Sunday 16 May 2010

Wastewater management

I’ve just bought and read the book Sustainable Wastewater Management in Developing Countries: New Paradigms and Case Studies from the Field by Carsten Laugesen and Ole Fryd with Hans Brix and Thammarat Koottatep (published this year by ASCE Press – ASCE is the American Society of Civil Engineers). It’s quite expensive (USD 75), so is it any good?

Well, on balance, ‘No’, though it does have a few good bits. Why do I say this? Because (a) there’s much too much emphasis on wastewater treatment (and mostly on constructed wetlands, as might be expected with Professors Brix and Koottatep as contributing authors); (b) there’s far too little emphasis on wastewater collection – simplified sewerage is mentioned, but not correctly (Figure 3-3 is labelled “A simplified sewerage system”, but it shows a settled sewerage system; Figure 3-4 is better: it correctly shows a “condominium sewerage system”); and (c) there’s nothing on design.

ASCE Press says the book “will urge practitioners, decision makers, and researchers to approach these systems in new ways that are practical, innovative, and − best of all − sustainable.” I don’t think so. I think they’ll all end up very confused.

Thursday 13 May 2010

“International Glossary of Shit”

The Community-led Total Sanitation (CLTS) website has an “International Glossary of Shit”. The reason given is “In CLTS, the crude local word for shit is always used, cutting through the deadly silence around open defecation.” So now you can say ‘ess aitch one tea’ in many languages − ain’t you the lucky one!

Saturday 8 May 2010

Don’t neglect “old” knowledge!

There’s an interesting article in the Spring 2010 issue of Planet Earth* Groundwater − returning to the sources. Here’s what the intro. blurb says:

Many people in Africa depend on groundwater, but exploiting it effectively depends on accurate information about where to find it – and this information is expensive to obtain. Yet in many cases, researchers did the work years ago – it's just a matter of tracking down their results. Jude Cobbing and Jeff Davies describe a new initiative to make data from old studies more accessible – and in doing so, improve scientific cooperation and the availability of water in Africa.

Many people (students in particular) think useful data have to come from recent sources – they have to be available on the Internet, otherwise they ain’t much use. So an initiative like this, to get “old” knowledge on the Internet, is very welcome. After all, reinventing wheels is expensive and a massive waste of time.

This article is about groundwater, but in sanitation there’s also lots of good “old” knowledge (some of which is on the Internet) which many of today’s professionals (never mind students) simply don’t know about. So they reinvent some wheels – e.g., sanitation planning tools, latrine designs, and so on. Time to get real!

* Planet Earth is a free magazine published by NERC (the UK Natural Environment Research Council) and aimed at non-specialists with an interest in environmental science.

ITT’s World Water Day Campaign

“ITT employees and water supporters rallied together to support ITT Watermark’s nonprofit partners, adding 4,486 fans to the ITT Watermark Facebook page in just one week and raising US$ 4,486 through ITT’s commitment to donate $1 to safe water solutions for every new fan between March 22 and 26 in honor of World Water Day” – see blog of 19 March. Well done, ITT!

Tuesday 4 May 2010

Japanese flush toilets!

Read The weird and wonderful world of the Japanese Washlet (Daily Telegraph, 24 November 2009) – truly amazing! Let’s hope they don’t catch on in developing countries!

10 million trees a year!

“Worldwide, the equivalent of almost 270,000 trees is either flushed or dumped in landfills every day and roughly 10 percent of that total is attributable to toilet paper”, says Noelle Robbins in the May/June issue of World Watch Magazine. That’s flushing down toilets nearly 10 million trees a year! It certainly makes you think.