Course 1 : Introduction into the ecosan approach


In this introductory course, we will first discuss: what is ecological sanitation? And what is it not? We will see that ecological sanitation can be applied to a variety of technologies - and it does not just consist of urine diverting toilets. We will discuss that in many countries closed loop approaches already take place, but then in an unsafe way: direct application of untreated wastewater in urban agriculture; untreated faecal sludge is applied to the soil; using the bush for a toilet - all examples of returning the nutrients to the soil, but without taking care of protection of the environment and human health.

Also, we will discuss why conventional sewer based sanitation cannot be sufficient to serve the total global population with sanitation. We will discuss some arguments why this is the case. After zooming in on the Millennium Development Goals for sanitation and how ecosan can play a role in this, we will jump to a very specific location: urban slums.

Then, in Unit 2, we will discuss the characteristics of greywater, urine and faeces. Based on their characteristics we can identify optimal treatment and reuse options for the separate streams as well as in different combinations with each other.

And in Unit 3, after we have seen that it makes sense to keep the streams separate, we will go and have a look which kind of technologies are available to get the streams separate.

We will close off the Course with an assignment, and then move to Course 2: Transfer and Treatment of Human Excreta and Greywater.

Aims of the Course

Learning objectives for Course 1

After completing this Course, you will:

  • Be able to describe the concept of ecological sanitation
  • Have an appreciation of the “sanitation crisis” in developing countries
  • Be able to describe the limitations of conventional sanitation (sewer-based or pit based)
  • Know the main characteristics of urine, faeces and greywater
  • Know the main sanitisation methods for urine and faeces
  • Be able to indicate why separation may be a good option
  • Have an overview on the different hardware applications that can be part of an ecosan scheme
Places to Go:

  1. First of all: I highly recommend you to become a member of the Sustainable Sanitation Alliance so you can log in to the forum, under You will get introduced to the key researchers and practitioners in the field, and you will see what are the latest developments and discussion issues. It will add to your learning experience.
  2. Any person involved in ecosan has this list of websites under their Favorites:

As we go along the Module, I will point you to more useful sites. If you have any you use a lot yourself, please share it with us on the platform!
Last modified: Sunday, 30 September 2012, 9:50 AM