Does “Low Cost” Urban Sanitation Exist?

Lessons from a Global Data Set

In this paper, we report results from, and demonstrate the value of, a global database for the collection and aggregation of reliable and comparable cost data for urban sanitation systems as they are built and operated on the ground (rather than the “as planned” costs that are often reported). We show that no particular “mode” of urban sanitation (for example “sewered sanitation” or “fecal sludge management”) can be meaningfully described as “low cost” when compared to other modes. We show that economies of scale may operate for systems that transport waste from pits and sealed tanks by road as well as for sewerage. We use a case study example to show the value of being able to compare local costs to global benchmarks and identify that operational considerations such as low connection rates may be more significant in determining overall cost liabilities for urban sanitation than technical considerations such as population density, size, and degree of centralization/decentralization.

Read the full text at DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.3c05731.