Tools for the generation of sanitation systems considering novel technology options and for the quantification of nutrient, water, and total solid balances at the scale of an urban setting

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  • Heiner
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  • I am a retired organic farmer and interested in nutrient cycles. As an volunteer I now travel mainly to poor countries and together with locals I would like to find new ways of sustainable agriculture. This is beyond the regulations of IFOAM.
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Re: Tools for the generation of sanitation systems considering novel technology options and for the quantification of nutrient, water, and total solid balances at the scale of an urban setting

Dear Dorothee,

thanks for your reply! Please keep me informed if you get in contact with the FibL guys. I know within the organic scene is quite a strong resistance to this topic. Although they all talk about "closing the loop". But in their opinion they close the loop by composting the shit of the cows. It is a bit ridiculous when you balance the production of a farm. But the organic food ist branded and labled as "clean food" and all the consultants and companies who earn millions of euros every year have no interest nor understanding in nutrient circles as they exist in nature.
Urs Niggli, the former and now retired Director, was a bit different and I wonder who will answer you now........

After I receive my second  shot (in June) I'll go to Finizio guys and we have a lot to talk. You mentioned the losses of the process.....

What came up in my mind by a TV report and discussion (scobel) ist the importance of fungi in the process of composting feces. I had a short exchange with an scientist in Germany. They work hard on it and have good results on decomposing pharmaceuticals and start even now on plastic. And if the temperature in this process is high enough for a short time, even the beloved ascaris might have a hard time.

Today there was an article in the "Süddeutsche Zeitung" about a new UN report on increasing numbers of "Dead Zones" in the oceans due to the freight of nitrogen and phosphorous. So we all know what to do and it is a poor reference for our societies. Flying to the mars and destroying our oceans at the same time.

Have a good day,
Heiner
Heiner, the old farmer.....

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  • dorothee.spuhler
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Re: Tools for the generation of sanitation systems considering novel technology options and for the quantification of nutrient, water, and total solid balances at the scale of an urban setting

Dear Heiner
Thank you for your interest!
I have some contact at FIBL but never talked to them about my thesis, it is on my to do list now!
Regarding the question of for the finizio Pilotanlage: I would expect quite some air losses of nitrogen and total solids but good recovery of the rest. Did you do any tests so far?
I would be very intersted to learn more about the process!
Dorothee
WG1 Co-lead
Developing methods and tools to support strategic planning for sustainable sanitation. Particular interested in novel technologies contributing to more inclusive and circular sanitation. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Re: Tools for the generation of sanitation systems considering novel technology options and for the quantification of nutrient, water, and total solid balances at the scale of an urban setting

Hi Elisabeth

In my tool I do not look at GIS data. Population density can be considered but only aggregarted over the whole case being looked at (e.g. the min, max, mean population in a sector of a city). Also the distances between the dwelling can be considered in the same way. But this means that the corresponding performance data for the technologies being looked at have to be known. Currently, we did not include these data because we had struggles to define generic technology performance for a certain population density. We do however always consider slope, but only for the conveyance technologies as there we have the date.
And the tool is looks at four aspects:
1) how appropriate are different technologies for the case at hand based on a number of criteria (that can be expanded as mentioned above)
2) what system configurations can be derived from and what type of systems show high appropriateness
2) what is the resource efficiency of the tools in terms of water, nutrients, energy, organics
The tool does not look at service models for operation and maintenance or logistics!
Transport is only considered by the different conveyance technologies (piped, motorized, human-powered, etc.) and their appropriateness. explicit spatial distances are not considered.

The main aim is to enable planners to consider a large and diverse range of conventional and novel technology options and to systematically and transparently compare their local appropriateness in order to have good set of e.g. three options to discuss with stakeholders in the framework of strategic planning (e.g. Sanitaiton21, CWIS). These three options then might be compared looking at different service models and financial arrangements as well as resource efficiency to find a good mix of options to fit to the city characteristics. The tool does by no mean replace a detailed feasibility study.

Does this answer your questions?

Dorothee
WG1 Co-lead
Developing methods and tools to support strategic planning for sustainable sanitation. Particular interested in novel technologies contributing to more inclusive and circular sanitation. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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  • Elisabeth
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Re: Tools for the generation of sanitation systems considering novel technology options and for the quantification of nutrient, water, and total solid balances at the scale of an urban setting

Hi Dorothee,

Thanks for your response which I am sure will be very useful for Sara's research in the other thread . I'll post there shortly to alert her to this one.

Just a small clarification question: It's still not clear to me if your tool includes population density, distances between dwellings, topography and elevation, i.e. the more GIS type information that will affect hydraulics and the infrastructure required for transport of wastewater by gravity.
I get the feeling that the tool focuses mainly on choosing the best treatment and reuse options but not so much on transport. Is that correct?

Regards,
Elisabeth
Dr. Elisabeth von Muench
Freelance consultant on environmental and climate projects
Located in Ulm, Germany
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  • dorothee.spuhler
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Re: Tools for the generation of sanitation systems considering novel technology options and for the quantification of nutrient, water, and total solid balances at the scale of an urban setting

Dear Elisabeth
Thank you for your post!
The tool uses a very large and diverse range of sanitation technologies to generate all valid system configuraitons including onsite, decentralized, centralized, and hybrid solutions. The idea behind is that there exist not one single best solutions, but that the appropriateness and sustainability of system depends always on the local context.
The way I most often used the tool was to take a number of non-negotiable pre-selection criteria (technical, social, enviornmental, instutional) to pre-select a set of locally appropriate systems which is diverse in order to reveal trade-offs regarding the negotiable criteria (those that depend on stakeholders' preferences). Sometimes, this set only included onsite, and decentralized solutions, but the most often it covered the full band width. Only sometimes the conventional sewer systems were filtered out because of water requirements, lack of capactiy for building and maintaining it, or lack of electricity for centralized treatment plant. But there exist also dry centralized systems such as for instance container-based sanitation. So I would need to understand your definition of "centralized" and "decentralized" to give you a better answer about "the most important criteria".
A colleague of mine estimated that we have a potential of 10% of decentralization in Switzerland and this is mainly in the rural areas. However, he looked at it from a purely financial point of view and used SBRs to model any decentralized solutions: www.researchgate.net/publication/3113127...al_economic_analysis
In a current project I am looking at in Geneva we do a multi-criteria sustainability evaluation of two scenarios, one onsite (urine seperation, vermi-composting) and one conventional.  There we see, that for different criteria, different scenarios are more performant. Criteria we look at are costs, but also resource recovery and emissions, storm-water management, amenity, heat island mitigation, and reconnecting citizens to their local environment. In many of these not-directly-monetary sustainability criteria, there is a reason to move towards decentralisation,
So my answer would be: The most important criteria to select between decentralized and centralized depends on the local conditions and the stakeholder preferences. What is important and what want people to look at. Then, I can give you a list of criteria that I found to have a impact on the higher appropriateness of either decentralized or centralized systems:
- Human capacity and resources for design, and operation and maintenance (monitoring)
- Frequency of operation and maintenance
- Water availability
- Fuel/electricity availability
- Space onsite/offsite
- End-user engagement

Another remark: when it comes to resource recovery: the most important factors to consider are source separation. Only then comes decentralization. What is important to avoid many treatment steps (with losses and degradation) being it onsite or offsite. But from a environmental impact point of view, if you manage to minimize emissions (including green house gases) onsite, it is better to also avoid transportation of any kind (piped or un-piped...)

Interested to read what you think about all that!
Dorothee
WG1 Co-lead
Developing methods and tools to support strategic planning for sustainable sanitation. Particular interested in novel technologies contributing to more inclusive and circular sanitation. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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  • Elisabeth
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Re: Tools for the generation of sanitation systems considering novel technology options and for the quantification of nutrient, water, and total solid balances at the scale of an urban setting

Hi Dorothee,

I was looking at a forum post from a couple of weeks ago and I am asking myself: Does your tool also help people who are researching this question:
" Between the extremes of centralised and decentralised systems. What should be the most important criteria for grouping cities and connecting them to a common wastewater treatment plant? "
See this post

I notice your tool talks about "urban setting". From that I am guessing you have not included factors related to population density and distances between dwellings? I.e. when considering if one or several wastewater treatment plants are better, then questions such as distance, topography, pumping requirements and so forth come into play. That probably requires a different tool than the one you have developed? If so, could you point Sara to the right tools or publications?

Thanks,
Elisabeth
Dr. Elisabeth von Muench
Freelance consultant on environmental and climate projects
Located in Ulm, Germany
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  • Elisabeth
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Re: Tools for the generation of sanitation systems considering novel technology options and for the quantification of nutrient, water, and total solid balances at the scale of an urban setting

Hi Dorothee,

Thanks for your reply from 11 November. And thank you for picking out some statements to be included in Wikipedia. I have now gone ahead and included two paragraphs from your journal paper into the Wikipedia article on sustainable sanitation:
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sustainable_sanita...of_resource_recovery

Happily, because your journal article has the licence CC-BY, I was allowed to simply do a copy & paste with attribution. Otherwise I would have had to paraphrase in order not to breach copyright.

And the Wikipedia article on sustainable sanitation is actually still rather weak and bland, so it could do with more beefing up. It also currently has low view rates (only about 20 views per day). This can be due to not enough other Wikipedia articles linking to it; and content being a bit weak and references not up to date (it's currently only using older references, apart from yours now).

So if anyone wants to help improve it, please speak up.

By the way, the World Toilet Day theme for 2020 was "sustainable sanitation and climate change" - interesting that this year they chose the term "sustainable sanitation" whereas in other years they just used sanitation. See also here: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Toilet_Day

Regards,
Elisabeth
Dr. Elisabeth von Muench
Freelance consultant on environmental and climate projects
Located in Ulm, Germany
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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  • HarryTams
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Re: Tools for the generation of sanitation systems considering novel technology options and for the quantification of nutrient, water, and total solid balances at the scale of an urban setting

Heiner
Regarding the link   finizio.de/pilotanlage/   . Wow! 
Thanks
Harry

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  • Heiner
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  • I am a retired organic farmer and interested in nutrient cycles. As an volunteer I now travel mainly to poor countries and together with locals I would like to find new ways of sustainable agriculture. This is beyond the regulations of IFOAM.
  • Posts: 77
  • Karma: 1
  • Likes received: 63

Re: Tools for the generation of sanitation systems considering novel technology options and for the quantification of nutrient, water, and total solid balances at the scale of an urban setting

Dear Dorothee,
thanks very much for sharing your work and information!! To me (not a real expert, I must admit..) it sounds like a very helpful tool for our efforts to improve things on the way to close the loop. More and more people at least understand the importance of CE and your work hopefully contributes to it.
I startet to read your thesis and if lucky will finish it in 2021.... If questions come up I let you know ;-)
I am very happy you have a focus on nitrogen, the most important nutrient we have to look after. And if we do not look after the biggest polluter for environmental damage. Relating to the question of Elisabeth and you answer I very much agree this is very difficult to monetarise but there is no time left to ignore.
I would have asked too...what about vermitechnology as is practised in lots of places and obviously a rising thing in in India. But you gave your answer.
Working for ETH you are not far away from FiBL.  Do you have any contact to them? And are they in a way interested in your work? I would appreciate very much cause their is a sort of arrogance in the organic scenery not to close the loop.  And I think we have to push from all sides.....
Last first question: what losses do you expect if the material of this dry toilet (faeces an sawdust or fine wood chips) is heated up to 70 degrees Celsius for one week?
 finizio.de/pilotanlage/  

Much success or you,

Heiner
Heiner, the old farmer.....
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  • dorothee.spuhler
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Re: Tools for the generation of sanitation systems considering novel technology options and for the quantification of nutrient, water, and total solid balances at the scale of an urban setting

Dear Elisabeth
 
Thank you for your questions.
Let me take it bottom-up
 
3) Financial values: Without looking in detail into the named publication and discussion, which is certainly interesting and valuable, my first quick answer would be:
I strongly believe in the multi-dimensionality of sustainable development as well as in value-based society rather than a money-based economy. Therefore, I have my doubts regarding conclusions that are drawn from solely financial assessment. However, I provide the amounts (volumes or masses) of phosphorus, nitrogen, total solids, and water that can be recovered at a city level. Taking some estimates of local market prices, these  amounts can quite easy be translated to financial value…
 
2) Inclusion/exclusion of technologies: The set of technologies which were considered are NOT meant to be comprehensive nor to provide some sort of expert selection of “good options”. The set of technologies was chosen regarding the two main criteria: do they help to illustrate the diversity of the option space (from a technology and system design point of view) and is data available. The first criteria was based on the fact, that we wanted to illustrate the method and what it can do. I would have loved to include more technologies but in the time I had, this was not possible. HOWEVER the model which I used is flexible to consider and technology and I am currently preparing an open source version of the algorithm as well as a editable technology library to adapt for one’s own purposes. It is still under development and the purpose of this raw models is really to be used by experts (a simplified web-application for capacity development is also under development) but you can always access it here:
github.com/santiago-sanitation-systems/Santiago.jl
github.com/santiago-sanitation-systems/S...n-technology-library
 
1) Wikipedia: This one could go into either one or the other Wikipedia article. I have a slight preference for the one on “sustainable sanitation” but this is probably already quite packed…. “reuse of excreta” for me is to narrow, I do look also on wet and centralized systems :
Based on our analysis, we developed five recommendations for the optimization of resource recovery: (i) prioritize short systems that close the loop at the lowest possible level; (ii) separate waste streams as much as possible, because this allows for higher recovery potentials; (iii) use storage and treatment technologies that contain the products as much as possible, avoid leaching technologies (e.g. single pits) and technologies with high risk of volatilization (e.g. drying beds); (iv) design sinks to optimise recovery and avoid disposal sinks; and (v) combine various reuse options for different side streams (e.g. urine diversion systems that combine reuse of urine and production of biofuel from faeces).” Spuhler et al. 2020, doi.org/10.1016/j.watres.2020.116281
 
By the way, my thesis is now also online (and open source):

Generation and evaluation of sanitation options for urban planning: systematic consideration of
technology innovations and sustainability criteria
, Dorothee Spuhler, 2020
doi.org/10.3929/ethz-b-000444234

To make urban water management more sustainable, many novel sanitation technologies and system configurations have been developed recently. Many of these innovations allow for resource recovery and reuse and are independent from energy, water, and sewer networks. This makes them more resilient to changing environmental and socio-demographic conditions and thus more appropriate for developing urban areas. But while novel technologies and systems potentially enhance sustainability, they also increase planning complexity: how can the different technologies be assembled into entire systems? How appropriate are the resulting systems for a given application case? And how can relevant sustainability indicators such as resource recovery and losses be quantified?
This thesis contributes with a theoretical description, implementation, and practical applications of methods for: (1) the generation of all valid system configurations from a set of potential technologies considering innovations; (2) the identification of a set of locally appropriate systems as an input into strategic planning using a structured decision-making approach; and (3) the ex-ante quantification of resource recovery potentials of entire systems consider.
The methods are generic to be applied to any case or (future) technology, flexible to fit into any international established planning procedures; automated to consider a diverse and large set of potential options; systematic to enhance transparency; and explicitly consider uncertainty related to technology implementation or the local context. Because one of the main challenges in practice is the lack of knowledge and data, especially for novel technologies, the methods are complemented with a technology library providing international data and expert knowledge to be matched to the local conditions. The practical experiences from six case studies showed that the approach allows the prioritisation of more appropriate and more resource efficient systems when strategically planning for sanitation improvements. As more technology and sanitation system options are
added to the already large portfolio, the methods presented in this thesis may become an essential tool for the putting SDG 6.2, 6.3 and SDG 11 into practice.

 
 
Thank you for your interest!
Dorothee
WG1 Co-lead
Developing methods and tools to support strategic planning for sustainable sanitation. Particular interested in novel technologies contributing to more inclusive and circular sanitation. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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  • Elisabeth
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Re: Tools for the generation of sanitation systems considering novel technology options and for the quantification of nutrient, water, and total solid balances at the scale of an urban setting

Thanks, Dorothee. It's great how you are sharing all this information from your PhD work. I am looking at it and am trying to get my head around how this could be utilised in a more practical sense for knowledge sharing. It comes across as rather abstract and theoretical but that's normal for a PhD! :-)

Some thoughts:
1) Is there anything in there that could be inserted into relevant Wikipedia articles? Which Wikipedia articles would be the most relevant? Maybe the ones on sustainable sanitation or reuse of excreta ?

2) I still find it a pity that vermifiltration is not included as one of the technologies (but vermicomposting is) - we talked about that earlier in this thread (see above). Was vermifiltration a technology that "almost" made it in or not by a long shot? Which are the "novel technologies" that you think are closest to being included in a future version (or by future users themselves)? See also here on the forum. 

3) Hajo and Heiner have recently been discussing with Alison and Adrian their perhaps pessimistic conclusion of their paper "A Review of the Financial Value of Faecal Sludge Reuse in Low-Income Countries". See here . Can your work shed any light on that issue? Or can your tool be used to investigate the financial value of faecal sludge reuse?

Regards,
Elisabeth 
Dr. Elisabeth von Muench
Freelance consultant on environmental and climate projects
Located in Ulm, Germany
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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  • dorothee.spuhler
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Re: Tools for the generation of sanitation systems considering novel technology options and for the quantification of nutrient, water, and total solid balances at the scale of an urban setting

Dear all
For some reasons, the article was behind a paywall. The problem has now been resolved and you can access the article directly here:
doi.org/10.1016/j.watres.2020.116281
I would be more than happy if you have questions or feedback :)
Dorothee
WG1 Co-lead
Developing methods and tools to support strategic planning for sustainable sanitation. Particular interested in novel technologies contributing to more inclusive and circular sanitation. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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