Operating costs of dry sanitation (UDDTs) - and is 5% of household income a reasonable target?

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Operating costs of dry sanitation (UDDTs) - and is 5% of household income a reasonable target?

Note by moderator (EvM): this discussion began in a different thread ( forum.susana.org/forum/categories/139-ge...mit=12&start=24#5553 ) but has been moved to here so that it doesn't get lost in the other thread.

Dear Elisabeth, dear all,

Thank you for reminding about that post that I published last year! Of course, five cents per user per day are way too high. From my experience in Adjumani, I would say even 2 cents are very much on the high side as explained in that post. At one cent per user per day, I can see low income people who are staying in a town start thinking about the possibility of acquiring a toilet. These people generally like the idea of a toilet - perceived costs are the problem.

It's true, the Gates Foundation has kicked off a process of rethinking the toilet with their RTTC, and that's very positive. But at 5 cents per user per day, they'll end up building something for the well-to-do. Maybe, they are speculating on economies of scale in the long run in order to reduce costs, or they are willing to massively subsidise the toilets they intend to construct for the poor (which is a very big risk in itself). Otherwise they ought to rethink costs.

In the case of the low cost toilets of Adjumani, I've given some clues about how I've reached our figure (less than 2 cents per user per day - assume a 10 year life span, 5% interest on capital, and five users). If users can do without buying toilet paper (what low income people usually do), then operational costs should be negligible at least in the setting of Adjumani - that is until a major component needs replacement, like a plastic part (the reed mat door of our second low cost toilet will, of course, need replacement at some time). I would hope that this doesn't happen within the assumed life span of 10 years.

In Adjumani, in most of the town areas, the local composting facility is picking up both the solids and the liquids from ecosan toilets free of charge if requested to do so. It is using the solids in compost making and selling the liquids as fertiliser. So, there are almost no charges, too, in terms of collection and disposal/utilization.

Concerning capital costs, we found that the types of construction materials are the decisive factor. So, iron and cement are discouraged and clay or loam, preferably unburnt, is encouraged in order to minimise costs.

So, 2 cents are already achievable - and I am sure there are many more examples. Why is the BMGF not trying to beat that figure?

Regards to everybody,

Hanns-Andre

Hanns-Andre Pitot
M.Eng. Environmental Pollution Control
presently in Seesen, Germany
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Re: RTTC cost calculation: including capital costs?

Dear Hanns-Andre,

it would be interesting to know some details of your calc.
Operational costs / year in special. The picture you posted makes me wonder how this can be done with U$ 180. Must be a special situation without labor?

Thanks for the information.

Yours
Christoph
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Re: RTTC cost calculation: including capital costs?

Dear Christoph,

what labor costs are u thinking of? If people are cleaning their own toilets, I don't think that is considered a cost.

I would agree that a ball park figure for operation and maintenance of 10% of the capital investment per year is way too high with regards to private ecosan toilets. That figure of 10% per year would actually mean that maintenance costs would be a high as capital costs over a 10 year life span - in my view a completely ridiculous assumption.

H-A

Hanns-Andre Pitot
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Re: RTTC cost calculation: including capital costs?

Dear Hans – Andre,
I like this discussion very much as we are discussing one of my main concerns when using numbers…the comparability. I would like to explain my point a bit (and I apologize to Jürgen when this post gets to long).
We did UDDT in the Cusco, Peru region using just local material, just an impression in these two pictures.






The only costs are piping (PVC) and the insert, the urinal and the toilet seat.




Total cost about U$ 100. No operational costs. (Case 1)
We could bring down these costs by substitution of the insert

By a funnel





So we are talking about U$ 50. (Case 2)

Now we come to the city…asentamiento of Lima but as well Amazon region smaller settlement close to a city.
The same layout but construction with bricks, the people are not able to do the brick work. The people to the superstructure as they choose to do. Costs of the double vault about, insert, urinal, piping about U$ 460 (case 3),




if a simple superstructure has to be added as the people are not able to do it on their own + U$ 230 (case 4).



And for a comparison I added the picture you posted (complete brick construction) and adapted it to our cost base in Peru, it would have the highest cost of all solutions, about U$ 860 (case 5).
The following table gives the base for the 5 cases.




When there is room to bury the dried feces and the people do it on their own all these examples stop here. But the typical point is that people do not like to handle their feces and the result might look like this.



Therefore I think we have to calculate a service model. A simple service would be to hire someone to clean out the chamber. I added this cost to all cases, my cost base has been 22 U$/toilet, year.



Up to this point we are comparing solutions for the exact same sanitation quality (the same technology UD double vault bench) for the user in 1 country!



Depending on the standpoint of view and method used the result ranges from 0,32 Cent/use to 5,81 Cent/use. Therefore again I would like to stress the importance of a clear explanation for the base used.
To do it right and to come to the real costs of sanitation implementation and to be able to compare it to a centralized sanitation system, we would have to add a water connection, the cost of water and the cost for educational activities. This adds up easily 3-4 Cent/per use.

I hope these figures did clarify a bit.

A good weekend

Christoph
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Re: RTTC cost calculation: including capital costs?

Dear Christopher,

Thanks so much for this very detailed, picture supported post, which I have read with great interest. Of course, costs vary very much depending on the setting, and that ought to be documented. I think there are several points that I would like to make:
- Some more about the setting in Adjumani,
- Some more details about the assumptions in my calculation,
- Attitudes about human excrements.

You were talking about traditional construction in Peru, without giving details (it looks like stone). In Adjumani, bricks either burnt or unburnt, ARE the traditional way of construction. Many people first burn bricks in their own garden before they build a house. Of course, the quality is low, but the prices are also low. In addition, most people know how to build a pit latrine, and they tend to build it themselves. That is probably the main reason why that toilet is so popular in Adjumani (with more that 80% of all toilets being basic pit latrines).

In our low cost UDDT model, we used burnt bricks for better durability, and we used cement mortar in the understructure, mud mortar in the superstructure, and ferrocement for the covers. I also assumed that the whole toilet is built by trained craftspeople for better comparability. In addition to the construction of the toilet, there are, of course, also the expenses for the jerry cans for urine storage, possibly a toilet brush, a bucket for ash, or a hand washing basin, etc. (water is usually coming from a hand pumped borehole, more recently also from yard taps). All of that could add up to less than 200 Euro, or 260 dollars. Other costs are assumed negligible. If you do the calculation (at 5%, 10 years, 5 users), it should come out to less than 2 cents (US) per person per day.

Attitudes towards excrements vary widely, even within Uganda itself. In Adjumani, residents are assumed to empty their toilets themselves, and as I was mentioning, either the material is used on site, or it is picked up by the composting facility free of charge. I have even heard of at least one case where the owner of a toilet has sold the contents of his toilet to a farmer (almost everybody in Adjumani is a farmer in some way or another). So, it is dangerous to view things from the usually fecophobic perspective of the West. In Northern Uganda, people are usually not particularly fecophobic, even though not particularly fecophilic either, whereas in the South, they seem to be more on the fecophobic side. Whether this is because of a stronger western influence in the South, I don't know.

Overall, Adjumani probably had a rather conducive environment for ecosan promotion, and that certainly is one of the reasons for our relative success with ecosan promotion in that town. On the other hand, I think the setting was very much average at least for Northern Uganda, so that the cost figures are probably typical for small towns in the region. Larger towns would need a separate investigation. And then, ok, we need to clearly state the assumptions made in cost calculations.

Thanks again,

Hanns-Andre

Hanns-Andre Pitot
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Re: RTTC cost calculation: including capital costs?

To Hanns-Andre and others,

in the Andean region the typical material is adobe bricks.
The example between Uganda and Peru with the same material highlights as well the problems of generalized costs.
I think for the sake of comparability we should always consider a value for the maintenance. When the person does it on her own ...ok but this should not be considered as the regular case, as it might lead to failure of the system. And focusing on dense urban areas there is no way besides a service model.

Christoph

P.S. thanks for the flowers, the pictures cost me some trying to put them up :blink:
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Re: RTTC cost calculation: including capital costs?

Dear Christoph, dear all,

I wouldn't give up so easily, Christoph! I think using a similar construction material is already a good basis for comparison. But isn't the important point here that 5 cents per user per day is simply too high as a target? In both of our examples, what we consider to be low cost is less or around 2 cents. And I would disagree to include all kinds of costs like water supply (for a dry toilet!) or dissemination - these are costs not seen by the users!

By the way, in the Adjumani example, the figure comes out 1.84 cents! I have no problem if you call it two cents :). Of course, emptying not included. This would be adding about 2 dollars per year in terms of yearly costs. But I am sure that among low income people very few would ever think of spending that money.

Another issue would be to include toilet paper in the operating costs. That's a real issue for many, since good a replacement may a lot of times not be available. That comes out to at least 3 cents per user per day! More than the toilet itself! And it explains why TP is so unpopular among the poor. Ok, if we add the two together (2 + 3), we actually get 5 cents per day. Maybe that's what is meant by the Gates Foundation?

Cheers, H-A

Hanns-Andre Pitot
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Re: RTTC cost calculation: including capital costs?

Dear Hanns Andre,

even in the light of maybe causing a discussion I would like to ask something. Do you really think 5 Cent/use is too high? We should limit us to situations in dense urban areas, as rural areas do have other possibilities than urban areas, therefore we should agree that a service model is necessary.

a) We should “invest” in the poor areas the same amount as we do in the richer areas. So if a sewer and a treatment plant has a cost of let’s say 100 U$/person, this should be invested as well in offsite sanitation. So this value could be subtracted of the cost for the family, even though it is there for an economic comparison.

b) There is a number which estimates the “bearable” cost for water and sanitation in about 5% of the family income.

A cost / use of 5 Cent/use would be for a family of 5 persons (5*3*30/100) 4,5 U$/family,month. If we say that the cost for a family should not be higher than 5% of the family income and we see that the cost for sanitation might be (roughly – depending case to case) in 50% of the cost for water and sanitation, in this example the family income would have to be higher than 180 U$/month. The determination of the hight of the family income calcs are based on another large issue (not discussed in this post).

I would apply a 20% percentile of all incomes as a base. People who have less should apply for a specific aid. But for the rest I would think that the donation or payment by the government has to guarantee, that the 5% limit for water and sanitation is not passed or…in this example if the 20% percentile family income is below 180 U$ the government has to put money to bring down investment costs, pay part of the operational costs or both.

Let’s keep thinking. Did I express myself clearly?

Christoph
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Christoph, it looks as though you are really supportive of the poor, but things don't quite work out that way.

Concerning your question and your assumption: Yes, of course I think 5 cents per user per day are too high for those with very low income - I think I made it clear in my 1st post. I was even suggesting to target one cent per user per day. And no, I don't agree that everybody has to have the same invested in his/her sanitation facilities. Let me try to explain:

I am working with a colleague here in Moroto, Uganda who is earning about 2 dollars a day. He is the foreman of the so-called road gang, which is maintaining roads. In addition, he is doing work in water supply and replaces the water officer of the municipality when he is not in the office. He doesn't care what toilets the rich and well-to-do (people like me) use, as long as his toilet works out for him (at the moment he is sharing a toilet with his neighbours, probably a pit latrine). He thinks that 2 cents per day for the toilet can work for him, and that 5 cents are really too high. And he doesn't want to be dependant on government programmes to be able to afford his toilet, with all the bureaucracy and corruption that this may entail. Of course, 2 cents per day per user may result in about 10 cents per day if you have a family, and that's 5% of 2 dollars a day.

Is it possible to reach these 2 cents per user per day? Of course, it is. I think the toilet we constructed in Adjumani is showing the way, but I am still seeing a lot of possibilities for further cost reduction. And I am sure that adobe as a construction material is a good idea in that regard - your own figures are supporting that point of view.

And then, we need to tackle that issue of the costs of TP! Suitable plants or trees, where they are available, would be one way of solving the problem. Then, there is the use of (a little) water for anal cleaning, so that I would suggest that toilets should be designed for washers as a matter of principle. It's something we haven't really considered, when I was in Adjumani.

And when it comes to servicing, I would agree, that in a city environment, some kind of servicing costs will be arising, more than in Adjumani, where the composting facility is offering free collections. But then, if excrements can be turned into saleable products, like compost, sales of these products can help reduce the servicing costs. So, it should not be very dramatic and still fit into the 2 cents per day at least here in Uganda. But that would certainly depend on the situation.

To return to the government programmes: As you may have heard, in India, the concept of CLTS - Community-Led Total Sanitation has arisen - specifically as a response to large government programs of constructing toilets for the poor, programs that have consistently failed. One of the demands of CLTS is that people come up for the costs of their toilets themselves. I would totally agree with that and suggest to add an aspect of resource recovery - for both economic and environmental reasons.

But I am not completely against government subsidies. In Adjumani, we had a small 'tax' called sanitation levy on the fees of piped water (5%), which we used to buy the components used to divert the urine in UDDTs (the so-called ecopans and the piping). Everybody who is constructing an ecosan toilet is entitled to get these components for free. The reason we were doing that was more for practical reasons in order to make these components available than to specifically support the poor. But it was helping, and the price of constructing an ecosan toilet was reduced by 10 to 20% in that way.

The sanitation levy was also meant to buy compost for the purpose of town beautification as they call it - planting of trees and ornamentals in town. That was also meant to stabilise the composting activity economically, which is run as a business - admittedly with still quite some challenges.

But I think I now have written enough, and I hope my point is becoming clear!

Greetings, H-A

Hanns-Andre Pitot
M.Eng. Environmental Pollution Control
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Re: RTTC cost calculation: including capital costs?

PS:
TP = toilet paper

Hanns-Andre Pitot
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Re: RTTC cost calculation: including capital costs?

Dear H-A,

a really interesting discussion.
I don´t agree with you on some aspects which I would like to point out.

The 5 Cent issue…obviously this depends on the country, but from my point of view a family income of 180 U$ /month is not totally out of order. But more important.. do you agree on the 5% limit idea?

I do see a problem with lower costs when you have to have a service model and I do have the impression we differ on that point. You seem to have a strong focus on constructing the toilet (self- cleaning by the user) while I do not trust the user and have my focus on a guarantee for a long term operation.

When your neighbor is an example for the below 20% percentile, the government would have to support the toilet operation or implementation to get to …2 U$/d * 22 d/month /5% =2,2 Cent/use (without bureaucracy). On the other hand I would not like to give “free” sanitation for everybody when they can afford sanitation because this is money the really poor people could not have access to. Therefore it is important where to draw the line of poverty which needs specific support.

Your point

But then, if excrements can be turned into saleable products, like compost, sales of these products can help reduce the servicing costs.

Is an aspect we strongly differ. I believe that a reuse aspect should not be linked to a sanitation aspect. If it is possible great, but if not.. sanitation should be the priority, so one should not count on the sale aspect.
And now CLTS – hmmm…. I am not very fond of CLTS but I admit, I don´t have practical experience as it is not an issue here in LA.
About the government contribution. I think it should be for onsite sanitation (at least) be the same amount/ pe. as for centralized sanitation.

See you
Christoph
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Re: RTTC cost calculation: including capital costs?

Christoph,

interesting indeed! And it does look as though we disagree on some points.

But when it comes to that 5% figure, it seems to me that it IS a useful measure for what people can pay for sanitation. - But to me, that would rather be a reason to try especially hard to find a technical solution that fits the 5% figure even for the very poor before thinking of government support. Let me try to explain!

Here in Uganda, those who earn around or less than 2 dollars a day are not a lower percentile - it's the majority. Even schoolteachers or policemen are not earning more than around 4 dollars a day! So, if a technology is to be successful, it has to fit these earnings, otherwise you are predetermining large scale government intervention.

What we are really talking about here in Uganda, however, would be donor interventions - the government wouldn't make that kind of money available for sanitation. It's more interested in roads or fighter jets (yes, there is money for that, here in Uganda)! So, either we develop a technology that fits the 5% of earnings for the majority of the population, and that would be 1 to 2 cents per day per user, or we are pre-programming long term donor interventions. So, in my view, not a good prospect for the Gates Foundation, if they stick to their 5 cents figure! Let alone sustainability in terms of user acceptance!

That might, however, be a bit different in Latin America, where costs and income levels seem to be a bit higher.

And when it comes to the costs of servicing, it really depends on the resources you have available. Lack of funds promotes creativity, and that is where this feature of resource recovery of ecosan toilets can come very handy. There are some examples of successes in that regard: In Nairobi, specifically in African's largest slum Kibera, they are apparently operating very many public ecosan toilets (I don't remember the figure), and producing and selling compost in a cost covering way.

Ok, there are not many success stories like that, and even in Adjumani, we were experiencing many challenges, but if you don't try, you'll never succeed!

Looking forward to see your response, H-A

Hanns-Andre Pitot
M.Eng. Environmental Pollution Control
presently in Seesen, Germany
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