Monitoring and regulation on-site sanitation - A common problem for local authorities is the effective monitoring of on-site sanitation

  • jonpar
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Monitoring and regulation on-site sanitation

Dear all,

A common problem for local authorities, who are generally understaffed/under-resourced with few environmental health officers with poor access/recourse to information / technologies / equipment etc, is the effective monitoring of on-site sanitation to ensure that on-site sanitation facilities are constructed and maintained to uphold public health standards.

Are there experiences from projects that offer examples of good practice when it comes to a) monitoring and b) regulation ? I am particularly interested in approaches that have practical application for programming and of direct relevance for local authorities to improve implementation.

I am aware of some examples where application of "mapping" technologies have been used to support project planning and implementation. Are these being used to map the quality of facilities as well as the presence of the facility in the first place ?

And, a bigger question is "What approaches are there to regulate on-site sanitation based on :

a) enforcement with fines etc for those who are not adhering to prescribed standards (which is the more common perception/understanding of regulation),

or

b) positive incentive mechanisms in which those who are expected to meet standards are motivated to meet the standards. This is probably less common and generally not considered to be "regulatory" but is an important approach that is complementary to enforcement.

This was an issue that came up recently in Lusaka at the ZAWAFE conference - both in the main conference and in a SuSanA workshop organised by GIZ and Oxfam - see workshop report at forum.susana.org/10-announcements-regard...hieve-sdg6-in-lusaka

4.1. Enforcing standards / regulations

The monitoring arrangements and enforcement of standards/regulations relating to household sanitation was highlighted by participants at the workshop to be an important area where the sector needs support. Participants expressed interest to learn about experiences from other
countries how these issues have been addressed considering both enforcement (stick) and incentive based (carrot) based regulatory instruments. This was also an issue that was highlighted by a session of the main conference on the “Institutional Framework for Water Supply and Sanitation which included contributions from Peter Mutale on the “Framework for Provision and Regulation of Urban On-site Sanitation in Zambia” and a presentation from Imuwana Mwanamwalye (LCC) and Conrad Thombansen (GIZ) on “Options to Improve Enforcement of
the Public Health Act in Public Health and Hygiene especially in the area of Sanitation”. Oxfam proposed to follow-up on this to promote discussion on the forum to share state of the art thinking on this topic for consideration for adoption n Zambia"


I very much look forward to reading your responses to this.

best regards,

Jonathan

Dr. Jonathan Parkinson
Principal Consultant – Water and Sanitation
IMC Worldwide Ltd, Redhill, United Kingdom
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  • muench
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Re: A common problem for local authorities is the effective monitoring of on-site sanitation

Dear Jonathan,

You have posed a really interesting question! ("A common problem for local authorities [...] the effective monitoring of on-site sanitation to ensure that on-site sanitation facilities are constructed and maintained to uphold public health standards")

Interestingly, I am just in a conversation with Hajo from Lusaka on this here in this thread where we talk about faecal sludge management in comparison to solid waste management:
forum.susana.org/166-definitions-glossar...r-zambian-act-of-law

Hajo was problably at the workshop in Lusaka that you mentioned, so perhaps he was even one of the people pointing out this issue.

You posted your question two months ago but got no replies on the forum. Did you get any replies offline? Or maybe by me posting a reply, I'll manage to bring this question back to the top of the pile and someone might have good examples to offer.

I wonder if we have to look to more the countries that are already in transition, like India or Brazil, maybe they are further advanced with this?

I guess this is also one of the big draw-backs of onsite sanitation that it makes it a lot harder to monitor adherence to standards.

Even in countries like the U.S. or Australia, where septic tanks are still common in low density housing areas, are any inspectors going around to inspect the functioning of the septic tanks, e.g. ensuring the leach fields are still working well? I doubt it. I guess when population density is low then it all "doesn't matter" so much. It's when population density is high where onsite sanitation becomes tricky.

Another example could be those summer houses in Sweden. Could any of our Swedish members tell us about monitoring and regulation there? I remember issues with summer houses being built close to sensitive lakes - I think they were mandated to remove phosphorus from their wastewater using little package treatment plants (of course composting toilets are also in use, taking out a lot of the phosphorus from the wastewater already).

Looking forward to hearing more from everyone on this topic! Please do share.

Regards,
Elisabeth

Dr. Elisabeth von Muench
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  • arno
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Re: A common problem for local authorities is the effective monitoring of on-site sanitation

For Sweden, generally speaking if a property is within reach of the local municipal wastewater system, one is forced to pay for a connection. Treatment is then handled centrally and paid for through local taxes.

For onsite systems in Sweden, and there were "officially" ca 750 000 in 2005, local authorities provide advice on best and acceptable practices by contacting each house owner individually. For older properties, an official does a field visit and contacts the owner to examine whether the data they have are up to date and whether there is a need for upgrading the sanitation system. For new houses, stipulations are made prior to providing the building permit and a visit to examine the installation is carried out along with other building regulations. Entrepreneurs are all "up to date and controlled at source" on what is considered acceptable practice (eg conservancy tanks for black water, septic tanks with drainage beds for mixed systems, dry toilets including UDDTs, grey water filtering systems (eg through peat moss), etc. So by purchasing hardware or services, the property owner is forced to conform to acceptable practices since the entrepreneurs are monitored and those found acceptable are recommended (listed) by the local authorities. So the linkage between authority and entrepreneur is the key to providing safe services. The entire process is made transparent through an independent website husagare.avloppsguiden.se/ which also provides advice to the local authorities and entrepreneurs all under one umbrella. Each municipal government officially refers to this guide when it comes to technical advice and regulations.

Special regulations exist near shoreline areas of water bodies. Here, new buildings are not permitted and older buildings all require conservancy tanks to prevent any runoff from wastewater systems.

Arno Rosemarin PhD
Stockholm Environment Institute
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  • JKMakowka
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Re: A common problem for local authorities is the effective monitoring of on-site sanitation

Where I was working in the Philippines last year (small town, but not rural), there were various proposal how to finance desludging services (treatment site) of septic tanks. The general idea was to put a levy on the monthly water bill (centralized system, operated government owned utility company).

As a positive incentive for following construction standards and easy physical access for desludging services, it was proposed to offer a partial tax-break on this for a few years upon submission of certificate by government licensed construction company. Not sure if that was ever implemented, and I felt there were several pitfalls (monopolizing by few certified builders, companies making certificates on cash payment even if substandard work was done etc.), but the overall idea seemed good.

Krischan Makowka
Microbiologist & emergency WASH specialist
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