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10th International Rainwater Catchment Systems Conference
"Rainwater International 2001"
Mannheim, Germany - September 2001

Section 1: Rainwater Harvesting in an Urban Context

Paper 1.13 (poster)

Large-Scale Dry Sanitation Programs -Preliminary Observations and Recommendations from Urban Experiences in Mexico

Ana Cordova
Department of Natural Resources
Cornell University, USA


Dry sanitation is a modern adaptation of the ancient practice of managing excreta without the use of water, and therefore without sewage. It implies: a) waterless toilets; b) the on-site treatment of excreta; and c) the production of a safe and effective soil amendment. Its benefits include saving large quantities of water, reducing water pollution, reducing the volume of excreta, killing off pathogens, and retaining nutrients that can later be applied to agricultural crops.

Dry sanitation has been implemented in rural areas of many countries and urban areas of some. Urban populations have different needs compared to rural settlements. Because of their high human population density, urban areas require greater support infrastructure for the success of this technology.

Large-scale dry sanitation programs have the potential to address a variety of problems that urban areas face today: increased needs for water supply; dwindling sources of water; lack of economic resources to adequately treat domestic wastewater; lack of resources to provide water and sanitation services to rapidly growing urban and peri-urban populations; and public health risks due to lack of adequate water and sanitation provision.

Mexico has a large number of dry sanitation experiences, including some of the largest-scale urban experiences in the world. A study of the strengths and weaknesses of these experiences can provide insight on successful dry sanitation implementation, not only in Mexico, but in other countries as well. This document reports preliminary observations and recommendations based on 15 months of field research in 6 urban sites in Mexico. Research focused on program implementation opportunities and barriers. Programs varied with respect to their degree of continuity, user adoption, and strategies they had developed to address various aspects of program implementation.

Many program weaknesses were due to inadequate planning and lack of understanding of the set of steps necessary to carry out a dry sanitation program. Most programs began operating with little or no information from other experiences, information that might have saved them precious time, effort and resources. This Report has been prepared to help practitioners who are designing or already implementing large-scale urban dry sanitation programs. It reviews some of the frequent pitfalls and makes recommendations that may lead to greater program effectiveness.

PDF of full document (2pp, 15kb)

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