received the file from Dena Fam and would like to know more about how this project worked out in the end. Does anyone know?

Dr. Elisabeth von Muench
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  • kudert
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Re: Developing urine diversion systems in a developed world context

Dear Elisabeth

One of the conclusions of the Novaquatis project was that the NoMix approach can be competitive with conventional wastewater treatment, as soon as the technology (toilets, urine treatment reactors) will be available. Just the environmental benefits and costs savings in wastewater treatment plants and infrastructure could already justify the installation of the NoMix technology.

That means the economic feasibility of the NoMix technology does not necessarily depend on the fertilizer prices. Selling the fertilizer from urine can be an additional financial benefit. The more critical point is the availability of NoMix toilets and urine treatment reactors. Today, we are close to produce urine treatment reactors on an industrial scale (see e.g. www.vuna.ch but also processes in Germany, The Netherlands and Hong Kong), but we still depend strongly on the commitment of the sanitary industry to produce NoMix toilets. Further NoMix projects will help to convince the sanitary industry to produce NoMix toilets. Therefore, please forward any information on NoMix projects to us and we will send them to our contacts in the sanitary industry.

In the end, the financial viability of NoMix has to be determined for every region independently. Local requirements, e.g. regulations on nutrient removal, will be decisive.

When it comes to the fertilizer value of urine, we should not only focus on phosphorus. Actually, our studies in Nepal and India have shown that phosphorus adds less than 15% to the financial fertilizer value of urine. Especially nitrogen, but also potassium, are much more important.

Here is some literature on our calculations on fertilizer value in Nepal and India:

Tilley, E., Gantenbein, B., Khadka, R., Zurbrügg, C., Udert, K.M. (2009) Social and economic feasibility of struvite recovery from urine at the community level in Nepal. Proceedings of the International Conference on Nutrient Recovery from Wastewater Streams. 10-13 May 2009, Vancouver, Canada, pp. 169-178.

Etter, B., Tilley, E., Khadka, R. and Udert, K.M. (2011) Low-cost struvite production using source-separated urine in Nepal. Water Research 45(2), 852-862.

Sakthivel, S.R., Tilley, E. and Udert, K.M. (2012) Wood ash as a magnesium source for phosphorus recovery from source-separated urine. Science of the Total Environment 419, 68-75.

www.eawag.ch/stun

Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag)
Process Engineering
Dübendorf, Switzerland

Recover nutrients!
www.vuna.ch

On-site treatment going to extremes: www.bluediversiontoilet.com

On the bookshelf: Source Separation and Decentralization for Wastewater Management
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  • jrmcconville
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Re: Developing urine diversion systems in a developed world context

Hi Rowan,

I think you should look into the work on urine diversion that has been done in Australia at the Institute for Sustainable Futures in Sydney. cfsites1.uts.edu.au/isf/research-areas/water.cfm

They had an interesting project on urine diversion at the university. Report here:
"Transitioning to sustainable sanitation: a transdisciplinary pilot project of urine diversion"
cfsites1.uts.edu.au/find/isf/publication...unny-dunny-pilot.pdf

Jennifer McConville
Chalmers University of Technology
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  • RowanBarber
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Re: Developing urine diversion systems in a developed world context

muench wrote: Could you explain a bit more about these "water quality offsets"? Is this a uniquely Australian thing or also practised e.g. in Europe? Maybe in Great Britain? Also, how do you value "prevention of erosion of a river bank" compared to "nutrient load discharged into water bodies"? Who determins what is "equal" when you compare one environmental damage against the other? What is the metric?


Hi Elisabeth,

It is difficult to explain the context and the underlying philosophy and the background political context of water quality offsets.

I am not sure I agree with the underlying philosophy but I am wondering about the implications and the opportunities should the State regulator and the water authorities pursue this line of logic.

This may help if you are particularly interested in the regulation strategy:
www.ehp.qld.gov.au/management/planning-g...latory-strategy.html

I assume that "water quality offsets" has evolved from concepts developed for carbon trading. I do not know if water quality offsets are unique to Queensland but I am not aware of the practice anywhere else.

In this specific case, a local water utility would like to increase the quantity of nutrients discharged from a sewage treatment plant. The offset is a reduction in the nutrients by preventing of erosion of the river bank.

The metric will be third party monitoring of the in stream water quality.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Ultimately, my ambitions lie in assisting developing communities, but I strongly believe my own community could do much better in managing water, sewage and liquid trade waste etc. The rationale for posting these questions here, is to explore opportunities for getting better environmental and social outcomes within the constraints of local regulation in my own community.


regards,

Ro

Rowan Barber
Australian Sustainable Business Group
Engineers Without Borders Australia
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  • RowanBarber
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Re: Developing urine diversion systems in a developed world context

muench wrote: Your idea on urine diversion flush toilets has a flaw in my opinion: The water utilities have no influence on what the customers install at their homes. Their sphere of influence only starts in the sewer systems and ends with the receiving water body, doesn't it? Whereas it would be the local government and municipalities who would "prescribe/encourage/subsidise" the use of urine diversion toilets at the homes. Who would then be responsible for removing the urine and doing something with it? OK, that could be the responsibility of the water utilities. In any case, the water utilities and the councils or developers (in the case of new properties) would need to work very closely together...


I agree there is a flaw in my logic.

However, the water utility is the owner of the liability for nutrient discharges into the environment. In this case there are fuzzy lines, since water utilities are owned by local government/s.

The financial aspects of this concept of water quality offsets relate to "opportunity costs" held solely by the water utility, through delays or deferment of capital expenditure.

Rowan Barber
Australian Sustainable Business Group
Engineers Without Borders Australia
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Re: Developing urine diversion systems in a developed world context

Dear all,

I am interested in a industrial system that treat urine, creating one one side a solid fertilizer or a liquid concentrate liquid, and and the other side transforming urine in a liquid that is not pure but with poor quantities of N, P and K and other elements.
What is today the state of the art ? what machine exist and what are the result of the tests ?
Can some one can answer me ?

Thank You

Emmanuel Morin
Ecodomeo
www.ecodomeo.com

Emanuel Morin
Ecodomeo - France
www.ecodomeo.com
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Re: Developing urine diversion systems in a developed world context

Dear Emmanuel

In the VUNA project, we developed a reactor to recover all nutrients from urine. The process setup consists of a nitrification step and a distillation step . The products are a highly concentrated nutrient solution and distilled water. You can find more details about the process at www.eawag.ch/forschung/eng/gruppen/vuna/...nt_recovery/index_EN

Another possible process setup is a combination of struvite precipitation and ammonia stripping followed by adsorption in sulfuric acid.

Best regards, Kai

Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag)
Process Engineering
Dübendorf, Switzerland

Recover nutrients!
www.vuna.ch

On-site treatment going to extremes: www.bluediversiontoilet.com

On the bookshelf: Source Separation and Decentralization for Wastewater Management
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  • DavidAlan
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Re: Developing urine diversion systems in a developed world context

Kai, I did ask Christophe whether there was an estimated cost on a more commercial nitrification plant. Do you know?

By the way, hello Rowan, it has been a while!


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