Water Supply & Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC)

Ecological Sanitation Services


Most people , regard human excreta and wastewater as  smelly and disgusting to get rid of as quick as possible. But why do we “waste” something valuable? Ecological sanitation considers human excreta and household wastewater as resources that can be safely collected, treated, and reused in a variety of ways.

Ecological sanitation (ecosan) is an approach that offers many advantages over conventional forms of sanitation provision. Ecosan systems consider the different streams of wastewater (urine, faeces, grey water, and in certain settings even organic waste) as resources (contrary to past conventional wisdom), and seek to recover nutrients and water for use in agriculture. The essential features that need to be looked at in each ecosan system are safe collection, sanitization, transport, and reuse.

For example, urine contains all the major nutrients necessary for plant growth and can therefore be collected, stored, and reused rather easily.

One of the big advantages of ecosan is that it can improve soil fertility and increase agricultural production through the additional fertilization that waste provides. Concurrently this reduces water pollution, aiding the community and the environment, all of which helps households and farmers increase their socioeconomic status.

One of the greatest challenges in implementing ecosan widely is to change the perception that human waste and its reuse are dangerous and unacceptable. To be sure, waste must be treated appropriately, but the benefits of its use are great. Sharing those benefits with the public can shift perception from hazard to resource.

The World Health Organization (WHO) published guidelines to safeguard public health during the implementation of ecosan. Safe Use of Wastewater, Excreta and Greywater in Agriculture and Aquaculture can be found on the WHO web site, as a reference guide.

The Ecosan concepts incorporates diferent technologies – from  simple to high-tech, and particularly emerging technologies. The most renowned technologies are the urine-diversion dehydration toilet (the UDDT  often refered to the “ecosan” toilet) and household biogas systems.

WSSCC advocates ecosan through its WASH Coalitions. Following are some examples.

  • The Philippine WASH Coalition promotes ecosan under the initiatives of low-cost technologies.
  • In Benin, WASH initiatives in ten villages and ten schools in Sakété were promoted in 2009, which included the construction of household ecosan toilets.
  • With the support from Women in Europe for a Common Future (WECF) and other partners, the Governments of Bulgaria and Ukraine have constructed ecosan toilets for households and schools to overcome water and infrastructure problems in rural areas.

The ecological sanitation concept is a practical pillar of sustainable sanitation. For more about sustainable sanitation, visit WSSCC’s page on the topic.

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