I’ve argued for a long time based on water quality that we should turn the issue of sanitation on its head [turn the head on its head, so to speak]– forget about a flush sewer system but instead examine how to get and maintain water which is clean enough for what we need it for. Why waste scarce and precious and energy-intensive drinking water to remove urine and feces when we need clean water for cooking, drinking, and washing hands? It may be that a piped system is best for a community or household, but let’s prove it.
While Americans may consider flush-and-forget-it indoor plumbing to be the pinnacle of sanitary science, the lowly latrine could be a far better solution for many parts of the developing world, say researchers at Michigan Technological University.
…University’s Sustainable Futures Institute analyzed worldwide barriers to sanitation. … a scarcity of clean drinking water is not as big an issue as one might expect.
In fact, installing water-guzzling appliances such as toilets can actually promote unsanitary conditions when the effluent is discharged untreated into once-clean rivers and streams. A properly built latrine, on the other hand, keeps sewage safely separate from drinking water.
“Our challenge has been to look at what interventions make the most difference,” Watkins said. Their findings show that small changes can be more important in preserving health than big engineering projects, a fact that Watkins, an engineer, relates with some consternation. “As engineers, we like to build stuff. But handwashing is really important, too,” he said. “Even a simple thing like not dipping your hand into the water pot can make a big difference.”