City level sustainable full cost recovery - How to ensure finances for services for the entire city and entire sanitation chain?


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  • kevintayler
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  • I am a water and sanitation engineer, also interested in general urban housing issues. In recent years, I have worked on FSM for various organizations
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Re: City level sustainable full cost recovery - How to ensure finances for services for the entire city and entire sanitation chain?

Thanks to Dave Robbins for his comprehensive response to the queries in my earlier post. As he says, Dumaguete is a fascinating case study and I have been following it from a distance for some time.

I will attempt to add some value to his comments, based partly on my own experience in Indonesia over the last few years.

The assumed design loading of 71 cubic metres per day, together with the 3 cu.m truck capacity and assumed 80% availability result in an assumed number of loads delivered per day per truck of just over 4. Our analysis of a generally well managed system in Palu,Sulawesi, showed that their trucks were making 3 trips per day and it seemed that with the added efficiency that would be achieved through working to a scheduled program, this figure could well be increased to 4 per day. So, it seems that the Philippines and Indonesian investigations are giving similar truck utilization figures.

The 5 year emptying cycle planned for Dumaguete seems more realistic than the 2 year emptying cycle that was attempted in Malaysia before changes in the law led to the abandoning of scheduled emptying.

The success of the Dumaguete lagoons in achieving organic load removal suggests to me that there will rarely be a need to go to more complex and energy-dependent technologies such as the sequencing batch reactor treatment installed in Baliwag. Dave's post points to one of the main problems with lagoons/ponds, that of sludge build up. Sludge builds up over time and results in the requirement for major desludging exercises at infrequent intervals - a difficult combination for operators. Our work last year in Indonesia suggested that providing solids-liquid separation ahead of pond/lagoon treatment for liquid and drying bed treatment for sludge makes a lot of sense. It reduces the organic and solids load on the ponds, hence reducing both the required size of ponds and the rate of sludge build up - thus reducing (but not eliminating) the need for pond desludging. But what technology should be used for solids - liquid separation? Many Indonesian plants have Imhoff tanks but these have proved difficult to desludge and are sometimes by-passed. One option would be to use hopper-bottomed sedimentation tanks, of the type once used for rural and small town wastewater treatment plants in the UK. These have no moving parts, should be suitable for the relatively small flows passing through septage treatment plants and rely on regular desludging using hydrostatic pressure - so avoiding the need to remove relatively large volumes of partly consolidated sludge at relatively infrequent intervals. I think that these would work for the digested sludge taken from tanks and pits in East Asia, which should have reasonably good settling characteristics.

One point on the institutional arrangements for Dumaguete is that separate organizations are responsible for septage collection/transport and treatment. Presumably, there is an agreement as to the amount paid to the municipality for operating the treatment plant and this amount covers the operational costs. Another point regarding collection/transport is that there do not appear to be any private sector operators working independently of the official program.

Finally, to the interesting question of scheduled emptying. Dave's analysis of the probable reasons for the falling away from the original commitment to scheduled emptying is persuasive but, as he says, a detailed analysis of the reasons for the change should provide useful input to planning for future programs. One point is that people are apparently paying for a scheduled emptying service but not getting it - presumably they don't complain about this because (a) the increase in tariff was not so great and (b)they are not experiencing problems with their pits/tanks, at least for the moment. One question here is whether service providers will always tend to fall back to the easier on-call option where there is not strong demand for scheduled desludging. If so, there will be implications for strategies for introducing scheduled desludging, presumably with a greater emphasis on creating demand. An easy point to make in theory but probably much more difficult to achieve in practice.

I suspect that I have moved away from the main point of this topic to a rather specialized sub-topic. My apologies for this but I am finding this discussion really useful.
Kevin Tayler
Independent water and sanitation consultant
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  • Katrin
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  • I am coordinating SuSanA's thematic discussion series. Let me know if you have any questions!
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Re: Discussion Summary Now Available

Dear all,

Thank you for contributing to our topic and raising so many important issues with regard to city level sustainable cost recovery.

The summary is now available here .

Please note that there will also be a synthesis of entire discussion on urban sanitation finance, available on the forum by mid-August. Stay tuned!

Thank you,
Dr. Katrin Dauenhauer
SuSanA Thematic Discussion Series Coordinator
Bonn, Germany
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