Water Currents: Fecal Sludge Management


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Worldwide, 2.7 billion people rely on on-site sanitation, but many lack the means to manage fecal sludge—the muddy mix of fecal matter that accumulates over time in septage or pit latrines, which can have significant health and environmental implications. As a result, fecal sludge management (FSM) has become a key component of providing universal sanitation access.
This issue of Water Currents contains studies from 2017 that focus on FSM, including research that discusses the health-related aspects, technological aspects, and related economic/financing issues. Also included are links to upcoming courses, announcements, and websites.
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Water Currents - In Focus


Introduction to Faecal Sludge Management. This introductory course by the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne teaches how to apply concepts of sustainable FSM on a citywide scale. It started on January 8, 2018, but enrollment is still open. This course is one of four in the series “Sanitation, Water and Solid Waste for Development.” This is an online course and there is no charge for participating.


Field Test Innovative Sludge Management Tools in Malawi. Mzuzu University Centre of Excellence in Water and Sanitation in Malawi invites self-funded graduate students or experienced researchers to field test their innovative tools and techniques for the emptying, transport, and treatment of pit latrine or septic tank sludge. The site is well suited for conducting field testing on local pit latrines or septic tanks for a period of several weeks to months. Visit the centre’s website or contact Dr. Rochelle Holm for further information.

FSM and Health

Designing a Mixed-Methods Approach for Collaborative Local Water Security: Findings from a Kenyan Case StudyExposure and Health, July 2017. The purpose of this research was to develop and pilot a mixed-methods-coupled systems (human and physical) approach to understand strengths, challenges, and health impacts associated with WASH in a rural Kenyan community. Both quantitative and qualitative data were used for the analysis.

Exposure to Sewage from On-Site Sanitation and Child Health: A Spatial Analysis of Linkages and Externalities in Peri-Urban BoliviaInter-American Development Bank, October 2017. The negative health impacts associated with faulty on-site sanitation infrastructure provide a persuasive argument in favor of government interventions that adequately remove and treat fecal sludge. These findings are based on an analysis of a unique dataset with independent verification of sewage in and around the land parcels of more than 20,000 households in peri-urban Bolivia.
The Influence of Household- and Community-Level Sanitation and Fecal Sludge Management on Urban Fecal Contamination in Households and Drains and Enteric Infection in ChildrenAmerican Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, June 2017. Looking at associations among household sanitation, fecal contamination, and enteric infection, this study found that children from households in two low-income neighborhoods in Vellore, India, with poor FSM have 3.78 times higher prevalence of enteric infection when compared with children in other households, even those without toilets.
Behavioral Influences on Risk of Exposure to Fecal Contamination in Low-Resource Neighborhoods in Accra, GhanaJournal of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for Development, June 2017. The transfer of fecal contamination between public and private domains creates repeated risk of exposure to residents during daily activities, suggesting the need for multisectoral approaches to reduce fecal contamination that go beyond the provision of public or private latrines.
Learning Brief: Applying the WHO’s Multi-Barrier Approach to Faecal Sludge ReuseSNV Netherlands Development Organisation, August 2017. Application of the World Health Organization’s “multiple barrier approach” can help achieve safe and affordable fecal sludge reuse. This case study from Nepal demonstrates the need to continue to build sector capacity and learning through practical application of the multi-barrier approach and through similar pilot studies.
Concentration of Soil-Transmitted Helminth (STH) Eggs in Sludge from South Africa and Senegal: A Probabilistic Estimation of Infection Risks Associated with Agricultural ApplicationJournal of Environmental Management, January 2018.  The use of sludge in agriculture can increase soil nutrient content and improve the water holding capacity. This study found a high concentration of viable STH eggs in treated sludge that exceeded both national and international guidelines for reuse, even after 60 days of drying. Further treatment of the sludge is thus recommended from a public health perspective.
Solid Waste and Faecal Sludge Management in Situations of Rapid, Mass DisplacementInstitute of Development Studies, October 2017. Indiscriminate defecation is usually the main health hazard during the first phase of emergency situations. Proper planning with communities for excreta disposal is important from the start of an emergency and should aim to meet the Sphere Standards on excreta disposal.

FSM and Economics/Financing

Towards Sustainable Sanitation Management: Establishing the Costs and Willingness to Pay for Emptying and Transporting Sludge in Rural Districts with High Rates of Access to LatrinesPLoS One, March 2017. The management of on-site rural sanitation is challenging, because the actual costs of transporting sludge and sources for financing these transport costs are not well understood. The framework described in this study can be used to identify cost-effective sludge management options and private contributions toward that cost.
Market Feasibility of Faecal Sludge and Municipal Solid Waste-Based Compost as Measured by Farmers’ Willingness-to-Pay for Product Attributes: Evidence from Kampala, UgandaResources, July 2017. Researchers investigated farmers’ willingness-to-pay for fecal sludge and municipal solid waste-based compost in Kampala, Uganda, finding that farmers are willing to pay for FSM compost and place a higher value on a “certified” compost product.
Market Driven Approach for Faecal Sludge Treatment Products40th WEDC International Conference, October 2017. The Market Driven Approach (MDA) was developed as a quantitative methodology to determine which fecal sludge treatment products have the highest market potential. This paper presents the results from field testing the MDA in five cities in Africa and Southeast Asia.
The Cost of Urban Sanitation Solutions: A Literature ReviewJournal of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for Development, October 2017. This paper reviews the literature on the costs of full sanitation systems in developing cities of Africa and Asia. It concludes that conventional sewer systems are in most cases the most expensive sanitation options, followed, in order of cost, by sanitation systems comprising septic tanks, ventilated improved pit latrines, urine diversion dry toilets, and pour-flush pit latrines.
Potentials of Waste and Wastewater Resources Recovery and Re-Use (RRR) Options for Improving Water, Energy and Nutrition SecurityCenter for Development Research/University of Bonn, May 2017. Focusing on potential benefits from resources recycling and recovery, yet being cautious of their external effects, this review assesses the available waste and wastewater treatment options and their economic, environmental, and health benefits and risks.
Wastewater Report 2017: The Reuse OpportunityInternational Water Association, 2017. Chapters in this report discuss the use of sludge as a resource and a valuable economic good in Bangkok, Thailand, and Kampala, Uganda.

FSM and Technology

Designing Local Solutions for Emptying Pit Latrines in Low-Income Urban Settlements (Malawi)Physics and Chemistry of the Earth, August 2017. Emptying of pit latrines in households from the unplanned settlement areas within Mzuzu, Malawi, poses challenges in part due to limited access by vacuum trucks. This research focused on filling the technological gap through the design, development, and testing of a pedal-powered modified Gulper pump using locally available materials and fabrication.
Trash Removal Methods for Improved Mechanical Emptying of Pit Latrines Using a Screw AugerJournal of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for Development, March 2017. Trash in pit latrines is one of the largest challenges facing pit-emptying technologies. This study tested several trash removal methods and found two that were more efficient than current tools used in the field.
Characterization of Pit Latrines to Support the Design and Selection of Emptying Tools in Peri-Urban Mzuzu, MalawiJournal of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for Development, March 2017. Pit latrine emptying tools must consider the latrine substructure and superstructure, environmental factors, household practices on use, and characteristics of fecal sludge. This study in a peri-urban neighborhood of Mzuzu, Malawi, examined the characteristics of household pit latrines for designing and selecting pit latrine emptying tools.
GIS Analysis and Optimisation of Faecal Sludge Logistics at City-Wide Scale in Kampala, UgandaSustainability, January 2017. Comprehensive information on service coverage by mechanical fecal sludge emptying service providers in many countries is lacking. The purpose of this study was to analyze the spatial distribution of service coverage and identify areas without fecal sludge emptying services in Kampala, Uganda.
Technology Justice and Faecal Sludge ManagementPractical Action, 2017. Unsafe fecal sludge management in Bangladesh serves as an example of a technology injustice. This paper discusses how systems analysis can guide the development of innovative new programs by identifying barriers to accessing services and involving all stakeholders in designing innovative business models and institutional arrangements.

Other Resources

Q&A with USAID Sanitation Expert Jesse ShapiroGlobal Waters, November 2017. Jesse Shapiro is the Environmental Health Team Lead, Senior Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Advisor, and Sanitation Focal Point at USAID based in the Global Health Bureau. He discusses the importance of fecal sludge management, USAID's sanitation work, and other topics related to World Toilet Day 2017.
Business Models for Fecal Sludge Management. CGIAR, February 2017. Based on the analysis of 44 FSM cases from Asia, Africa, and Latin America, this report shows opportunities as well as bottlenecks that FSM is facing from an institutional and entrepreneurial perspective. There is also a blog post on the World Bank’s Water Blog that summarizes the report.
A Guide to Strengthening the Enabling Environment for Faecal Sludge ManagementWater and Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP), November 2017. This guide presents an introduction to strengthening the enabling environment for FSM services and is based on WSUP’s experience developing market-based solutions for on-site sanitation services in Bangladesh, Kenya, and Zambia.
4th International Faecal Sludge Management (FSM4) Conference – Conference Abstracts. Participants in the FSM4 conference in Chennai, India (February 19-23, 2017) included professionals working in the FSM sector, utilities, service providers, academics, donors, and scientists. A compilation of case studies is also available.


Sanitation Service Delivery (SSD) – SSD is a USAID/West Africa urban sanitation project implemented in Benin, Cote d’Ivoire, and Ghana. The goal of the program is to improve sanitation outcomes by developing and testing scalable business models that engage private sector service providers. SSD also has an active Twitter handle:@POOPgroupSSD.
Sanivation – Sanivation provides sanitation services and byproducts to the urban and peri-urban poor in Kenya by collecting and treating fecal sludge and transforming it into charcoal briquettes. Sanivation recently won a grant from the USAID Development Innovation Ventures program.
EAWAG – Department Sanitation, Water and Solid Waste for Development – Sanitation, Water and Solid Waste for Development is one of the main research departments at Eawag (the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology). Its mandate is to develop and test methods and technologies that help the world’s poorest access sustainable water and sanitation services.  

If you would like to feature your organization's materials or suggest other content for upcoming issues of Water Currents, please send them to Dan Campbell, Knowledge Creation/WASH Specialist, at


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