German Toilet Organization’s eCompendium on Water Supply Technologies in Emergencies

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  • campbelldb
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  • Dan Campbell, WASH knowledge management specialist
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German Toilet Organization’s eCompendium on Water Supply Technologies in Emergencies

Dear Colleagues:

A new and key emergency WASH resource:

German Toilet Organization: eCompendium on Water Supply Technologies in Emergencies, 2021 .

The eCompendium is a comprehensive and structured online capacity development and decision support tool that allows real time filtering and configuration of water supply solutions in emergency settings.

It provides detailed information on key decision criteria for all tried and tested emergency water supply technologies, information on cross-cutting issues, relevant to come up with informed water supply technology decisions in emergencies.

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Note by moderator: The "eCompendium of Sanitation Technologies in Emergencies" was published in 2018 and is available here:
forum.susana.org/67-challenging-environm...ogies-in-emergencies
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  • caetano
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  • Caetano Dorea is an Associate Professor at the University of Victoria where he leads the Public Health & Environmental Engineering (PH2E) Lab, Canada’s only research group primarily dedicated to water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH). His interests and expertise are at the crossroads of environmental and public health engineering.
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Re: German Toilet Organization’s eCompendium on Water Supply Technologies in Emergencies

Thanks for the post.
This is an interesting resource and one can see that they have definitely gone for listing many types of options available. This is a great initiative and awesome to see the one stop shop approach. However, I couldn't help but feel slightly disappointed from my first impressions from looking at the "assisted sedimentation" tab:
- For example, when considering surface water treatment with assisted sedimentation (i.e. coagulation/flocculation) I found the process is described almost as if I was reading about non-emergency contexts (got the same feeling from other water treatment option descriptions). The diagram shown has a sludge thickening and recirculation system... never seen one of those in an emergency! Maybe there is a disclaimer or something at the beginning of the resource explaining that the figures are not representative of emergencies. I may have missed that, but who reads instructions anyway? :-)
- Also noticeable is that moringa-based natural coagulants are casually mentioned as if they were easy to find and use in an emergency. This seems a bit (more like VERY) misleading.
- "Another option that saves space and equipment in an emergency is an upflow clarifier that requires only one tank. " Wow... that ship has sailed a long time ago, but always good to see the Clarifer mentioned!
Sorry, not here to just poke holes at the one part I looked at in detail. However, there are similar issues in other parts (e.g. ozonation is not a "tried and tested" technology for emergencies). It's been a while since there has been any new resources like this on emergency water supply, but it seems like this version was a missed opportunity. The core audience of humanitarian workers is not well served by it. They can't be, with misleading and outdated information (including some factual errors). I think the sector has a lot of new learnings, but these aren't really captured in the eCompendium.
Caetano
University of Victoria
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  • BushProof
  • Water supply and sanitation specialist. 24 years experience in the design and implementation of water & sanitation projects (largely in emergencies), 14 years experience delivering practical training in water & sanitation. Co-founder of BushProof, a business based in Madagascar which is involved in water supply provision.
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Re: German Toilet Organization’s eCompendium on Water Supply Technologies in Emergencies

Hi

Thanks for the posts. I am one of the contributors for some of the technical content of the compendium, so I thought I'd share some thoughts. 

First off about any factual errors, I'm all for discussing/debating those (and correcting where needed), so please do list these out and we can address them. The eCompendium is going to be a living document, so this should be possible going forward.

Regarding your comments, I think the main issue is how we define an 'emergency' - actually this was the same question that we have grappled with throughout the process, and something that the peer reviewers were also raising. I think people often think of 'emergency' water supply and treatment as being the related to refugee camps and centralised water treatment, and this is the typical mental picture we have. But in reality we have so many different contexts in which emergencies happen, for example acute to protracted crises, or urban vs rural ones, and the best way to respond to the context will change. So for the Moringa example, if we define emergency as only being refugee camps with centralised treatment, then yes your point about Moringa is correct, but if you consider a protracted crisis in a rural area with a dispersed population where Moringa is already growing in the environment, then definitely something to consider (as I'd tried to done one time in South Sudan). Actually in that context I think the issue wasn't that the idea was bad or not suitable - I believe it was - it was more that the NGOs and donors were not used to thinking outside the box, and the cynical part of me also thinks perhaps because Moringa wouldn't cost much money to implement, it wasn't therefore interesting (head office still needs to be financed after all...). In the end I think they went for handpumps and boreholes, even though the evidence that at the time was that the drilling contractors were not producing good boreholes (dry boreholes, adding in water for 'pump tests' etc) and that pumps were not working. Anyway, it's just to say that context is everything, and I think sometimes we WASH people need to widen our scope and think about alternative options, not just doing what we've always been used to doing.

For the drawings, they are not meant to cover all or the best options, but are meant only as an example. You might have a point re. the recirculation system though - while that may be the case in an existing treatment plant that's being rehabilitated (e.g. in Zimbabwe there were many such plants that were repaired, but I can't remember if they had that element to be honest) it might not be the most common example and maybe another drawing would have been better.

Anyway overall the Compendium was an effort to give a higher level overview of options that might be considered for a range of contexts, in order to highlight some options that someone might not have considered that could work in their particular context. While we tried to squeeze in as much practical tips as possible, in the end we couldn't provide the level of detail required to explain how exactly something be used or installed - there simply isn't the space for that. 

Hope this helps!

Cheers

Eric
Water & Sanitation Consultant
BushProof – Practical water supply solutions for remote & difficult environments
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