New tool to identify locally appropriate sanitation system options for planning - feedback please


  • dorothee.spuhler
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  • Water Engineer, Sustainable Sanitation and Water Management (SSWM) - Co-Lead of WG1 - One of the forum moderators
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Re: Factsheet on new tool to identify locally appropriate sanitation system options for planning

Hi Elisabeth

Thanks for the further questions!

I do not have a link where all the novel technologies are listed as I am yet in the progress of preparing a easily accessible user interface for the tool. I could share the link to a few publications where one or the other technology was included in the case study. But I hope soon the publication process on my current technology database will be done and then I will definitively share the link.
However, important is not the list of the technologies that are included, but that I am to produce a online version of the Compendium where novel options can be more easily added. From a methodological point of view, this means that the generic definitions and attributes used by the new Compendium are flexible and can be defined by the user. AND, that is what I mentioned in my previous thread: the uncertainty regarding those data especially for novel technologies can be considered. From a practical point of view, I still need to sort out how exactely to tag novel technologies to distinguish them from the others from the Compendium (you may remember that the Compendium facthsheets went through a very long and intensive reviewing process with a broad sounding board… not sure if this will be possible for each new technology added).
To be more specific:
  • For the technology appropriateness assessment I consider the uncertainty of the the different attributes (e.g. water requirements) using probability functions. However, the overall technology score is a number between 0 and 100% (without standard deviation) expressing the confidence we have in the technology to be appropriate.
  • For the mass flow quantification I consider the uncertainties related to the transfer coefficients resulting in a standard deviation for the quantified resource recovery and losses potentials (phosphorus, nitrogen, total solids, water). This is particularly important for novel technologies, but also for conventional technologies, transfer coefficients ARE uncertain (imagine the variability you have of the fraction of phosphorus entering the sludge and the effluent in a septic tank….). To quantify the uncertainty, I used the variability of data from different literature resources, the technology readiness level (TRL), and the confidence in the substance (e.g. phosphorus being conservative and nitrogen not).
  • My cost module is really only a prototype and I paused working on it as I want to see what comes out of the World Bank costing tool and other initiatives e.g. lead by Leeds. I used cost functions of the CLARA tool and previous Eawag work and only considered uncertainty (better said “variability” ) regarding the number of users per unit (e.g. do you have one, two, or three, FSM treatment plants within a settlement).
  • Aurin production: this is the process currently implemented by VUNA mainly here in Switzerland and surroundings – check it out (it is now also allowed for edible crops !!!): .
I also would like to specifically react on this:

“I think it's been a shortcoming for a long time that novel options are not included in many decision-making processes. On the other hand, I can also understand why that might be so. It's about risk of failure and who would be willing to shoulder the risks of implementing a little-known technology on a larger scale...”

You already state one answer to the problem, often provided by decision analysis theory: by quantifying the risk associated to different performance indicators used to compare options, we can consider this risk and thus also compare options with very different risks in the decision-making process! It is then to the decision-makers providing a value function describing how risk adverse he is…
Considering various uncertainties is one attempt to do this and the models I developed are the first step to consider novel options alongside with conventional ones. It provides however not the final solutions, but a set of options to be further evaluated regarding different criteria, maybe weighted differently by different stakeholders. One or several risk proxies as part of the criteria would allow to consider the fear of decision-makers of failure of novel technologies (and quantifying those systematically may reveals that given the local environmental factors, the actual risk of novel options are not higher than for conventional ones: e.g. imagine a very robust but strongly water dependent technology compared to a highly novel waterless option in a water scarce area…).

I am extremely happy that we have this discussion, Elisabeth! I think these aspects have not been enough discussed on the forum although they are so crucial to bring the many innovations into practice!

Kind regards,
WG1 Co-lead
Working with Sustainable Sanitation and Water Management (SSWM):
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:
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