× This area is for The Sanitation Ladder: Next Steps discussion, part of the Thematic Discussion Series (TDS). More information on the organisation of this discussion can be found here: forum.susana.org/forum/categories/185-th...on-ladder-next-steps Previous threads relevant to the topic of the Sanitation Ladder have been moved to this category. All new threads for the thematic discussion will say "TDS" before the topic name.

TDS: First Thematic Discussion Series - The Sanitation Ladder: Next Steps


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  • Sowmya
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Re: TDS: First Thematic Discussion Series - The Sanitation Ladder: Next Steps

Dear All,

Please find below some inputs. I truly apologize to all SuSanA members, my inputs do tend to be discontinuous across the various discussion threads. Will try to do better in future.

1. On the functional sanitation ladder. Firstly, it is great. The most important achievement of the research paper is to bring about the shift in perspective from specific categories of technologies to the impact we want to achieve (making technology a tool to achieve the desired impact). I think the shift in perspective is huge and wow.

Suggestion regarding additional perspectives to be included in the functional sanitation ladder: The functional sanitation ladder focuses on two functions of sanitation viz., health protection and environment protection. The functional sanitation ladder is a huge shift to viewing sanitation from the perspective of desired impact (output and outcome). From a desired impact perspective, can we include the following dimensions: (a) sanitation economics, (b) technology availability --> usage --> realizing benefits, (c) enabling environment viz., legislation, IT, financing, etc., and (d) operating model for initial installation and O&M that can be used to provide last-mile connect for other SDGs. This could be extending the framework into viewing sanitation from a function-system-impact perspective. In this case, impact would include SDG targets relating to other sectors that are achieved (unlocking potential / realizing targets) by achieving sanitation targets.

Examples of perspectives in sanitation economics:

(a) cost effectiveness of sanitation technologies with and without budgetary constraints.

(b) Cost of inadequate sanitation: If we say that INR 3 trillion is GDP lost due to inadequate sanitation, how much of it is unlocking potential for that income and how much is unlocked immediately upon completing sanitation provision --> this is necessary for tracking that the expected economic benefits are also realized.

If the INR 3 trillion GDP lost due to inadequate sanitation includes lost tourism revenues, sanitation might not be the only factor inhibiting realization of the tourism revenues in which case, sanitation provision would be unlocking potential for those tourism revenues while other factors might have to be resolved for realizing those tourism revenues.

(c) Technology adoption in the context of sanitation economics: When sanitation adoption is very closely linked to user experience, should the sanitation ladder reflect the point that OD practitioners might develop a strong dislike for the idea of sanitation if their initial experience has not been good?

For instance, studies have found that, with first and often only experience of toilets being smelly public toilets, OD practitioners develop a strong dislike for indoor sanitation and emphatically opt-in for OD and, once that OD preference is set, it becomes very difficult to ask them to provide space within their house or small area adjoining the house for constructing toilets.

Between OD and unimproved, the user experience might not be an improvement or marginal. Therefore, should the cost of sanitation technologies include the opportunity cost / risk that people might not want to move up the sanitation ladder later on? Are there are any studies on costs (financial, time, effort) required, programmatic challenges and actual achievement (intra and amongst such programmes targeting fallback to OD) to bring OD practitioners back into the sanitation fold and move them up the sanitation ladder?

Costs of shifting from one technology to another: The superstructure cost is a significant component of the overall cost of a toilet (unless temporary structures are opted for). Once underground pits have been dug and the slab for the toilet receptacle has been put in place, the costs of transitioning (in case of brick-and-concrete superstructure) to the next rung of technology on the sanitation ladder might be expensive.

Cost of superstructure and building materials in sanitation economics: In sanitation technology assessment and sanitation economics, will we consider only cost of toilet /sanitation or would we include the economics of the superstructure (along with its technology assessment) and water consumption.

I need to check the TAF assessment tool on this point but will we consider the environmental impact of the construction materials used in the different models? For example, if a brick-and-concrete superstructure along with lower-rung technology can be more expensive than a higher rung sanitation solution and lower cost superstructure.

In the above cases, moving up the sanitation ladder is anyway required which means incurring further cost for changing technologies and, if it means overhaul, then the environmental cost of having put in brick and concrete and disposing it before end of useful life needs to be included.

Further, individual households may concern themselves only with their immediate priorities. Would the complete sanitation chain necessarily be a household's priority or consideration? What are the implications? Further, to complete sanitation chain, we will be incurring cost. If it is only temporary purpose, will a terracotta pit liner rungs (like concrete rungs used to line groundwells) be adequate?

Another reason for the question about superstructure is this: Concrete is expensive and we still have groundwells not having those rungs above the ground (women and children use rope and vessel to lift water instead of using pulley and, sometimes, women take one step inside the well for better access – when there is no pulley, the distance from body to rope is equal to the length of the hand held at an angle and this causes problems – and when the wells are not covered either, there is algae on the wells and the steps and it becomes worse during monsoons as the step can become slippery and some groundwells have one plank across on which women walk to the center of well for better access to lift up water).

Therefore, if we can save brick and concrete from toilets which are only temporary solutions, we could use it to put above-ground safety rungs for the groundwells and this is more important material use because we cannot put terracotta rungs for groundwells (as the rungs need to bear the weight of the person).

Costs of technology obsolescence: What is the total cost and over what time period for moving up the sanitation ladder after including technology obsolescence and overhaul cost at each stage?

Point relating to legislation refer to points raised in the functional ladder research paper viz., which technologies get approved etc., as well as would there be a benchmark linking cost-effectiveness of technologies to achieving the sanitation goals?

For instance, the Satopan offers a squatting toilet receptacle for US$1.50 and can be quickly installed (permanent installation). This means that the Satopan specifically removes the problems associated with toilet receptacle not attached to slab category in unimproved sanitation at the cost of $1.50 per unit for the toilet receptacle. Therefore, a whole category of unimproved sanitation has lower cost-effectiveness compared to the Satopan when $1.50 per unit for toilet receptacle is acceptable cost. We can argue that it may not be possible to use it in places where there is non-availability of skill required for constructing with concrete but workarounds are possible. In that case, is it alright to not have that sub-category of unimproved sanitation?

Which translates to: At some cost benchmark, technologies that have higher or equal cost and lower effectiveness would be removed? (This is the same as what happens when using cost-effectiveness ratios in health sector resource allocation – technologies in certain quadrants are no longer considered.)

Inclusion of indicators from user perspective: How much self-financing and co-financing is possible at each stage, actual uptake of toilet, actual uptake of related behavioural change (handwashing, O&M, contributing to reverse logistics required for nutrient reuse), qualitative user experience aspects (pride of ownership, feeling ownership and taking responsibility for O&M, priority in household spending pattern for initial toilet acquisition and later for O&M and avoiding repurposing the superstructure, other aspects).

Would health indicators include occupational safety and experience? For sanitation workers on the ground, how healthy is it, what is the health risk in case of disease outbreak (such as, Ebola), how good is the experience (facing bad odour on an everyday basis if they clean septic tanks as an occupation, for instance).

In (b) above (viz., technology availability --> usage --> realizing benefits), realizing benefits include the following: did school enrolment and attendance actually increase, did disease incidence decrease to the extent anticipated, did women’s sense of empowerment increase, etc.

Enabling environment could include the following:

(a) The reverse logistics for nutrient recovery specified in the 7-rung sanitation ladder as well as systems for monitoring, customer-initiated feedback.

(b) Increasing the role of ICT:

Technologies: We have seen mobile phones play an important role in health, can they play a role in sanitation? Any other technology that can play a role in sanitation?

Databases: Any other databases that can be linked to sanitation for monitoring when we start monitoring for eutrophication of water bodies, nutrient recovery in agriculture, etc.

ICT: Availability of information materials (comic books, apps, games, etc) as well as discussion groups and support networks.

(c) Participative monitoring as part of enabling environment: This relates to Goal 6.b of the SDGs (support and strengthen the participation of local communities for improving water and sanitation management). Monitoring achievement of sanitation goals could include participative monitoring. For instance, public toilet tracking app, app for indicating which villages have toilets (households may not mind allowing their toilet to be used, useful for traveler on a long journey – this might be a small thing in the overall scheme but I am just thinking of availability and support for participative monitoring).

Participative monitoring would have the benefits of community participation, individual empowerment as well as reduce the costs of monitoring while increasing data availability for checking quality of data (as in, reducing the risks of applying probability sampling etc).

Inter-disciplinary matters: Some points are linked to multiple dimensions: for instance, ecosan technologies and organic farming and approved use in agriculture, green building certification, carbon credits (carbon credits might be useful to meet O&M costs or create other benefits / incentives as well) --> these would link to the functional steps on the sanitation ladder as well as various aspects of enabling environment including legislation, economics (carbon credits as well as eligibility for priority sector financing rates etc.,).

2. Should assessment of sanitation technologies include water use? For instance, how much water is used for flushing as a comparison between dry toilets, pour flush and conventional flush toilets. There is a cost attached to water use also though, in this case, the cost of solution for the household is much lesser than cost incurred by the government to supply so much water (from cost of constructing dams to piped water supply to all communities).

3. Will the discussion series include information management? If yes, what aspects? Are there any guiding research papers on what dimensions should be looked into while discussing information management for the SDGs? Similar to sanitation ladder which gives an immediate chart of dimensions to consider while discussing sanitation.

4. Examples of aspects to consider in information management for sanitation SDGs:

(a) Templates and scope/breadth (based on top concerns for each group of stakeholders) of information presented to various stakeholders for decision making, performance management, customer support, impact assessment and presentation of results - this can vary between different stakeholders (households might be more interested in the user interface and space requirement while the municipal authority might require information regarding population density, logistics and environmental concerns);

(b) helping stakeholders understand nuances of terms used. For instance, an INR 3 trillion GDP loss due to inadequate sanitation includes lost tourism revenues which requires other tourism infrastructure to realize the revenues; therefore, there is difference between unlocking revenue potential and realizing revenue potential - this is important to help people understand that while completing the sanitation chain will not result in an increase of INR 3 trillion to GDP, reaching that goal requires a first step of completing sanitation which we have now done. Another example is recognizing that amount saved is equivalent to revenues earned and so, while the household's income might not have increased, their personal disposable income (PDI) increases due to saved healthcare expenses, etc.

5. A composite measurement of net increase in revenues for households for use in technology assessment. For instance, can we include a measure, such as, personal disposable income (PDI) to indicate the (real and notional) net increase in discretionary income for households (for example, increase in income from selling soil amendments plus saved healthcare expenses less expenses to pay someone to collect the soil amendments) to explain the financial impact easily?

6. A wishlist of information that we would love to have. Once we have this wishlist, we can compare it with information being collected for the SDG targets, check if some proxies can be used, other sources of information and universal benchmark figures that can be used if proxies are not available (for instance, values as per systematic reviews converted to PPP plus additional considerations as required or only PPP value). While several countries are yet to meet sanitation targets, the capacity for information can vary widely across countries. It is possible that some countries might have additional information as well (over and above stated requirement for SDG achievement) which can then be used for case studies, lead stories, impact assessment, etc.

7. Key Responsibility Areas (KRAs) for sanitation technology assessment as well as achieving sanitation SDGs. How much is the household’s responsibility, what are the duties and responsibilities of various stakeholders?

Should the difference between responsibility and duty be considered? In general, international agreements do not have automatic legal locus standii (the law in each member states have to be amended to give effect to international agreements) and international institutions do not have joint authority-responsibility with the governments. Therefore, the governments have to take on the onus of “duty” (of achieving the goals) and allow international institutions to have only “moral responsibility” (having only moral responsibility means having the right to ask questions and monitor as authority = responsibility as per management sciences but may not have direct decision-making rights over project design and implementation). Depending upon the context, (a) would these differences have impact on achievement of sanitation SDGs, (b) if yes, can technology help reduce the differences and to what extent, and (c) if some differences still remain, how can they be addressed?

Why is it important? Inadequate sanitation causes several environmental issues (for eg., eutrophication of water bodies and depletion of ground water resources) and can resolve issues in other sectors as well. For instance, agriculture is one of the major contributors to climate change and this, in part, is due to the technologies used in producing chemical fertilizers. However, the right ecosan technologies can significantly reduce the need for chemical fertilizers (research has shown that the annual excreta generated by an individual is adequate to provide soil nutrients required to produce the annual cereal requirement for that person). Similarly, the world's rock phosphate resources are expected to be fully depleted in 100 years due to its consumption in producing fertilizers (phosphorous is one of the three macronutrients required for plant growth). With agricultural reuse, the naptha used to produce urea fertilizers can be avoided thus reducing resource requirement to meet energy needs. Permanent deterioration of soil quality due to use of chemical fertilizers can result in increase in economic refugees due to manmade as well as natural disasters. Do we have the option of not returning soil nutrients to the land? We have only one shared planet. Therefore, it is important that we take a One World view and take joint action.

8. Financing sanitation: Can we work on a model for financing sanitation? Who is the investor (paying for implementation of sanitation technology), who is the user, who are the beneficiaries of sanitation, who is the buyer (paying for the benefits of sanitation)?

Investment perspective for financing sanitation: Usually, we consider the buyer as the person paying for the implementation of sanitation technology. Here, the suggestion is for a longer-term view. We have said that investing $1 in sanitation yields a return of $6-8. Is it possible to then consider amount spent on sanitation as an investment and recover the investment over a period of time?

Revenue generation opportunities for non-sewer based sanitation technologies: At present, only centralized utilities are able to earn revenues from implementing sanitation technologies (eg., charges for sewerage and water supply connection) but we do not have such a system for decentralized systems, such as, pit latrines and most ecosan systems. For instance, water saved by dry toilets or low-flush toilets will be diverted for captive consumption (higher domestic consumption) or agriculture or industrial purposes.

A network of decentralized sanitation systems which can earn revenues from resources saved (a sewer system cannot save water beyond a point - the sewer pipes need certain amount of water to maintain self-cleaning velocity while a UDDT or a composting toilet requires far lesser quantities of water for excellent O&M) can be a good method of encouraging deployment of ecological sanitation technologies.

Currently, no technology on the sanitation ladder (except sewer systems) can earn revenues which is a huge loss of revenues for the households.

"Beneficiary party pays" concept: We have the concept of "polluting party pays" in climate change and environmental protection, why not "beneficiary party pays" for technologies that improve the situation (ie., reduce risk or pace of climate change / environmental footprint)?

Carbon credits for financing sanitation technologies, applicability for other sectors: Could we include climate change and environmental protection, ecology and agriculture in financing sanitation? For instance, carbon credits for the various sanitation technologies can help finance sanitation.

Determination of how many credits per unit can include ecological impact and agriculture also to have one simple system for the sanitation investment to earn revenues from creating positive impact.

Such a model could be adopted for water as well (there are no carbon credits to be earned for desilting lakes or decentralized watershed management or local community-led reforestation efforts, I think, and so, there is currently no way for local communities to select water management technologies and earn revenues for their investment). Achieving SDGs related to climate change (Goal 13) requires adoption of technologies that best result in positive climate change impact in every area of production and consumption. Do we really have the option of ignoring the carbon credits opportunity?

Admittedly, the huge cost of certification to qualify for earning carbon credits programme has been a significant challenge. This could be resolved with a shopping card based model (earning credit points for a range of household behaviors). At least, we could work on a solution.

Additional granularity in financing model / template: The financing model / template could also include pricing model for varying prices according to local context at a more granular level.

Financing model with water and sanitation as joint products: Can we have a financing model / template that includes water and sanitation as joint products?

The cost of providing / increasing water availability could be much lesser than sanitation while the revenues from selling the saved water resources could be much higher depending upon the context (the price for water might be much higher in densely populated areas or theme parks and entertainment parks or areas with high water consumption by industries).

Offering water and sanitation as a joint product could increase revenue potential for households and/or other stakeholders. Or, have a wrap-around financing model (what might be seen as huge cost to be incurred for sanitation might seem like great value when spread over water and sanitation needs).

My apologies, I have not given the links / references for the data mentioned in this post. Will do this a little later.

Thanks and warm regards,

Sowmya Rajasekaran
Verity SmartLife Solutions
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Re: First Thematic Discussion Series - The Sanitation Ladder: Next Steps

This is a great idea, Roslyn - I'm looking forward to a fruitful and interesting discussion, particularly about what the HRWS and the sdgs mean by 'safe' sanitation.
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TDS: First Thematic Discussion Series - The Sanitation Ladder: Next Steps

As previously mentioned in the introductory post to the Thematic Discussion Series: forum.susana.org/forum/categories/10-gen...-to-the-susana-forum SuSanA will begin a new series, the Thematic Discussion Series.

The first thematic discussion will take place between February 9 - 27 on the topic “The Sanitation Ladder: Next Steps”. With the upcoming finalisations of the Sustainable Development Goals, this topic will further discuss global sanitation monitoring questions raised in the paper The Sanitation Ladder – a need for a revamp? regarding a shift from a technological-based to functions-based sanitation ladder.

We are excited to also announce that the discussions will be led by Patrick Bracken, a Water and Sanitation Specialist from AHT Group AG, and Elisabeth Kvarnström, a senior consultant with Urban Water Management, Inc., who were also co-authors of the paper The sanitation ladder – a need for a revamp.

Coordination aspects for this thematic discussion series will be provided by myself, including regular summaries of the discussions as well as a synthesis document at the end of the discussion. In addition, background information on the topic will be provided on February 4th, to provide context and facilitate the ease of discussion prior to the discussion.

The themes for the three weeks will be:

Week 1 (Feb 9-15) Theme: Evolution of the Sanitation Ladder
Week 2 (Feb 16-22) Theme: The post-2015 agenda and emerging monitoring challenges in the sanitation sector
Week 3 (Feb 23-27) Theme: The way forward…adaptation of the sanitation ladder to the post-2015 period

We look forward to your questions and involvement in the upcoming discussion!

Please feel free to post in this thread with any questions and comments regarding this first thematic discussion.

Kind regards,

Roslyn Graham
MSc Global Health
Member of SuSanA www.susana.org
Newfoundland, Canada
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