× 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: Week 1 Theme - Evolution and Further Development of the Sanitation Ladder

  • Florian
  • Florian's Avatar
  • Water and Sanitation Specialist at Skat Consulting Ltd.
  • Posts: 269
  • Karma: 22
  • Likes received: 130

Re: TDS: Week 1 Theme - Evolution and Further Development of the Sanitation Ladder

It has been mentioned, one problem with the ladders is the linearity, while the reality often is not linear and the different functions are not necessarily linked.

Just an example: A dirty pit toilet does not even fulfil rung 1 of the "revamped function based ladder", but actually does well for rung 5 (no contribution to eutrophication at all).

These are some of the reasons why we tried to look at the different functions of sanitation independently, treat them more as different dimensions of the same thing rather than steps of a long ladder.



Protection of health
This is the classical function of sanitation from a public perspective: the public health perspective. The aim is to break the transmission pathways of waterborne diseases. This requires both the direct containment (separation of faecal matter and people) in the households and on the plots, as well as in the wider public area.

Protection of the environment
This is about ecosystems, protecting rivers, lakes and oceans from pollution with organic load, nutrients, and as the newcomer: pharmaceutical residues (micro pollutants). This is also a public perspective, environmental protection.

Comfort and status
I think that also dignity falls in this dimension, so I'd rather call it now: Dignity, comfort and status. This is the private perspective, the perspective of the toilet users (unlike the previous two, which are both from a public perspective). This is what people want from sanitation.

Human rights
This is a bit tricky, I am not sure if it really helps to consider this as a separate dimension
From the human rights perspective, it is about defining a minimum level for the health function and the dignity/comfort function, and the focus is then on universality. It matters that as many as possible reach this minimum level.

Ok, so these are the main functions of sanitation, or the function of sanitation from different perspectives. For each of these functions, of course there can be different service levels, or different steps on a ladder.

I'm not yet sure if this could be developed further into a general scheme to define objectives and monitor progress towards them.

However, I feel that this structure of looking at the different functions of sanitation can be very helpful in defining objectives, priorities and directing resources. In particular it helps to understand a key point, which is that progress regarding one function does not necessarily mean progress in another, as is commonly assumed.

I know that the 3-4 functions instead of one (current JMP ladder) or two (proposed revamped ladder) sounds complex. But I think that as soon as one looks at a country context, it becomes simpler. If all existing types of sanitation systems in a country are listed, plus some that can be potentially introduced, it is usually not that many. These sanitation systems can then be ranked for the different dimensions. I tried to arrange the Moldovan options on a 2-dimensional system, with the public perspective on one scale (health and environmental protection together, which is not always correct, as I said myself above) and the private perspective (comfort and status) on the other.



The different currently existing options of sanitation systems in Moldovan villages shown in the graphic are:
- Pit toilets, improved according to JMP (green)
- Pit toilets, unimproved according to JMP (red)
- Flush toilets with individual but inadequate (e.g. no sludge management) wastewater disposal
- Flush toilets to sewers with inadequate treatment

The other options, which could potentially be introduced, are:
- UDDT toilets
- Flush toilets with individual wastewater treatment and sludge management
- Flush toilets to sewers and wastewater treatment plants


As I said, this is certainly far from perfect, it is merely a vague attempt.

But I feel something like this could be a pragmatic way to go:
- Build a general frameework for clear analyis of the different functions of sanitation and the principle levels of service for each function
- With the help of this framework, rank santation systems present in a country according to the different dimensions, thus define service levels for the different functions
- Define country objectives: which service level should be achieved for each function

I think the key is to make definition of objectives and monitoring country specific. Obviously this makes global monitoring difficult or impossible. But it might be a price worthwhile to pay for actually appropriate objectives and monitoring in the countries


The following user(s) like this post: dorothee.spuhler
You need to login to reply
  • JKMakowka
  • JKMakowka's Avatar
  • Just call me Kris :)
  • Posts: 971
  • Karma: 35
  • Likes received: 316

Re: TDS: Week 1 Theme - Evolution and Further Development of the Sanitation Ladder

Thanks for outlining these main functional categories in detail. I would personally not include "human right" as a separate category as the main practical dimensions of it are included in dignity and public health, while the larger policy objective of an equitable service is rather on another political level.

To take up these functional dimensions into the score card / "sanitation index" idea, I would use them to bundle a number of sub-dimensions (like pathogen containment) to form parts of the final index.

What I am still struggling with a bit is how to account for a more integrated approach. Right now these functional categories are rather sanitation specific, and only brush on related or rather enabling factors like water supply, solid waste management etc.
Would be great to hear some ideas on that.

Last but not least @Florian: Your post mentioned various conflicting interests of the stakeholders involved and that a rebooted sanitation ladder might help. I would be interested to hear your thoughts in more detail how this could be practically done and at what level you see the most utility of such a tool.
Personally I would like to see it used as an way to strengthen sovereignity of local governments (municipality level) too, but how that could practically achieved against EU interests etc. is hard to say.

Microbiologist & emergency WASH specialist
You need to login to reply
  • dorothee.spuhler
  • dorothee.spuhler's Avatar
  • Water Engineer, Sustainable Sanitation and Water Management (SSWM) - Co-Lead of WG1 - One of the forum moderators
  • Posts: 270
  • Karma: 13
  • Likes received: 96

Re: TDS: Week 1 Theme - Evolution and Further Development of the Sanitation Ladder

Dear all

Thank you for all your inspiring and enlightening contributions.

This discussion is very relevant to move beyond simple toilet construction towards more sustainable sanitation frameworks that fulfil service expectations and last.
The indicators that are going to help to measure the SDGs will have several important functions:
- They will help policy makers and donor agencies to measure where one stands
- And second, but not less important, they should guide national and local governmental people and practitioners to guide their strategies for sanitation planning
- And third, but still as important, they will guide engineers in defining the criteria for developing sanitation products and designing sustainable sanitation systems

As nicely illustrated by the posts of JKM and Florian: on one hand we have a more top-down approach providing global goals and targets to achieve (somehow) and there is the more bottom-up approach measuring what service level can be achieved int he field and then trying to translate this into something that indicates for global goals.

In both cases I definitively agree that functionality is the way to go.
I also believe that from the sustainable sanitation alliance, we somehow agreed once, on the overall goal a sustainable sanitation system should fulfil: "The main objective of a sanitation system is to protect and promote human health by providing a clean environment and breaking the cycle of disease. In order to be sustainable a sanitation system has to be not only economically viable, socially acceptable, and technically and institutionally appropriate, it should also protect the environment and the natural resources." (see also: www.susana.org/en/resources/library/details/267 )

I am currently working on how we (as engineers) could possible shape the design procedures for sanitation systems according to required service functions to achieve these sustainability criteria. This means that classical engineering design criteria (like pathogen reduction or nutrient balances) may are not sufficient anymore. We did actually not learn at school, how to do engineering design based on all the five sustainability criteria and we need to gain some more experience on that.

What I am not sure is., if the "ladder" is the right way to go. Indeed there is the advantage of simplicity and the aspirational effect of "moving up" the ladder (after all we are all humans…). But it fades out local priorities and stakeholder preferences which may get complicated to elicit (see the post of Richard regarding value functions and aggregation of multiple indicators into one index).

I like the idea of score card (we may get inspiration here from the TAF: www.washtechnologies.net/en/taf/taf-selection-tool/details/560 or the Aguasan sustainability assessment framework: www.aguaconsult.co.uk/assets/Uploads/Pub...bilitytools-2014.pdf , page 18) - but there are other ways how to communicate and convey multi-criteria performance assessments.

I am actually currently working exactly on such issues with my PhD at Eawag:
- How can we from a engineering perspective design appropriate sanitation system alternatives based on (and considering all different types of options including on-site, conventional and new innovations for RRR)?
- And what kind of performance indicators are we able to provide to inform policy makers on their potential performance in a sustainability perspective?
(So if you are interested, drop me a line ;-) )

After having spent quite some time thinking on the methodological approach for that I am now trying to apply my framework to a city sanitation planning project in Nepal working with local organisations (our old friends from ENPHO) and municipality and community level actors.
The various sustainability goals and indicator frameworks that have been published during the past years are useful guide local decision-makers in CSP, CLUES or Sanitation 21 frameworks - and so could be a global "functional sanitation service performance scorecard" framework.
This is for me the interesting part: how to integrate this into decision-making and sanitation designs frameworks where people implement decisions that might have been made. To provide something useful would really help to influence the sectors and become more effective with sanitation interventions.

If someone has thought on that: I would also like to see an input on how to link our ideas with a more global indicator or index for the planned SDG where other aspect related to Goal 6 and water management come in. My guess is that at this level, there is no way around indexing if we stick to the functionality framework…

Cheers
Dorothee

WG1 Co-lead
Working with Sustainable Sanitation and Water Management (SSWM): www.sswm.info
Currently doing research on generating sanitation system options for urban planners and quantifying mass flows for a broad range of options considering novel technologies as an input into decision-making: www.tinyurl.com/eawag-grasp
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. / This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
You need to login to reply
  • JKMakowka
  • JKMakowka's Avatar
  • Just call me Kris :)
  • Posts: 971
  • Karma: 35
  • Likes received: 316

Re: TDS: Week 1 Theme - Evolution and Further Development of the Sanitation Ladder

Could you upload the Aquasan framework to the forum? I am getting a permission error when I try to download it via the link you provided.

Generally speaking we need to evaluate carefully if a new tool is really needed, and if not an existing one does already what we have in mind. I currently think that a relatively simple tool for municipalities to assess the sustainability of their infrastructure with a focus on system wide functionality is not really available yet (but san21 goes in that direction if I remember correctly)... I guess more literature review is needed ;)

@Dorotee: would your work in Nepal allow to pilot such a simple score card? What is the timeframe you have?

Microbiologist & emergency WASH specialist
You need to login to reply
  • elkv
  • elkv's Avatar
  • I have been working with sanitation, in different ways and through different vehicles both in Sweden where I am from as well as internationally, since 1994 when I finished my MSc degree in Environmental Engineering. Currently I am working as a consultant
  • Posts: 12
  • Karma: 8
  • Likes received: 5

Re: TDS: Week 1 Theme - Evolution and Further Development of the Sanitation Ladder

Hi all,
thanks for all valuable contributions.

For your information WSSCC is organizing a webinar on the SDGs next Tuesday

WEBINAR - Tuesday 17 February. 9 - 10:30 am EST/New York : 14:00 - 15:30 GMT/London: 15:00 - 16:30 Geneva, with the below proposed agenda from WSSCC:

- An update on the post-2015 debate, including the intergovernmental negotiations, work of the UN Statistical Commission and discussions on Financing for Development - Cecilia Scharp, UNICEF
- WASH sector recommendations for indicators to measure progress (as submitted to the UN Statistical Commission) - Tom Slaymaker WHO / UNICEF JMP. (Background document attached
- Questions and discussion

I am not able to copy the dial-in link here for some reason, anyone who is interested can send me a message and I can forward the link. Amanda Marlin at WSSCC is moderating the session and would love to get questions sent to her on beforehand.

Kind regards

Elisabeth

Elisabeth Kvarnström
You need to login to reply
  • bracken
  • bracken's Avatar
    Topic Author
  • Working throughout Africa since 1996 in development cooperation. Involved with sustainable sanitation systems since 2002. Currently working for the AHT GROUP AG (a private consultancy office in Germany).
  • Posts: 47
  • Karma: 14
  • Likes received: 33

Re: TDS: Week 1 Theme - Evolution and Further Development of the Sanitation Ladder

Dear all,
I've been following the discussion over the last day or so and trying to take a step back from the individual details. There is general agreement that there is a need to broaden the horizon of how sanitation has been monitored to date and that the function and sustainability of the system is key, and a move away from the technocentric ladder for monitoring is needed. The results of the JMP expert consultation also recognise this.
I think there is no substantial contradiction or disagreement between any of the posts.

Maybe just to recap exactly what is in the drafted ladder revamp as there does seem to be a little confusion.
Firstly, the revamp was intended as a contribution towards monitoring, and moving sanitation monitoring away from a technocentric approach, and not to be used in the sense of the original sanitation ladders. As Elisabeth said, the ladder was deliberately chosen as the metaphor of choice because a monitoring ladder is still a broadly accepted concept, and we hoped and still hope to have an impact on the existing monitoring system. I don't think the scorecard approach would enable us to do this.
Secondly, the prerequisite for a sanitation system to be placed on a particular step is that the requirements for all preceding steps are met. So a dirty pit toilet does not fulfil rung 1 of the "revamped function based ladder", and thus cannot even be considered for rung 5. In this sense the rungs of the revamped ladder are like filters and only allow those system through that satisfy the requirement of the previous rungs. The rungs thus represent a degree of priority setting. The primary priorities are 1) Containing excreta and 2) Assuring privacy, access and acceptability and so on as we move up the ladder.
That should help illustrate my third point too. Although at the side we see just the health functions and the environmental functions, step 2 is clearly an attempt to include issues of convenience and comfort, and implicitly also issues of equity. So I actually don't really see a major conceptual or content difference between the proposed functional ladder and the different "dimensions of service level" in the diagramme from Florian, and consider it more generally as a question of presentation.

In fact both these examples refer in similar terms to the five categories of sustainability criteria originally proposed in 2004 in the paper attached here. (This paper seems to have served as the uncredited basis for the definition of a sustainable sanitation system and the criteria for this system that SuSanA adopted.)

I like the attempt at plotting different sanitation systems between the axes of the dimensions of service levels (although I guess its much easier to plot particular toilet technologies and not the entire system), and I feel that there is a chance to operationalize the use of functional sustainability criteria for sanitation monitoring somewhere in there - I just can't see how right now. One difficulty is, as you rightly mention Florian, the functions (or "categories of functions" or "dimensions of service levels") are not linked to each other.

Water and Sanitation Specialist
AHT GROUP AG
Management & Engineering
D-45128 Essen, Huyssenallee 66-68
Germany

This message has an attachment file.
Please log in or register to see it.

You need to login to reply
  • elkv
  • elkv's Avatar
  • I have been working with sanitation, in different ways and through different vehicles both in Sweden where I am from as well as internationally, since 1994 when I finished my MSc degree in Environmental Engineering. Currently I am working as a consultant
  • Posts: 12
  • Karma: 8
  • Likes received: 5

Re: TDS: Week 1 Theme - Evolution and Further Development of the Sanitation Ladder

Dear All,
I agree with Patrick on the difference between the functional ladder and the diagram from Florian is more one of presentation than true content differences. I also agree with Patrick that I do like the diagram as a way of presentation, with its limitations. One thing maybe to think of is to include greywater for each picture so that there is more of a systems thinking put across? Another is maybe to also show what may be the future, with higher costs and definitely much higher protection of both health and the environment: separate blackwater collection in triplicate sewer systems and separate treatment of blackwater, where the blackwater is completely kept out of the recipient and hence protecting both health and environment to a much higher degree than any conventional system, which, to be honest, do have trouble in Western Europe, to keep up with eutrophication, pharmaceuticals and recycling challenges. This is already implemented on small scale in Sneek, the Netherlands, and will be the case in Hamburg in Jenfelder Au, and also for a new development in Helsingborg, Sweden. For those around the corner of Southern Sweden, a seminar on these kinds of systems will be organized by IWA Sweden on April 22 in Helsingborg. In English. :)

But mostly of all, Florian, since you have used your diagrams in Moldova in planning situations, what was your experience? What worked and what did not work?

Please, find also enclosed the document I should have attached in yesterday's post.

Kind regards

Elisabeth

Elisabeth Kvarnström

This message has an attachment file.
Please log in or register to see it.

You need to login to reply
  • Sowmya
  • Sowmya's Avatar
  • Posts: 73
  • Karma: 23
  • Likes received: 52

Re: TDS: Week 1 Theme - Evolution and Further Development of the Sanitation Ladder

Abstract: There is fairly majority consensus that the functional ladder could be the basis for developing indicators for JMP monitoring. What other factors need to be considered for finalizing functional ladder-based indicators?

(Please note: I have abbreviated the term ‘sanitation ladder’ to ‘SL’ for brevity.)

For the MDGs, the JMP monitored and reported on the progress of sanitation access based on population-based data gathered through large household surveys and national censuses. A set of core questions were developed to be included in household surveys and these questions were based on the technology-focused sanitation ladder (‘SL’).

With the functional ladder being considered as a possible basis for developing indicators for JMP monitoring, the following additional factors could be considered:

a) Source of data: While the tech SL requires information only from population-based surveys and national censuses, the functional SL will require information from other sources as well (indicators in rungs 4-7 require data that cannot be collected from population-based surveys). The JMP is already considering administrative, population and environmental data to estimate safe disposal/transport of excreta when no country data is available. However, these data sources may not be adequate (or databases need to be augmented) to collect data based on the functional SL.

b) Cost of data collection: A discussion regarding JMP indicators needs to necessarily include the cost of data collection. A research paper has estimated the cost of data collection for the 169 SDG targets at $254 billion for 2015-2030, which is almost two times the total annual ODA spent globally, and opined a <1 cost-benefit ratio ( please see URL ). The paper also points to additional challenges, such as, capacity constraints, buy-in from various stakeholders and the ethics of spending a significant portion of the aid budget on measurement.

c) Collecting data through large surveys: Large surveys can handle only structured questions. Therefore, a limited number of categories in the tech SL made it easier to perform disaggregated analysis of sanitation trends and map movement across values even if they are limited to what can be inferred on the basis of the sanitation category.

d) Uses of collection data on toilet type: The tech SL means that it is possible to track how many toilets of each type were built. This is relevant because:
(i) the cost of each type of toilets can vary significantly and without collecting data on which type of toilet was built, it might be difficult to verify the amount stated as spent on building sanitation infrastructure,
(ii) the life span of different technologies can vary significantly and so, we need data on which technology was built and when to forecast when the next round of sanitation financing, if required, will come up,
(iii) while JMP presents information in the aggregate, given that data is collected at the disaggregated level, it is also possible to track the effectiveness of new technologies – but possible only if data on type of toilet is collected, and
(iv) information on toilet type is required to perform disaggregated analysis of sanitation trends and map movement across different dimensions of sanitation (user experience, health, impact on water and agriculture).

Summary: A functional sanitation ladder is more effective and can help overcome the challenges of the technology-focused sanitation ladder, both in terms of dimensions to be covered to ensure realization of benefits of sanitation (instead of focusing on the statistics of the SDG targets) and enable easing of the current regulatory framework that present significant challenges to development and upscaling of new sanitation technologies. However, a functional sanitation ladder also means collecting more information than was done with the technology-focused sanitation ladder. With concerns raised about the costs and cost-effectiveness of data collection for the 169 SDG targets, the data needs of the monitoring indicators based on the functional sanitation ladder could be considered.

In a subsequent post, I would like to write more regarding the costs of data collection and some suggestions.

Warm regards,

Sowmya

Sowmya Rajasekaran
Director
Verity SmartLife Solutions
www.veritysmartlife.com
You need to login to reply
  • joeturner
  • joeturner's Avatar
  • Posts: 690
  • Karma: 22
  • Likes received: 163

Re: TDS: Week 1 Theme - Evolution and Further Development of the Sanitation Ladder

Sowmya makes some very good points there - especially given what we discussed about the World Bank report on sanitation the other day: forum.susana.org/forum/categories/164-fi...ing-in-a-supermarket

As the complexity of measuring sanitation indicators increases, the cost/complexity of collecting data in a way that is comparable across nations is going to inevitably increase, one would think.
The following user(s) like this post: Sowmya
You need to login to reply
  • joeturner
  • joeturner's Avatar
  • Posts: 690
  • Karma: 22
  • Likes received: 163

Re: TDS: Week 1 Theme - Evolution and Further Development of the Sanitation Ladder

Also it strikes me that moving away from technological steps on the ladder will make analysis more difficult. Whilst it might be relatively easy to tell whether or not improved sanitation technology is provided (can we can give diagrams of the tech we mean for each step), how will anyone tell if these functional steps have been achieved?

As the higher steps are reached, an increased amount of information about achieving the prior steps will be needed - to prevent trade-offs happening between the different requirements. What happens if an intervention is proposed which does not address the prior steps? Would that not count at all?
You need to login to reply
  • ricardgine
  • ricardgine's Avatar
  • Researcher at Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya
  • Posts: 6
  • Karma: 6
  • Likes received: 3

Re: TDS: Week 1 Theme - Evolution and Further Development of the Sanitation Ladder

Interesting discussion … thanks for all your contributions …

Two minor comments in relation to the discussion about similarities / differences between a functional-based ladder and the index approach suggested by JKM and Florian:

I agree with Patrick and Elisabeth about the issue of presenting / disseminating the data … a two or even three-dimension graph approach probably gives more information than a one-dimension graph. However, there is in my opinion another difference. The index approach (score card or other similar approaches) allows various dimensions of sanitation to be combined (weighted and aggregated). In the example provided by Florian, there are four different dimensions that can be aggregated or presented separately … In a ladder, the issue is that all the dimensions are somehow aggregated using a multiplicative function. That is, one cannot climb one ladder rung unless all dimensions are fulfilled. I am not very sure about this, but my feeling is that for simple approaches (one or two dimensions, i.e. monitoring only one or two functions), a ladder may work very well. But if one aims to monitor different aspects of sanitation, I am not sure if a ladder is best solution. I agree that one can focus on the final number of households in each of the rungs … and this information is valuable! But in this process you may lose a lot of information (for instance, you are not showing those households located in rung one that are fulfilling some criteria of rung 2) … Probably, this information is useful for planning purposes …

Another issue I would like to raise is if one single ladder could cope with the sanitation challenge all over the world, including both developed and low-income countries … In my opinion, I would say that these approaches are very useful for monitoring basic sanitation … I am not sure about the utility of the ladder in Europe … Therefore, one alternative could be to simplify the ladder by directly including those aspects that are major concerns in those settings where sanitation is elusive. One conceptual framework that is very relevant when defining these aspects / dimensions is the rights approach, thus including the issues of availability, physical accessibility, safety, acceptability, affordability …

Not sure if this helps the discussion …

Best regards,
You need to login to reply
  • JKMakowka
  • JKMakowka's Avatar
  • Just call me Kris :)
  • Posts: 971
  • Karma: 35
  • Likes received: 316

Re: TDS: Week 1 Theme - Evolution and Further Development of the Sanitation Ladder

bracken wrote: As Elisabeth said, the ladder was deliberately chosen as the metaphor of choice because a monitoring ladder is still a broadly accepted concept, and we hoped and still hope to have an impact on the existing monitoring system. I don't think the scorecard approach would enable us to do this.


Ultimately a scorecard or index really is a different thing to the ladder, and I have to agree that building on top of the ladder metaphor does have advantages in the sense that it makes it easier to "implant" the idea of a function based rating of a sanitation system.

I think the main concern with the ladder is its strict linearity. This of course has some advantages too, as mentioned by Patrick, but maybe introducing at least 2 dimensions like done in the graphic by Florian make the functions based approach more worthwhile.

Of course 3 or even 5 dimensions / sustainability criteria would be ultimately the best, but for the sake of keeping it as a simple visual concept, stairs that follow the 45degree axis within a diagram like Florian's would be a suitable evolution of the ladder (ladder - stairs)?

What I mean is that while we as a informal network will probably not have much impact on JMP monitoring and the like, further promoting the focus on functionality and using the "meme" of the ladder for it might indeed turn out to be worthwhile and realistic as a goal.

Microbiologist & emergency WASH specialist
You need to login to reply
Share this thread:
Recently active users. Who else has been active?
Time to create page: 1.545 seconds