Monday, November 21, 2011

Op-ed from Jenna Davis: The world needs more toilets

Palo Alto, CA (CNN) -- It does not make for pleasant dinner conversation. But we have a global sanitation crisis. More than 40% of the world's population does not have access to a toilet. These 2.6 billion people, most living in low- and middle-income countries in Asia and Africa, face the daily challenge of finding a bush, train track or empty lot where they can urinate and defecate in relative privacy.

Between 1990 and 2008, the share of the world's population that had access to basic sanitation increased only 7%, to 61% of the world's citizens. In many developing countries, mobile phone penetration is expanding at a faster rate than sanitation. In Tanzania, for example, half the country's citizens have mobile phones, but only 24% use an improved sanitation facility.

Saturday marks the 10th anniversary of World Toilet Day, a day set aside not simply as a celebration of this most venerable and useful of technologies, but as a way to draw attention to the crisis and some possible solutions.

This sanitation crisis is not only an affront to dignity. It results in the release of hundreds of tons of feces and urine each day directly into rivers, lakes, landfills and oceans, creating an immense human and environmental health hazard. Every day more than 4,000 young children die from sanitation-related illness. Fully half of the hospital beds in the developing world are occupied by people whose ailments can be traced to poor sanitation.

Full story: http://www.cnn.com/2011/11/19/opinion/davis-toilet-day/index.html?hpt=op_t1

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

New article from Water Resources Research

The authors introduce two alternative measures for assessing household demand for basic services in developing countries, where access to cash is limited: Willingness to borrow, and willingness to work.

Willingness to pay, borrow, and work for rural water service improvements in developing countries

by Adam Abramson, Nir Becker, Yaakov Garb and Naftali Lazarovitch
In many least developed countries, inadequate user willingness to pay (WTP) to achieve cost recovery for improvements to substandard rural water services is a major barrier to reaching targets such as the Millennium Development Goals. A meta-analysis of 21 contingent valuation studies conducted in least developed countries reveals that cost recovery from user demand is infeasible in most cases, and that rural areas are especially unwilling to pay enough to finance water service improvements. We argue that this is largely due to inability to pay cash rather than an absence of demand and propose two alternative financing approaches that may enable capital deficient communities to afford improvements. A discrete choice experiment, conducted in a rural catchment of Zambia, compares conventional cash-based WTP for different water service attributes with two alternative measures. (1) Willingness to borrow: Monthly payments in cash, with a no-interest loan given to the user. (2) Willingness to work: Instead of cash, payment in the form of contributing time devoted to unskilled labor. To different degrees, these alternatives elicit higher demand and enable cost recovery, providing evidence that demand-driven, economically sustainable water development efforts, as described here for Simango, Zambia, may be implemented for rural, resource-poor communities

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Monday, November 14, 2011

National Geographic Daily News: Human Waste to Revive Haitian Farmland?



article by Christine Dell'Amore

photo courtesy of Sasha Kramer

Published October 26, 2011

A new type of public toilet is helping people in Haiti make fertilizer from human waste, a project that may someday revive the country's degraded farmland, curb disease, and create jobs.

Since 2006 the U.S. nonprofit Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods (SOIL) has been installing public toilets in Haiti, where 80 percent of the population has no access to sanitation.

Most Haitians are forced to dispose of their waste in waterways, plastic bags, or even abandoned buildings, according to SOIL. Any existing toilets are often poorly designed, with waste flushing straight into rivers or groundwater.

Such practices mean that human feces easily get into the water supply, which can cause waterborne diseases such as cholera, currently at epidemic levels in the country, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

More than 6,000 people have died and 420,000 have been sickened since cholera broke out in Haiti in October 2010.

"Sanitation was the most successful health intervention in the modern world," said SOIL co-founder and soil ecologist Sasha Kramer. But in Haiti, "poop getting into water is the leading cause of death."

Read more

Friday, November 11, 2011

Poo Haikus!

The 3 winning entries for defeatDD.org's Haiku contest:


Thunder down under

Got the dysentery blues

Can you spare a square?

By @Clean_the_World



Fact: Diarrhea

kills 1.3 million kids

each year. Holy sh*t.

By @Global_ErinH



A child brims with life

but that life so quickly ebbs

without ORS

By @mmcquest

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Science magazine: China to Spend Billions Cleaning Up Groundwater

from: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/334/6057/745.full?rss=1

Science 11 Nov 2011, Vol. 334 no. 6057 p. 745

by Jane Qiu

BEIJING—As Li Wenpeng traveled in rural China over the past decade to assess groundwater quality, he encountered a grim reality. In many villages he visited, locals were drawing water from contaminated wells and rivers. “It's often the only water source available,” says Li, chief engineer with the China Institute of Geo-Environmental Monitoring in Beijing. “You have places where the entire village is sick” with diarrhea or cancers of the digestive tract, he says.

The Chinese government is about to throw these villages a lifeline. On 28 October, the State Council unveiled a $5.5 billion initiative over 10 years to prevent and treat groundwater contamination. The plan will bolster monitoring and push development of groundwater cleanup technologies.

The project is long overdue, hydrologists say. Water is scarce in China, which ekes by with only one-quarter of the global average for water per capita. Roughly 70% of Chinese get their drinking water from underground—and the economic boom of the past few decades has tainted much of that supply, says Lin Xueyu, a hydrologist at Jilin University in Changchun. Disasters like the petrochemical plant explosions in 2005 that spilled 100 tons of benzene and other chemicals into the Songhua River near the Russian border have exacerbated China's woes. “The situation is dire,” Lin says.

Fully 90% of China's shallow groundwater is polluted, according to the Ministry of Land and Resources, and an alarming 37% is so foul that it cannot be treated for use as drinking water. Common pollutants include heavy metals, organic solvents, petrochemicals, pesticides, and nitrates. The toll is significant: Every year, an estimated 190 million Chinese fall ill and 60,000 die because of water pollution. According to the World Bank, such illnesses cost the government $23 billion a year, or 1% of China's gross domestic product. And that doesn't factor in the impact on China's ecosystems and food supply.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Gates Grand Challenges Exploration initative announces 31 new winners

31 new awards announced for the Gates Foundation's “Create the Next Generation of Sanitation Technologies” topic in round 7 of the Grand Challenges Explorations initiative.

Winners include:

A Revolutionary Sanitation Technology with Superhydrophobic Materials
submitted by Chunlei Guo of the University of Rochester, USA

Conversion of Human Excreta to Energy and Biochar from Jason Aramburu of re:char, USA

Effective Sewage Sanitation with Low CO2 Footprint from Marc Deshusses and David Schaad of Duke University in the U.S (read a university press release about this project)

Energy Recovery & Waste Treatment with Floating Biodigesters submitted by Rob Hughes and colleagues at Live & Learn Environmental Education in Cambodia

Floating Community Wastewater Treatment in Asia – Taber Hand of Wetlands Work! in Cambodia will field test a waste water treatment system that uses floating “pods” filled with wetland plants and moving water and sit directly under the toilet of houseboats in floating villages in Southeast Asia.

Self-Sterilizing Easy Clean Latrine Mat and Casting Form submitted by Paul Vernon and a team at Brighton Development, LLC in the U.S.

Urine-tricity: Electricity from Urine and Sludge submitted by Ioannis Ieropoulos of the University of the West of England, Bristol, UK

Go to the Grand Challenges in Global Health web site for a list of all 31 winning projects.