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

  • DianeKellogg
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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?

These are important and much-needed differentiations, Stuart. Elisabeth made some improvements to "dry toilet" and "dry sanitation," based on your inputs. We need to back up even further and work on the "toilet" article. Your language and clarifications would make that article much better. It's likely to get a lot of hits come World Toilet Day.

I started working on just "readability" for the lead and felt it would not be a good use of time until the article itself gets some attention. I know you're working on a few other topics, but could you add "toilets" to your list? Given how much you've thought about these distinctions, I think you could make quick work of improving the definitions.

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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 Diane,

No problem!

I'm away for the next week, but I'll add it as a Wikipedia assignment for myself to make sure it gets some attention.

Hopefully the Wikipedia WASH scene will look great by World Toilet day!

Stuart Woolley

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  • ulrichl
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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 colleagues

First of all, thanks to Elisabeth for bringing this thread to my attention and for inviting me to share the thought-processes that went into the “dry toilet” definition used by the Compendium .

I find it interesting (and a bit worrying actually) to see the different definitions and confusions that still prevail, like:

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?

or

I disagree that a compost toilet is a ‘dry toilet’ because composting only works with water, even vermi-composting requires a certain moisture level for the worms to survive as far as I know.

This mainly has to do with what one implicitly includes or excludes when talking about this term.

One of the main original purposes of the Compendium actually was to bring some order and clarity to the confusing and conflicting use of terms. It aimed to try and streamline sector terminology, so that experts can better understand each other when talking about the complex issue of sanitation.


Dry toilet:

As already cited by Elisabeth, the definition used in the Compendium is (P. 44):

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. In this compendium, 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).

The Compendium also says (P. 42):

There are two main types of interfaces: dry technologies that operate without water (U.1-U.3) and water-based technologies that need a regular supply of water to properly function (U.4-U.6). Different User Interface technologies generate different output products. This influences the subsequent type of Collection and Storage/Treatment or Conveyance technology.
In any given context, the technology choice generally depends on the following factors:
• Availability of water for flushing
• Habits and preferences of the users (sitting or squatting, washing or wiping)
• Special needs of user groups
• Local availability of materials
• Compatibility with the subsequent Collection and Storage/Treatment or Conveyance technology

Why this definition? The Compendium distinguishes user interface, collection/storage and conveyance as “functional groups” of technologies, and highlights what can be combined or not. That is the main idea behind.

A toilet is a “user interface”, where the user has to “go”. The user does not usually care if that is connected to a single pit or VIP, composting chamber or dehydration vault, septic tank or sewer (although the experience and operational requirements might be influenced by those, because the technologies are of course interlinked with each other). The latter are all “collection and storage” or “conveyance” technologies”, to which a toilet can be linked. They are not part of the toilet as such, but part of the sanitation system.

A dry toilet can connect to a single pit, single VIP, double VIP, Fossa Alterna or composting chamber. All of these collection options are compatible with the dry toilet, and possibly also with a special type of dry toilet, the urine-diverting dry toilet . As mentioned in previous posts, the moisture content required or typically present in these collection and storage options differs, but this has nothing to do with the dry toilet itself. That’s why it is so important to keep the two functional groups apart.

Keeping them separate helps to be clear what one is talking about, and to systematically design a system that is optimal for the local context. Different stakeholders are involved in dealing with different functional groups. When designing a system, asking separate questions about the two (while considering how both influence each other) will help to come up with the optimal technology combination:
  • User Interface: Who will use it? Washers or wipers? Squatters or sitters? Is water available for flushing? Are there any special needs? How will it be kept clean? Cost, who will pay, etc.
  • Collection and Storage/Treatment or Conveyance and the rest of the system: Is there a desired end-product? How to treat it to the requirements? How to transport it? Who will empty/transport it? How? How frequently? What are the groundwater and soil conditions? Cost, who will pay, etc.
From this perspective:
  • striking dry toilet from the vocabulary is clearly not possible
  • a pit latrine is more than a dry toilet – it is the combination of a dry toilet with a pit
  • dry toilet does not say whether faeces stay dry or not, or how dry or moist it will be in processing
  • it is not correct to say: “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.”
  • it is also not correct to say: “Pit latrines without a water seal also fall under the category "dry toilet".”

Dry Sanitation:

@Elisabeth: what leads you to the conclusion that

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).?

In your experience, is the term “dry sanitation” even used much at all?

I agree that dry sanitation is not a good term because sanitation always has to account for more or less significant liquid streams. And a definition of dry sanitation where a water flush can be used is rather confusing.

Perhaps that’s the reason why there is no proper definition (we also did not define it in the Compendium), and why the term is not that commonly used by sector experts (at least in my experience).

I see no real need to define and use the term dry sanitation, so scrapping it from the vocabulary would be good. "Non-sewered sanitation" is definitely a much better and much more useful equivalent.

“Dry excreta management” would also not be clear. What happens to the liquid part of excreta (and perhaps flushwater)? Is FSM dry excreta management? Let's rather directly go for more concise terms like dehydration, infiltration, composting, or evaporation, ...

With kind regards,

Lukas

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  • 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?

hi Lukas,

I appreciate that you agree that there is not need for the term 'dry sanitation'.

Thank you for clarifying that the Compendium refers the term 'dry toilet' only to the interface, i.e. 'dry toilet' is a toilet without any flush.

If you can make everybody understanding it this way it is acceptable. Many users, administrators, politicians would not exactly know what it is, but everybody will understand 'toilet without flush'. Therefore I prefer to stick to the latter term.

What about the SATO pan which uses minimal water (0.5L/'flush') to clean the pan and ensure the seal of the flap? Dry toilet or not dry toilet?

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?

Hi Hajo

Yes - a dry toilet is simply a toilet without flush, or we could also say no-flush toilet.
The SATO pan is a special form of a pour-flush toilet (without S-trap). It does depend on water and is therefore not a dry toilet.

Lukas

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  • muench
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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 Lukas,

Thanks for your detailed response! I absolutely agree with you that it is worrysome that many different uses of these words still prevail and that it would be great to streamline them. This is what I am trying to do with this forum thread and with Wikipedia articles.

Regarding the Compendium it is a great piece of work. But I was always missing a consultative process at the time. It feels a bit like it fell from the sky and Eawag decided "this is how it's meant to be!". There is no way of knowing much about the thought processes behind it, except for asking you... I find the advantage with Wikipedia is that it tries to build consensus and anyone can see how it develops by looking at the history or the talk page of the article.

Whilst I really think the Compendium is super, I have always felt that distinction for "user interface" separate to "storage etc." is quite artificial and does not "work" all that well outside of academic circles.

I actually disagree with your statement that:

A toilet is a “user interface”, where the user has to “go”. The user does not usually care if that is connected to a single pit or VIP, composting chamber or dehydration vault, septic tank or sewer


Of course the user does notice whether it is connected to a pit (pit latrine) or to a septic tank/sewer - quite a big difference in user experience, I would say. It is impossible to make the user interface look & feel the same. It already starts with the fact that a pit latrine always has to be separated from the rooms of the house.

About your question:

@Elisabeth: what leads you to the conclusion that
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).?
In your experience, is the term “dry sanitation” even used much at all?


I see it used ocasionally. Most notably perhaps in this paper by Christoph Platzer where he used dry sanitation to mean UDDTs:
www.susana.org/en/knowledge-hub/resource.../library/details/961
(I think it's a good paper; I will ask Christoph if he's still a proponent of this term or not)

If we can all agree on "dropping" the term dry sanitation, I think that would be good. But I think we should make it explicit, not implicit. In the Compendium it is "implicit" - you just don't mention the term. In Wikipedia we can state why the term is no longer that commonly used (although it is hard to find a reference for such a statement! Quoting this forum discussion is not good enough).

And I disagree with you on this statement:

it is also not correct to say: “Pit latrines without a water seal also fall under the category "dry toilet".”


According to the Compendium logic: yes. In your logic, already the term "pit latrine" is a combination of toilet + storage. That might make sense in the Compendium logic but I would say it doesn't make sense for "everyday use" where we call a pit latrine a toilet. And if we call it a toilet we should be allowed to call it a "non-flush toilet" or a "dry toilet".

But we might be splitting hairs here. Let's try to get it clear in the Wikipedia article on "dry toilets". Is there anything you would change?:
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dry_toilet

Note I don't think it would be right to make this Wikipedia article into a 1:1 copy of what the Compendium says. For me, the Compendium is just one source of information here. Thus I would perhaps say "One source defines dry toilet as xxx. In common use though, other definitions also still exist side by side (provide some example references for where dry toilet is used to mean composting toilet, for example)."
This way, we explain the whole story not just what the Compendium recommends.

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?

P.S. This PhD thesis from 2010 about the Erdos project in China with UDDTs also used the term "dry sanitation" and "dry toilets" to denote UDDTs:
www.susana.org/en/knowledge-hub/resource...library/details/1172
Flores, A. (2010). Towards sustainable sanitation: evaluating the sustainability of resource-oriented sanitation. PhD Thesis, University of Cambridge, UK

I am not saying this is good. I am just collecting evidence that the term "dry sanitation" and "dry toilets" is used by folks when they actually mean UDDTs.

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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,

Whilst I really think the Compendium is super, I have always felt that distinction for "user interface" separate to "storage etc." is quite artificial and does not "work" all that well outside of academic circles.


I am sorry, but I disagree considerably. For me the distinction between 'interface' and containment' is very relevant. And it must be made by professionals not only by academics and must be brought to the attention of people 'outside of academic circles'. Why?
  • A full flush toilet/interface can be connected to a 1) sewer or 2) septic tank.
  • A pour flush toilet/interface can be connected to a 1) sewer, 2) septic tank, 3) latrine pit
  • A drop hole/interface can be connected to a 1) latrine pit, 2) cesspit, 3) septic tank (called 'aqua privy)

For any of the above interfaces the service chain (emptying, transport, treatment, reuse) will look quite different depending on which containment the interface is connected to.

I have seen surveys by respectable consultants who showed in the legend of the sanitation map definitions like 'pour flush' and 'septic tank' on the same level which does not make any sense because the pour flush can feed into 3 different containments and a septic tank can be fed from 3 different interfaces. Thus, a pour flush toilet can feed into a septic tank. How do you mark it on the map: as pour flush or as septic tank? It is both: a pour flush 'interface' and a septic tank 'containment'.

We did a sanitation survey of 46,000 households in Moshi and we noted how important it was that we differentiated between 'interface' ('toilet', as the people commonly say because that is what they see, they use, they know) and 'containment' which is mostly hidden but the more relevant part of the service chain for 'us professionals' because it determines possible ways of emptying, transport, treatment and reuse.

Just for clarification: 'interface' is for me the piece you sit or squat on PLUS the respective flushing mechanism (full flush, pour flush, SATO 'flush', no flush)

Curious, to hear other comments,
ciao
Hajo

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  • dorothee.spuhler
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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 Elisabeth

Thank you for starting this discussion.
I appreciate you efforts of getting the wikipedia pages "right". However, even though the "compendium" is only one source (so is wikipedia), it makes to my opinion sense that we as "experts" agree (and then commit) to certain terms in order NOT to create any further confusion.
The functional groups of the compendium are a systematic way of describing a very broad range of different types of options. This is what is needed for a clear definition even though it might seems technocratic and not very handy when talking to people with different background. However, I think the "compendium" does not contradict any other ("more useful") terms such as "pit latrine" - In the opposite: it allows to systematically define those (pit latrine = dry toilet + single pit).
I think the confusion arises from the term "toilet". In the compendium "toilet" is used to define the user interface only. However, in practice this term is often used to describe both, the upperstructure (user interface) and understructure (pit, composting chamber, or similar). But to call it "dry user interface" and "urine diverting user interface", etc. would make it even more difficult for lay people to understand what we talk about. The user interface is what the user sees and what he will probably be most interested in - toilet is what the user understand best when describing this "place". However, the definition of a toilet as being only the user interface will probably be very difficult if not impossible to mainstream because this would somehow forbid terms like composting toilet. In order not to splitting hairs however, I would go ahead with your the suggestion of Elisabeth:

One source defines dry toilet as xxx. In common use though, other definitions also still exist side by side (provide some example references for where dry toilet is used to mean composting toilet, for example)."


Moreover I also think that it could be useful to create a wikipedia page on "non-sewered sanitation (systems)" which could then again be linked to the paragraph about "dry sanitation" in the "sanitation" page.

Cheers, Dorothee

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  • muench
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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 all,

I was thinking how to reply to Hajo's message and then Dorothee wrote something very similar to what I was going to write! Thank you. I think indeed a lot of confusion stems from the word "toilet". Colloquially, we use the word "toilet" for so many things: (1) for what we sit on, (2) the whole package e.g. "composting toilet", (3) the room (in Wikipedia there is a separate article for that: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toilet_(room) )

Then there are even more uses for the term "toilet", see here the disambiguation page:
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toilet_(disambiguation)

The Compendium had the idea of using a term of "user interface". I can see the logic behind it but I don't think it has cottoned on that much. After all, the Compendium has been out since 2008 (or?) and yet the term "user interface" is not widely used. Outside of WASH circles it is used even less for toilets. Most people only know it with respect to computing: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User_interface

I think more common is to simply say: "what kind of pedestal is it? Is it a pedestal or a squatting toilet?", rather than saying "what is the user interface?".

Also, even in the Compendium itself, they didn't stick to their own convention. Rather than calling it "dry toilet", they should have called it "Non-flush user interface". This is the schematic that goes with "dry toilet" in the Compendium:


Source: ecompendium.sswm.info/sanitation-technol...-toilet?group_code=u

Even more confusing is that they call this a UDDT:


Source: ecompendium.sswm.info/sanitation-technol...et-uddt?group_code=u

In my opinion they should not even used the word "toilet" here (going by their logic) but calling it "urine-diverting non-flush user interface".

Anyhow, yesterday, after reading Lukas' response and after thinking more about it, I did quite an overhaul of the Wikipedia dry toilet page. Please take another look and tell me if it's good like this:
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dry_toilet

I've tried to make it clear that there is the Compendium definition on the one hand; and then colloquial uses of the term on the other hand.

Terminology [edit | edit source]
One important source states that the term "dry toilet" should only refer to the "user interface" and not the subsequent storage and treatment steps.[1] However, in the WASH sector, the term "dry toilet" is still used differently by different people. It often includes also the storage and treatment steps. For example, it is common that the term "dry toilet" is used to refer specifically to a urine-diverting dry toilet or a composting toilet.[3][4][5]

People also use the term to refer to a pit latrine without a water seal even though the pit of a pit latrine is not usually dry. The pit can become very wet 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 even discard greywater (from showering) into the same pit.[citation needed]

Some publications use the term "dry sanitation" to denote a system that includes dry toilets (in particular urine-diverting dry toilets) connected to a system to manage the excreta.[3][5] However, this term is not in widespread use nowadays, and might rather be replaced with "non sewer-based sanitation" or "non-sewered sanitation" (see also fecal sludge management).[citation needed]


I think it's great when the forum discussion leads to improved content on Wikipedia articles, e.g. because it makes me realise what is confusing. I always have the problem though that I should not write what I think is correct but I should write about what certain publications have said, i.e. everything should have a reference. But this reference does not always exist.... So if you can help with the citations needed, please go ahead. Or write a publication which we can later cite on Wikipedia! :-)

Regards,
Elisabeth

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  • 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?

Dear all,
Elisabeth, I feel you got entangled a bit in your own arguments, let me try and help...;)

‘Toilet’ can mean (1) for what we sit on, (2) the whole package e.g. "composting toilet", (3) the room, as also indicated by en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toilet_(disambiguation). You just have to make clear what you talk of because we will never be able to reduce it to one interpretation.

We need to introduce a new term ‘(user) interface’ when we want to make clear that we only talk of the ‘thing we sit on’ (and not of the room or the substructure = containment) and defining whether it flushes or not.

'Squatting toilet’ should never be the answer to the question ‘what pedestal is it?’ A pedestal is something upright, supporting something else (see all English dictionaries).

The Compendium can call it ‘dry toilet’ or ‘non-flush toilet’ or ‘non-flush user interface’. The first could be the short term once you are sure everybody knows what you talk of, the second the explanation if you want to make sure everybody understands it the same way and the third is the very technical description.

'Urine-diverting dry toilet’ is correct (although originally the second ‘D’ was ‘de-hydrating’) because ‘toilet’ is equal ‘user interface’ is equal ‘what we sit on’ (see (1) above).

I would like us to return ‘translating’ UDDT as ‘urine-diversion de-hydrating toilet’ because the UDDT is a ‘dry toilet’ not because of de-hydrating the faeces but because of not using a flush. Like a compost toilet is a dry toilet (if it does not use a flush) but the faeces are not dry/dried... and a pit latrine is a dry toilet (if it does not use pour flush and water seal) even when the pit is wet from urine, grey-water and/or ground-water. For 'dry' not the containment matters but the interface. And to explain this we need the different terms 'interface' and 'containment' and cannot call it 'toilet' only.

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?

A riddle:

A recent survey carried out by LWSC shows that 90% of Lusaka residents use on-site sanitation facilities, consisting of septic tanks (22%), pour flush latrines (10%), improved pit latrines (50%), and traditional latrines (8%). Only 9% of households are connected to a sewer and the remaining 1% defecate in the open. (total = 100%)

Who finds the fault?
Unfortunately the winner cannot win a prize money but only fame... :dry:


I think I withdraw my 'riddle' because I have to correct my own understanding of the term 'pour flush latrine'. I was of the opinion that the term covers any pour flush toilet whether connected to septic, sewer or pit and therefore should not be in this 'statistic'. Discussions with colleagues have convinced me that 'pour flush latrine' is a 'pour flush interface' connected only to a 'latrine pit containment'. Pour flush connected to septic fall under 'septic', those connected to sewer fall under 'sewer'. Sorry for any confusion caused, my error!


ciao
Hajo

We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.
Albert Einstein
Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex... It takes a touch of a genius - and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.
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Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler. :-)
Albert Einstein
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