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


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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?

hello Elisabeth,

I guess this definition may always stay open for discussion. A dry toilet could be understood as one which does not use water for flushing, neither full flush, nor low flush, nor pour flush. Thus a pit latrine under this definition would be considered a 'dry' toilet although .... what about a pit latrine equipped with a SATO pan which is cleaned with minimal water (0.5L they say): dry or wet toilet? And anyway the pit is never dry, at least urine goes into it, probably also grey water, surface water, ground water...

But one can also understand a 'dry' toilet as a toilet where the faeces stay completely dry, the classical case of UDDT. Where I disagree that a compost toilet can/must be a 'dry' toilet. Composting requires moisture, thus if the composting takes place on-site, the containment cannot be dry, otherwise it is not composting. I think we had the discussion before and I thought we had agreed that UDDTs are not composting toilets but de-hydrating toilets... as their name says. And vermi-composting toilets can actually be built with full, low or pour flush.

Therefore, if someone uses the term 'dry toilet' or 'dry sanitation' it should always come at first use with a short explanation whether it is a system without any flush or a system with a dry faeces containment avoiding any misunderstanding.

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  • DavidAlan
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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?

I cannot imagine anybody calling any form of pit latrine a 'dry toilet'.

For me, and I know I am a zealot, the only dry toilet is one where the the faecal matter is kept dry, i.e. not mixed at source with urine or wash water, at any stage of its composting process.

So, to answer your question, when I hear the term "dry toilet" or dry sanitation", a pit toilet never crosses my mind.

Hope this helps.
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  • Elisabeth
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When you hear the term "dry toilet" or "dry sanitation": does that include a pit latrine in your mind or not?

I would like to ask you all this simple question: "When you hear the term "dry toilet" or "dry sanitation": does that include a pit latrine in your mind or not?"

In my mind, a pit latrine might not really belong into the category of dry sanitation which is in most publications meant to refer to either UDDTs or composting toilets. But perhaps this is just my opinion/feeling. Do we have any publications that talk about this?

Looking at the Eawag-Sandec compendium, it is clear that according to their definition, a simple pit latrine does belong to the dry toilet category whereas a pour flush latrine does not. This is the definition (also the first sentense of the Wikipedia article on dry toilets): "A dry toilet is a toilet that operates without flush water, unlike a flush toilet."

And is dry sanitation equal to dry toilet? At the moment in Wikipedia, the term dry sanitation redirects to dry toilet (I added this redirect yesterday). Should there ultimately rather be a separate Wikipedia article on dry sanitation?

Why am I asking? It's because I want to get the Wikipedia article about dry toilets just right:

I recently did some work on it (prompted by some edits by Chris Canaday) to explain this issue of pit latrine belonging in the dry toilet category or not but I would need further references. I have used a paper by Christoph Platzer from 2008 to support my statement that many people in the sector use the term "dry sanitation" to mean NOT pit latrine but UDDT. But of course only citing this one paper is not sufficient.

So I am asking for your help to get this wording right (go to here to see it with the hyperlinks: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dry_toilet#Terminology ):

Terminology [edit | edit source]
In the WASH sector, the term "dry toilet" is used differently by different people. 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.[citation needed][3] Pit latrines without a water seal also fall under the category "dry toilet". However the pits can become much wetter than the collection container of other types of dry toilet 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 discard greywater (from showering) into the same pit.[citation needed]

Do you agree with these statements? If yes, which other references could be cited? If not, how should it be worded differently?

Dr. Elisabeth von Muench
Freelance consultant on environmental and climate projects
Located in Ulm, Germany
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