The eCompendium currently consists of four major sections:
This section is a comprehensive compilation of all relevant emergency sanitation technologies that can potentially be implemented in different emergency and more longer-term transitional settings. The technologies are categorised and ordered according to the functional group to which they belong: User Interface (U), Collection and Storage (S), Conveyance (C), Treatment (T), Use/Disposal (D).
Users have the choice between three distinct technology overview options:
Compact view (default setting): Simple table matrix of all emergency technologies only showing the name of the technology and sorted according to the functional groups they belong to.
Grid view: A more visual way of presenting all technologies by providing the technical drawings of all technologies in an overview grid.
List view: More detailed overview of all technologies displayed in a list that already provides details of selected technology parameters.
By clicking on a specific technology, the user can access a more in-depth technology information sheet with a description of the basic working principles and design considerations as well as information on key parameters such as applicability, cost implications, space and materials needed, operation and maintenance requirements and links to further literature and resources. This section also allows further filtering and configuration of full emergency sanitation service chain solutions.
This section presents cross-cutting issues and background information that should be considered when making technology and design decisions. It includes requirements for an (1) initial assessment ranging from soil and groundwater assessment, rehabilitation and upgrading of existing infrastructure to information on the existing institutional and regulatory environment, (2) conceptual aspects like resilience and preparedness, exit strategy and handover of infrastructure and specific features of urban settings, and (3) design and social considerations like inclusive and equitable design, child excreta management and hygiene promotion.
This section provides more detailed information on selected emergency sanitation case studies from different contexts and regions to allow comparing, sharing and learning from existing experiences and further support decision-making around sanitation technology choices in emergencies.
This section provides concise definitions of all relevant technical terms used throughout the platform.
The eCompendium can be used in very different ways depending on who is using it and for what purpose.
Reference Tool: At its core the eCompendium is a user-friendly compilation of state-of-the-art information on all tried and tested emergency sanitation technologies. Hence it can be used as a structured reference tool for WASH practitioners and capacity development institutions to easily find information on specific technologies, cross-cutting issues or key terms used in the sector. Basically, a more interactive version of the hard/softcopy publication.
Filtering of Technologies and Rapid Decision Making: Using the filter bar at the top of the ‘sanitation technology’ section can be another potential entry point particularly for WASH practitioners and decision-makers that allows reducing complexity and pre-selecting only those technologies that are suitable for a specific scenario or context. Based on concrete site settings (like e.g. the phase of emergency for which a technology solution is needed or the in- and output products involved) the number of potentially suitable technologies can be considerably reduced to a more digestible size and makes technology selection easier. The categorisation of technologies used for each of the filters should not be seen as fixed and incontrovertible and may vary under certain local conditions. The categorisation is rather meant to support rapid informed decision making and is a complement to, not a substitute for, sound professional judgement.
System Configurator: The system configurator is a powerful online application that allows the eCompendium user to develop his/her own sanitation service chain (or system respectively). By clicking on a technology of choice the configurator will automatically show all remaining technology options prior and after the respective technology based on the input and output products they require.
Watchlist: Specific technologies or X-cutting issues of interest can be put on a separate watchlist (by clicking on the asterisk next to each technology) either to safe it for later, for print out or to share and discuss it further with colleagues. The watchlist can be accessed by clicking on the red star on the upper left corner. For each technology a 2-page pdf-document is available for download or print out.
The filter bar at the top of the ‘sanitation technologies’ section allows reducing complexity and pre-selecting only those technologies that are suitable for a specific scenario or context. Based on concrete site settings the number of potentially suitable technologies can be considerably reduced to a more digestible size and makes technology selection easier. By clicking on the respective boxes under each of the filters only those technologies will be shown that correspond to the respective boxes. The currently active filters are always shown directly under the filter bar. The active filters can be cleared/deactivated by clicking on the ‘clear filter’ button or by deactivating individual boxes of currently active filters. The categorisation of technologies used in each of the filters should not be seen as fixed and incontrovertible and may vary under certain local site conditions. The categorisation is rather meant to support rapid informed decision making and is a complement to, not a substitute for, sound professional judgement. The available filter options include the following:
Indication on appropriateness of sanitation technologies according to the three different emergency phases:
Acute Response: immediately following an emergency,
Stabilisation: transition phase starting after the first weeks of an emergency lasting several months or longer,
Recovery: longer-term approach usually starting after immediate relief interventions aiming to recreate or improve on pre-emergency situation.
The allocation of technologies to different emergency phases is mainly based on applicability, speed of implementation and material requirements. It allows giving a first general orientation but may differ in a specific local situation.
Challenging Ground Conditions
Indication on suitability of technologies for areas with challenging ground conditions (e.g. rocky soils, areas with high groundwater table, soils with low infiltration capacity, flood prone areas) where underground digging may be difficult. These are just indications and not absolute requirements (e.g. underground treatment facilities in rocky undergrounds may still be realised with heavy blasting).
Water-Based & Dry Technologies
Indication which technologies are dependent on water for either flushing or transport and which technologies do not require water as a transport medium. There are some technologies that can be used both for water-based and dry sanitation solutions.
Indication on appropriateness of sanitation technologies according to the three different spatial levels:
Household: one unit serving one up to several individual households
Neighbourhood: one unit serving a few to several hundred households
City: one unit serving an entire settlement, camp or district
It allows giving a first general orientation but may differ in a specific local situation.
Indication where the main responsibility for operation and maintenance (O&M) for a specific technology lies:
Household: O&M tasks can be managed by the individual household
Shared: group of users are responsible for O&M by ensuring that a person or a committee is in charge on behalf of all users
Public: government, institutional or privately-run facilities: all O&M tasks are assumed by the entity operating the facility
Qualitative estimate of the space (area or spatial footprint) required for each technology. The categorisation is based on a comparative approach between the different technologies and not in absolute terms (e.g., a Single Pit Latrine needs little space compared to a Constructed Wetland). The space required is indicated for one typical unit and not per user. It allows giving a first general orientation but may differ in a specific local situation depending on the number of users connected to a technology and/or other design criteria.
Indication on the level of technical expertise needed to implement, operate and maintain a given technology. This can help planning where skills and capacities are limited or temporarily unavailable.
Low technical complexity: can be done by non-professionals and artisans
Medium technical complexity: skilled artisans or engineers are required
High technical complexity: experienced professionals required
The categorisation is based on a comparative approach between the different technologies and not in absolute terms (e.g., Manual Emptying and Transport is less technically complex than a Conventional Gravity Sewer). It allows giving a first general orientation but may differ in a specific local situation.
Refers to the products that typically flow into the given technology. By selecting specific input products only those technologies will be shown that deal with the respective input products. Sanitation input products can be materials that are generated directly by humans (e.g. urine, faeces and greywater from bathing, cooking and cleaning), that are required for the technologies to function (e.g. flushwater to flush excreta through sewers) or are generated as a function of storage or treatment (e.g. sludge). For the design of a robust sanitation system, it is important to develop a good understanding of the products that are flowing into (inputs) and out of (outputs) each of the sanitation technology components of the system.
Refers to the products that flow out of the given technology. By selecting specific output products only those technologies will be shown that generate the respective output products. Sanitation output products are generated as a function of storage or treatment (e.g. sludge). For the design of a robust sanitation system, it is important to develop a good understanding of the products that are flowing into (inputs) and out of (outputs) each of the sanitation technology components of the system.
The sanitation system configurator is a powerful online application that allows the eCompendium user to develop his/her own sanitation service chain (or system respectively). By clicking on a technology of choice the configurator will automatically show all remaining technology options prior and after the respective technology based on the input and output products that correspond with the selected technology. Depending on e.g. already available technology components, user preferences, site conditions or desired output products the configurator can be used to identify full sanitation service chain solutions. This can either be done the classical way from the user interface via the storage, collection, transport to treatment and final reuse or disposal (from left to right) or alternatively with a starting point at any stage of the system. Through reverse engineering sanitation service chain solutions can also be identified from the end of the sanitation chain based on e.g. a desired output product (from right to left). For example, if the goal of the sanitation chain is to produce compost as an end product, a technology can be selected with compost as an output product. The configurator will then automatically show only those available upstream technologies that would correspond with the selected technology.
Selecting the most appropriate set of sanitation technologies for a specific context is a challenging task and requires considerable experience. The key decision criteria below aim to give the eCompendium user general guidance in the technology selection process and in the overall design of a sanitation system. The decision criteria are featured in each of the technology information sheets.
1. Phase of Emergency
Technologies are either or less appropriate depending on the phase of the emergency. As such, their suitability is characterised for the three emergency phases: Acute Response, Stabilisation, Recovery. An indication of whether or not a technology is suitable in the different emergency phases is given using asterisks (two asterisks: suitable, one asterisk: less suitable, no asterisk: unsuitable). The level of appropriateness is decided on a comparative level between the different technologies, mainly based on applicability, speed of implementation and material requirements. It is up to the eCompendium user to decide on the emergency phase for the specific situation in which he/she is working.
2. Application Level
The application level describes the different spatial levels for which the technology is most appropriate. It is subdivided into the following levels:
Household (one unit serving one up to several individual households)
Neighbourhood (one unit serving a few to several hundred households)
City (one unit serving an entire settlement, camp or district)
An indication of whether a technology is suitable at a specific spatial level is given using asterisks (two asterisks: suitable, one asterisk: less suitable, no asterisk: unsuitable). It is up to the eCompendium user to decide on the appropriate level for the specific situation in which he/she is working.
3. Management Level
The management level describes where the main responsibility for operation and maintenance (O&M) for a specific technology lies:
Household (all O & M related tasks can be managed by the individual household)
Shared (group of users are responsible for O & M by ensuring that a person or a committee is in charge on behalf of all users. Shared facilities refer to a self-defined group of users who decide who is allowed to use the facility and what their responsibilities are)
Public (government, institutional or privately run facilities: all O & M is assumed by the entity operating the facility)
An indication regarding the appropriateness of each management level is given using zero to two asterisks, with two asterisks meaning that the technology can be well handled at the respective level.
4. Objectives/Key Features
This section gives a concise indication of the main features and functions of specific technologies. It also provides general guidance for the immediate evaluation and classification of technologies and their suitability for an envisioned sanitation system or context.
5. Space Required
This section gives a qualitative estimate of the space required for each technology, meaning the area or spatial footprint required by the technology. This can help planning in areas where space is a limiting factor. Asterisks are used to indicate how much space is needed for the given technology (three asterisks: much space required, two asterisks: medium space required, and one asterisk: little space required). The categorisation is based on a comparative approach between the different technologies and not in absolute terms, e.g. a Single Pit Latrine needs little space compared to a Constructed Wetland. The space required is indicated for one typical unit and not per user. The amount of space required for each technology can heavily depend on the number of users connected to this technology and on other design criteria. For this assessment, it does not matter if a technology can be constructed underground and therefore the space above can potentially be used, e.g. an Anaerobic Baffled Reactor requires medium space, but as it can be constructed underground, part of its surface can be used for other purposes.
6. Technical Complexity
This section gives an overview of the technical complexity of each technology, meaning the level of technical expertise needed to implement, operate and maintain the given technology. This can help planning where skills and capacities are limited or temporarily unavailable. Asterisks are used to indicate the technical complexity for the given technology (three asterisks: high complexity, two asterisks: medium complexity, and one asterisk: low complexity). Low technical complexity means that no or minimal technical skills are required to implement, operate and maintain a technology. This can be done by non-professionals and artisans. Medium technical complexity means that certain skills are required for either implementation or O & M. Skilled artisans or engineers are required for the design and O & M of such a technology. High technical complexity means that an experienced expert, such as a trained engineer, is required to implement, operate and maintain a technology in a sustainable manner. The categorisation is based on a comparative approach between the different technologies and not in absolute terms, e.g. Manual Emptying and Transport is less technically complex than a Conventional Gravity Sewer.
Different technologies are required for the management of different inputs and the generation of specific outputs. Therefore, when selecting technologies, one must consider the input products that have to be dealt with and the desired output products. Through reverse engineering technologies can be selected from the end of the sanitation chain based on a desired output product. For example, if the goal of the sanitation chain is to produce compost as an end product, a technology can be selected with compost as an output product. Upstream technology components would support this goal. Keeping in mind the safety and quality of the desired output products at each step of the system helps to internalise the system approach, and supports the selection of a combination of technologies that creates end-products that can be safely used or disposed of into the environment.
Inputs refer to the products that flow into the given technology. The products shown without parentheses are the regular inputs that typically go into a technology. Products shown with parentheses represent alternatives or options of which not all are necessary, depending on the design or context. Where a product should be used in conjunction with another product, this is indicated by the plus (+). The product following the plus is mixed with the preceding product(s).
Outputs refer to the products that flow out of the given technology. The products shown without parentheses are the regular outputs that typically come out of a technology. Products in parentheses () are additional (optional) products that may or may not occur as output products, depending on the design or context. When these products occur mixed with another product, this is indicated by the plus (+). The product following the plus is mixed with the preceding product(s).
8. Design Considerations
In this section, general and key design considerations are described, including general sizing, space requirements and other features. This section does not describe the detailed design parameters to allow the complete construction of a technology, but gives an idea on dimension features to consider, the retention times, as well as the main potential pitfalls to be aware of when designing the technology. This section helps the compendium user understand the technical design and complexity of a given technology.
This section lists the different materials and equipment required for the construction, operation and maintenance of a given technology. It indicates whether materials are likely to be locally available or producible, e.g. wood and bricks or whether materials will need to be imported or require special manufacturing, which will considerably delay implementation during an emergency. The materials section also indicates whether a technology can be prefabricated as a unit to speed up implementation.
Applicability describes the contexts in which a technology is most appropriate. This section indicates a technology’s applicability in terms of type of setting, distinguishing between rural or urban, short-term or a longer-term settlement. The section describes the phases of an emergency in which a technology can be implemented. Other physical considerations of applicability are listed here, including soil conditions required, water availability needed, ground water table considerations, etc. This section also gives information on the potential for replicability, scalability and the speed of implementation.
11. Operation and Maintenance
Every technology requires operation and maintenance (O & M), more so if it is used over a prolonged period of time. The O & M implications of each technology must be considered during initial planning. Many technologies fail due to the lack of appropriate O & M. In this section, the main operation tasks that need to be considered and the maintenance that is required to guarantee longer-term operation are listed. This section differentiates between different O & M skills and provides an indication of frequency of O & M tasks and the time required to operate and maintain a technology. A list of potential misuses and pitfalls to be aware of is also provided.
12. Health and Safety
All sanitation technologies have health and safety implications. The health implications or risks described in this section should be considered during planning to reduce health risks in the local community and among sanitation personnel and staff. The health and safety section also describes overall risk management procedures, which can lead to decisions to exclude a technology if safety cannot be guaranteed. Where relevant, the personal protective equipment needed to guarantee personal safety is listed.
Costs are another key decision criterion to consider. Each technology has costs associated with construction, operation, maintenance and management. In addition, each technology has cost implications for other technologies in the sanitation chain. For example, a Septic Tank will require regular desludging and therefore equipment and time is needed for the task of desludging, which is usually not accounted for in the Septic Tank. Costs are geographically dependent and are not absolute. Hence, this section presents the main cost elements associated with a technology, allowing for a first approximation.
14. Social Considerations
Social considerations are a crucial element when deciding on specific sanitation technologies, especially at the user interface level, or an entire sanitation system. There are potential cultural taboos, user preferences and habits as well as local capacities that may be challenging, impossible or inappropriate to change. A sanitation technology needs to be accepted by the users as well as the personnel operating and maintaining it.
15. Strengths and Weaknesses
This section concisely summarises main strengths and weaknesses and thereby supports the decision-making process. The weaknesses of a technology might indicate that an exclusion criterion is fulfilled and a technology is not suitable for a specific context. Both strengths and weaknesses can be effectively used to inform decisions of users and all involved in the planning and implementation of the sanitation system.
16. References and Further Readings
This section refers users to relevant publications and further reading materials related to a specific technology including a short description for each listed publication. Users can use the publication list to find additional relevant information (e.g. design guidelines, research papers, case studies) on specific technologies.
A sanitation system can be visualised as a matrix of functional groups (columns) and products (rows) that are linked together where potential combinations exist. Such a graphical presentation gives an overview of the technology components of a system and of all the products that it manages. The sanitation technologies and their corresponding functional groups can be allocated to three main categories: “On-site”, “Transport” or “Off-site”. Products are successively collected, stored, transported and transformed along different compatible technologies from the five functional groups. The output of a technology in one functional group, thereby, becomes the input for the next. It is not always necessary for a product to pass through a technology from each of the five functional groups; however, the ordering of the functional groups should usually be maintained regardless of how many of them are included within the sanitation system.
The prevailing categories used to distinguish between the different emergency phases are: (1) acute response, (2) stabilisation, and (3) recovery. The identification of these broad phases is helpful when planning assistance, however the division should be viewed as theoretical and simplified, modelled after singular disaster events. Real life is seldom so clearly defined.
Acute Response Phase: This refers to humanitarian relief interventions that are implemented immediately following natural disasters, conflicts, protracted crises or epidemics. It usually covers the first hours and days up to the first few weeks, where effective short-term measures are applied to alleviate the emergency situation quickly until more permanent solutions can be found. People affected by disasters are generally much more vulnerable to diseases, which to a large extent are related to inadequate sanitation and an inability to maintain good hygiene. The purpose of interventions in the acute response phase is to ensure the survival of the affected population, guided by the principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence. Essential sanitation-related services needed at this stage include establishing instant and safe excreta management options (particularly excreta containment measures) as they are critical determinants for survival in the initial stages of a disaster. Ensuring a safe environment and avoiding contamination of water sources is also critical. If applicable, this may also include the quick rehabilitation of existing WASH infrastructure, the establishment of appropriate drainage solutions and the provision of tools and equipment to ensure basic operation and maintenance services.
Stabilisation Phase: The stabilisation or transition phase usually starts after the first weeks of an emergency and can last several months to half a year or longer. The main sanitation focus, apart from increasing coverage of sanitation services, is the incremental upgrade and improvement of the temporary emergency structures that would have been installed during the acute phase, or the replacement of temporary sanitation technologies with more robust longer-term solutions. This phase includes the establishment of community-supported structures with a stronger focus on the entire sanitation service chain. This phase often sees a shift from communal sanitation to household-level solutions. Sanitation hardware solutions should be based on appropriate technologies and designs, ideally using locally available materials. A detailed assessment is required in order to be able to respond adequately within a given local context and to increase the long-term acceptance of the envisioned sanitation interventions. Particular emphasis should be given to socio-cultural aspects such as potentially sensitive issues regarding sanitation (including use, operation and maintenance), menstrual hygiene management, vulnerability to sexual and other forms of violence as well as hygiene-related issues that imply certain levels of behaviour change. The equitable participation of women and men, children, marginalised and vulnerable groups in planning, decision-making and local management is key to ensuring that the entire affected population has safe and adequate access to sanitation services, and that services are appropriate.
Recovery Phase: The recovery phase, sometimes referred to as the rehabilitation phase, usually starts after or even during relief interventions and aims to recreate or improve on the pre-emergency situation of the affected population by gradually incorporating development principles. It can be seen as a continuation of already executed relief efforts and can prepare the ground for subsequent development interventions and gradual handing over to medium/long-term partners. Depending on local needs the general timeframe for recovery and rehabilitation interventions is usually between six months to three years and in difficult situations up to five years. Recovery and rehabilitation interventions are characterised by an active involvement and participation of local partners and authorities in the planning and decision making in order to build on local capacities and to contribute to the sustainability of the interventions. Sanitation recovery interventions can take diverse forms and depend on local conditions as well as actual needs of the affected population. Beyond the technical implementation of a sanitation system, these interventions include significant efforts to strengthen service structures and promote markets for sanitation services. In long-lasting camp situations that may develop into permanent settlements interventions might include upgrading the existing emergency sanitation infrastructure. Recovery interventions also include longer-term capacity development and training including working with relevant local authorities and development partners. Stronger collaboration with local governments, utilities, civil society, private sector and the handing over of responsibilities are also paramount. This necessitates the increased participation of involved stakeholders in sanitation planning and decision-making early on. Where possible, sanitation recovery interventions should take into consideration that the investments made may provide a foundation for further expansion of water and sanitation facilities and services. In addition, recovery interventions may include relevant resilience and disaster risk reduction measures. Recovery interventions should include a clear transition or exit strategy including hand-over to local governments, communities or service providers to ensure that the service levels created can be maintained.
The Global WASH Cluster describes disasters as events where important losses and damage are inflicted upon communities and individuals, possibly including loss of life and livelihood assets, leaving the affected communities unable to function normally without outside assistance. Disasters or humanitarian emergencies can take different forms. Each emergency situation, depending on the country context, its scope and causes is unique and has a great impact on people, the environment and infrastructure. Despite this heterogeneity, the following subdivision of various types of crises can be used to provide a rough categorisation:
Disasters Triggered by Natural or Technological Hazards: Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides, floods, storms, droughts and temperature extremes are natural hazards that can cause humanitarian disasters claiming many lives and causing economic losses and environmental and infrastructure damage. However, humanitarian disasters only occur if a hazard strikes where populations are vulnerable to the specific hazard. Due to climate change and its far-reaching impact, humanitarian assistance has to increasingly deal with extreme weather events and their consequences. The growing world population, continuing global urbanisation and changes in land use, further increase the vulnerability to natural and technological hazards such as dam breaks, chemical or nuclear contamination. Such disasters often result in a deterioration of environmental health conditions, particularly in terms of access to basic sanitation services. Infrastructure such as schools, roads, hospitals, as well as sanitary facilities and washroom facilities are often directly affected, resulting in access to sanitation and the practice of relevant hygiene behaviour like handwashing no longer being assured. Thus, the risk of water and sanitation related diseases increases.
Conflicts: This includes societally-caused emergency situations such as political conflicts, armed confrontations and civil wars. Many displaced people (internally displaced people and/or refugees) have to be housed in camps, temporary shelters or host communities, where access to adequate sanitation and hygiene items needs to be guaranteed at very short notice and often must be maintained over longer periods. Most displaced persons are usually absorbed by host communities. This can overburden the existing sanitation infrastructure making it difficult to identify and quantify actual needs. Because of conflict dynamics, it is often difficult to plan how long shelters and corresponding sanitation infrastructure must remain in place. This can vary from a few weeks or months to several years or even decades. In addition, refugee camps are often constructed in places with an already tense sanitation situation. In refugee situations, where a displaced population is initially housed in temporary shelters or in a camp it is usually not politically desired that any move towards permanent settlement is made. Local decision makers might oppose activities that are seen to make the settlement more permanent or better developed for fear of not being able to move the refugee population back to where they initially came from. This is further complicated if the conditions in the camp prove to become better than those in local settlements. Tensions can arise between the local and refugee populations. Such cases should be seen as opportunities to improve sanitation services for both host and refugee communities.
Fragile States and Protracted Crises: A phenomenon that is increasingly common is the issue of fragile states and countries in protracted crises. States can be considered fragile if the state is unwilling or unable to meet its basic functions. For the affected population, their safety may be at risk as basic social services are not, or are only poorly, provided. Weak government structures or lack of government responsibility for ensuring basic services can lead to increased poverty, inequality, social distrust and can potentially develop into a humanitarian emergency. Protracted crisis situations are characterised by recurrent disasters and/or conflicts, prolonged food crises, deterioration of the health status of people, breakdown of livelihoods and insufficient institutional capacity to react to crises. In these environments, a significant proportion of the population is acutely vulnerable to mortality, morbidity and disruption of livelihoods over a prolonged period of time. The provision of basic sanitation services is often neglected and external support using conventional government channels can lead to highly unsatisfactory experiences. Under these conditions, it may be necessary to explore complementary and alternative means of service provision, basing it mainly on non- and sub-state actors at a relatively decentralised level.
(High-) Risk Countries Continuously Affected by Disasters and Climate Change: Climate change and the increased likelihood of associated natural hazards is an enormous challenge for many countries. The risk that natural events become a disaster is largely determined by the vulnerability of the society, the susceptibility of its ecological or socio-economic systems and by the impact of climate change both on occasional extreme events (e.g. heavy rains causing floods or landslides) and on gradual climatic changes (e.g. temporal shift of the rainy seasons). Climate change also exacerbates problematic situations in high-risk countries that are already suffering from disasters. Existing sanitation infrastructure may need adaptations or the introduction of more appropriate and robust sanitation systems to increase resilience and help communities cope with climate-induced recurrent extreme weather events (e.g. raised sanitation solutions for flood-prone areas). In addition, sanitation systems may need to be prepared to serve climate change refugees.
This platform mainly targets humanitarian field workers, local first responders, engineers, planners, relevant government representatives, academic institutions, capacity building agencies and WASH professionals involved in humanitarian WASH response and subsequent stabilisation and recovery activities.