Sanitation in South Africa is characterised by both achievements and challenges and in order to speed up the rate of success and overcome obstacles many believe the answers lay outside the public’s perceived notion of what “proper” sanitation is.

In its quest to eradicate the bucket system and address households with no access to sanitation at all the Department of Water and Sanitation has two options.  The first option, which is considered proper among users, involves the rollout of flush toilets connected to a public sewerage system or a septic tank.

The second option, which is not as popular among users, is the installation of ventilated pit latrines (VIP). Larry Crisp, Principal communications officer at the Department of Water and Sanitation, believes the country may need to be more open to this idea of dry sanitation.

Urbanisation and water scarcity

In an article published on Independent Online Crisp noted that the challenge for developing countries is that they need to match the pace of increasing urbanisation and population growth under increasing water scarcity, and constrained financial and technical resources.

“Urbanisation is occurring at a rapid rate in developing countries and the dilemma that they are faced with is whether they will ever reach universal sanitation coverage via conventional systems, while also managing increasing water, energy and pollution demands.”

Why go dry?

For a water-scarce country like South Africa dry sanitation has many benefits.

  • It eliminates the need for sewers or faecal sludge management in the case of on-site sanitation technologies.
  • With these systems waste is treated at the source.
  • There is a potential economic benefit as human waste can be transformed into valuable by –products.
  • Dry sanitation creates opportunities for businesses that not only manufacture toilet parts but manage the facilities after installation.
  • For struggling municipalities the financial burden related to the provision of sanitation could be reduced by partnering with dry sanitation service providers and cutting out the costs of bulk sewer infrastructure.

The United Nations definition of improved adequate sanitation includes a number of dry sanitation options that have been tried and tested.

“Dry sanitation can be a potential game-changer in South Africa; all that remains is for communities to be sold on the prospect,” he concluded.