Final Report from the UDT trial in Sydney, Australia

  • Dena Fam
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Urine Diversion project Sydney wins NSW environmental innovation award

Hi everyone,
I just wanted to share with you an award we have just won for leadership in environmental innovation. The award was given for the trial of urine diversion systems that we installed in down town Sydney.

As a result of this trial we now have two high profile 'green' building developments including UD systems (collection through waterless urinals)in the design of their buildings in urban Sydney.

Our next stage of research is now to looking at trialling different resuse pathways for the urine in urban Sydney in collaboration government and industry partners. I have provided links to the project below

The link to the NSW Green Globe awards:
www.environment.nsw.gov.au/greenglobes/2012/innovation.htm#ud

Link to the university website
newsroom.uts.edu.au/news/2012/09/another...-sustainable-futures

I will share the final report for this project by mid November with you all...

Kind Regards
Dena

Dr Dena Fam
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Chancellor's Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Institute for Sustainable Futures
University of Technology Sydney
Phone: (+61)2 9514 4950
Fax: (+61)2 9514 4941
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  • Elmersayre
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Re: Urine Diversion project Sydney wins NSW environmental innovation award

Wow, congrats! This is great. I will be interested how operation and maintenance of the facility is done/will be done in the long term...

Elmer Sayre
Water, Agroforestry, Nutrition and Development Fdn.
Libertad, Misamis Oriental
9021 Philippines
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  • Dena Fam
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Re: Final Report from the UDT trial in Sydney, Australia

Hi everyone,

I just wanted to share the final report from a UDT trial in Sydney, Australia.
The trial went for 2 years and installed UDTs and waterless urinals in the institutional setting of the university campus with pot trials of urine reuse in collaboration with an agricultural school in Western Sydney. We took a transdisciplinary action research approach in the trial so we learned about the potential of UD across multiple aspects of the system (e.g. technical, social and regulatory aspects).

In particular, learning outcomes emerged in relation to:
- the installation of the system in an urban, institutional setting (in a multi-storey building in Sydney),
- in regard to issues associated with people and practices and the actual use of the system,
- visual communications of the system,
- the use of urine in agricultural application (pot trials) and
- analytical studies of urine
- regulations and institutions both hindering and supporting the uptake of UD
- and more broadly insight into how socio-technical change might be facilitated

See the link below for the final report:
www.isf.uts.edu.au/publications/Mitchell...unny-dunny-pilot.pdf

We've also generated some media attention and last week, we made it to the national Australian news with reference to where UD will be installed in new Sdyney developments Here's a link to the news piece:
www.abc.net.au/news/2013-03-01/human-uri...-liquid-gold/4547552

I look forward to having more input into the discussion forum now this project is finalised!

Cheers
Dena

Dr Dena Fam
Senior Research Consultant
Chancellor's Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Institute for Sustainable Futures
University of Technology Sydney
Phone: (+61)2 9514 4950
Fax: (+61)2 9514 4941
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  • joeturner
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Re: Final Report from the UDT trial in Sydney, Australia

Thanks Dena, that is very interesting.

I was particularly interested to read about the microbial and pharma contamination. Do you think there is any relation between the micropollutants and the level of fecal contamination? Did your regulation partners think that the measured levels of these would have been an issue if you had planned to dispose of the urine to agriculture?
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  • Dena Fam
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Re: Final Report from the UDT trial in Sydney, Australia

Thanks Joe

Yes I do think there was a relation between the micropollutants and the level of fecal contamination. When we had blockages in the urine bowl from misplaced faeces this was cleaned with a toilet brush that in some circumstances pushed faeces into the urine pipe and s-trap (of the Wostman UDT). I think that was a contributing factor....

This first stage involved pot trials for the reuse of urine (I prefer think of it as reusing urine rather than disposing of it). Because of the short timeframe of the project the focus was on determining nutrient content and value of urine. While we were all aware of the micropollutants, this wasnt the focus of this stage of research, therefore the regulators (e.g. Department of Health) were more concerned with issues associated with transporting urine rather than applying it to land (it was pot trials anyway) and the associated health risks (hopefully this will be part of the next stage of research)

Regards
Dena

Dr Dena Fam
Senior Research Consultant
Chancellor's Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Institute for Sustainable Futures
University of Technology Sydney
Phone: (+61)2 9514 4950
Fax: (+61)2 9514 4941
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  • muench
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Re: Final Report from the UDT trial in Sydney, Australia

Dear Dena,

Thanks a lot for sharing your final report. I just watched that 2 minute video from your ABC News, and have to say "well done for getting this in the national Autralian TV news!". The spot is done well and sounds very optimistic... I think Australians are generally pretty aware of the importance of fertiliser in Australian agriculture so maybe you have an interested audience there (perhaps more than with the German public).

I wonder why the news piece focussed on lettuce though, as on example. I would normally rather give the example of a crop that is not eaten raw (just to be on the safer side and to make the idea more "palatable"), such as corn or spinach. It is also not so easy to fertiliser lettuce without the urine/water mixture splashing onto the leaves (?).

By the way, did you see the final report from the SANIRESCH project in Eschborn, which was a bit similar to yours (although more focus on treatment technologies):
forum.susana.org/forum/categories/34-uri...-in-eschborn-germany

Oh, sorry, of course it is not so helpful for you because it is in German. But the SANIRESCH team published some factsheets and MSc theses in English which are accessible here:
www.susana.org/lang-en/library?showby=ye...e=2&search=saniresch

That final report from SANIRESCH was in the end a bit less optimistic than yours seems to be. Do you see major differences between Germany and Australia? Or is Australia a few years behind (in Germany some 3-5 years ago, we were also more optimistic about the potential of urine reuse until we realised quite a number of hurdles... one of them being the still too low cost of conventional fertiliser... we are too far ahead of what will come when the P shortage really hits).

Two MSc theses in English that were done in this research project are available here:
Peng, J. (2012). MAP crystallization from urine – assessment of the international adaptability. MSc thesis, Technische Universität Darmstadt, Institut IWAR, Fachgebiet Abwassertechnik, Germany.
www.susana.org/lang-en/library?view=ccbktypeitem&type=2&id=1682

Löw, K. (2011). An innovative greywater treatment system for urban areas - International transferability of a German approach, installed in GIZ's headquarters in Eschborn. Master Thesis, Nürtingen-Geislingen University, Germany.
www.susana.org/lang-en/library?view=ccbktypeitem&type=2&id=1469

Regards,
Elisabeth

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  • mwink
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Re: Final Report from the UDT trial in Sydney, Australia

Dear all,

just let me quickly add: there are some more theses of SANIRESCH available in English language then the two Elisabeth mentioned. ;)
I can especially recommend the three looking into the economic aspects of running such a building and the reuse of urine in agriculture (as liquid and as struvite). - This might be interesting results for your next steps, Dena! -

You find everything regarding the economic perspective here:
www.saniresch.de/en/project-components/economic-feasibility

And if you wonder why we were less optimistic in the conclusion, then have a look at this piece of discussion:
forum.susana.org/forum/categories/34-uri...-in-eschborn-germany

Yours, Martina.

Research unit Water infrastructure and risk analyses
Institute for Social-Ecological Research (ISOE)
Frankfurt, Germany

winker[AT]isoe.de
www.isoe.de
www.saniresch.de
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  • Dena Fam
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Re: Final Report from the UDT trial in Sydney, Australia

Hi Elizabeth and Martina!

It was quite surprising to have our interview placed after the story on the pope and for national news to present our project in a primetime news slot was amazing! After 4 hours of discussion on UD, the trial and the potential of urine for agricultural production (in both food and non-food crops) the interviewer decided she liked the idea of fertilising lettudes with urine!!!! So it was really out of our hands in regard to what was presented in the final 3 minute program.

We did trial urine with 3 different crops(1) leafy green vegetable (lettuce), (2) a flowering ornamental and (3) and Australian native plant. The lettuce responded the best to application of urine injected into the base of the pot (so there was less chance of splashing on leaves).

I think Australia is in the same boat as Germany, yes we are a few years behind but we're also aware of the limited scaleup of UD in other countries like Germany, Switzerland and Sweden, we're under no illusion its going to be an easy scale up (if ever!). The new Sydney developments installing UD pipework are doing this as a future proofing strategy, e.g. while no market for urine exists the property developers (who were also invovled in our project) see the potential of UD maybe 10-20 years down the track. UD toilets wont be installed in these properties because the technology really isnt appropriate for public use, so they've connected pipework to urinals with the view that there may be an opporunity further down the track to reuse it...I think thats a good first step.

This then opens up an area for further research on how these new buildings might collect (maybe even precipiate) and reuse nutrients from urine in the Sydney area. So thanks for the reports and research papers, I look forward to having a look them and thinking about where the next stage of our research goes.

But you're right Elizabeth I think there will need to be a crisis e.g. sky rocketing fertiliser prices to drive a shift toward the reuse of urine in agriculture. It may even be the development of a cost effective way of precipitating urine that could lead to scaleup...what is important I think is trying to figure out what hurdles there are in installing these systems in practice in our context (urban Sydney). Its great to hear about everyone's experiences and have such great resources available

Thanks
Dena

Dr Dena Fam
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University of Technology Sydney
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  • joeturner
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Re: Final Report from the UDT trial in Sydney, Australia

Dena Fam wrote: Thanks Joe

Yes I do think there was a relation between the micropollutants and the level of fecal contamination. When we had blockages in the urine bowl from misplaced faeces this was cleaned with a toilet brush that in some circumstances pushed faeces into the urine pipe and s-trap (of the Wostman UDT). I think that was a contributing factor....


Do you mean that this applies to the micropollutants as well as the microbial pathogens (ie that the pharma residues were in the sludge rather than the urine)? I've heard contradictory things about this.

I think most people understand the urine question to be something like this: urine in theory is a useful amendment and has (some) economic value. But in a situation where you can afford other fertilisers, the beneficial effects of urine are quite low. So you might find urine useful if you had nothing else, but if there was anything else, disadvantages outweighed advantages.

When I was involved in sludge composting trials in Europe, there was a measurable beneficial effect to agricultural crops, but farmers would only take the material when paid to do so by the water company.

Hence I think the idea that there is a market for urine is probably a bit far-fetched at the moment.
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  • Dena Fam
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Re: Final Report from the UDT trial in Sydney, Australia

Thanks for your comment Joe

Microbial pollutants were found in the urine e.g.(endocrine disrupting products (EDCs), personal care products (PCPs) and pharmaceuticals): Caffeine, Atenolol, Carbamazepine, Dilantin, Ibuprofen, Naproxen, TCEP, Estrone, Estriol, Ethynylestradiol, Mestranol, b-Estradiol, Trimethoprim, Fluoxetine, 4-acetamidophenol, Ketoprofen, Triclosan, Diclofenac, Atorvastatin, Gemfibrozil

There was also presence of bateria e.g. we used Escherichia coli as indicator organism, which I (personally) think came from using the toilet brush to clear the urine pipe from faeces (sorry for my clumsy discussion on micropollutants in relation to faecal contaimination in my previous email hope this clears it up)

There were also viruses idenfified e.g. we used Total F-specific bacteriophage (F-RNA and F-DNA)as an indicator here too.

The value of recovering urine from the waste stream is beneficial for a number of reasons, not just as a potential fertiliser. Of course there is no economimc value for urine as fertiliser at the moment in Australia or any other developed country because as you mnentioned fertiliser prices are relatively cheap.

But there are other benefits of UD... in a rapidly growing city like Sydney where we are expected to grow by 2 million residents in 20-30 years there is value in considering how else we might manage waste streams especially as we have an aging centralised wastewater network (in some parts of the city over 100 years old)that will struggle to deal with rapid population growth in the very near future.

As you very well know urine contains majority of the nutrients in wastewater, if we can manage to remove the nutrients in wastewater by trialling alternative systems such as UD, we then have the potential to greatly reduce the cost of treating the remaining black/greywater (obviously this is more viable in new developments rather than retrofits). Considering we pump the majority of Sydney's sewage out to sea at the moment with only minimal primary treatment, UD makes sense as a way of lightening the burden on existing infrastructure by recovering nutrients. That was the drawcard for the Sydney water utility to be invovled in the trial as they are investing in research on the economic feasibility for recovery of phosphorous, nitrogen and other materials from wastewater.

How we reuse diverted urine requires further investigation. Maybe it wont be P scarcity that drives the uptake of UD but maybe the increasing cost of treating sewage, or water scarcity or dealing with the increasing uncertainty of pharamcueticals in urine that remain untreated in treatment plants and consequently negatively effecting aquatic ecosystems...

In response to your comment that a market for urine is probably a bit far-fetched at the moment of course I agree... but as I mentioned there are other benefits in removing urine (and nutrients) from the waste stream. And we need to figure out if this is system is going to be viable for scale up. Better to research this stuff now than wait for a crisis to drive innovation

Regards
Dena

Dr Dena Fam
Senior Research Consultant
Chancellor's Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Institute for Sustainable Futures
University of Technology Sydney
Phone: (+61)2 9514 4950
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Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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