Sanitation is a key research area at the Berkeley Water Center. See what research and projects are centered around water, sanitation and toilets.
What is Sanitation?
Photos and videos - Rachel Sklar and Sharada Prasad CS, UC Berkeley
Financial Support: The production of this video is partially funded by Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement in Research (PEER) grant supported by USAID and administered by US NAS
Most of us flush our urine down the toilet, but William Tarpeh uses it to create fertilizer and hopes to help people in need. See how here.
In 2013 Isha Ray, a UC Berkeley professor and international water expert, received a request from UN Women—to determine whether progress on sanitation in the world’s poorest places has been gender equal.
This discussion paper by Zachary Burt, Kara Nelson and Isha Ray reviews the extensive literature on sanitation to show that inadequate access to this basic service prevents the realization of a range of human rights and of gender equality. We recognize that “dignity” is a highly culture- and gender-specific term; we therefore argue that sanitation for all—sanitation that serves all genders equally—must be designed and planned explicitly for the unique needs of women and girls.
Berkeley Water Center Co-Director David Sedlak and Professor Kara Nelson are both affecting the future of direct potable reuse and just served on an expert panel to advise on developing uniform recycling criteria for indirect potable reuse via surface water augmentation and on the feasibility of developing such criteria for direct potable reuse.
Cooke Scholar William Tarpeh's work could have a transformational effect on the developing world. A doctoral student in environmental engineering at UC Berkeley, William is reimagining sanitation and developing ways to convert waste into a precious resource, fertilizer. Will said, "I think that a lot of the solutions to our world’s most pressing problems are in the minds of children who are simply preoccupied with survival. Sanitation for me is one way to remove that preoccupation with just surviving. These kids are instead thinking about how to change their own futures and the future of our world."
Diarrheal diseases kill approximately 1.5 million children under age five annually, representing the second leading cause of death and the leading cause of malnutrition for this age group.1 Reducing the prevalence of diarrhea in developing countries requires expanding access to improved water and sanitation facilities and improving hygienic practices that contaminate water. This study evaluated a range of health and non-health benefits of a comprehensive program to expand and improve water and sanitation infrastructure and improve hygienic practices in the Southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu.
The goal of Professor Kara Nelson's project was to develop a method for disinfecting fresh excreta within the toilet itself, thereby reducing the risk of pathogen exposure associated with removal and disposal or end-use of the fecal sludge. We aimed to develop a process that could be incorporated into self-contained waterless toilets (the waste is stored in containers rather than a pit) that are emptied regularly by a service provider.
As the water crisis deepens, cities are recycling the H2O we flush away and reclaiming it as drinking water. BWC Co-Director David Sedlak comments.
ERG student Emily Woods created her own start-up company, Sanivation, to focus on solar treatment of human waste and conversion to charcoal in Kenya. Sanivation is a social enterprise dedicated to improving the overall dignity, health, and environment of urbanizing communities in East Africa through delivering clean, safe, and efficient sanitation services.
In the lab, BWC doctoral student William Tarpeh is using new technical processes to extract nitrogen from urine to create a nutrient-rich fertilizer. “From a technical perspective,” he says, “urine has a lot of interesting chemistry going on.”
All too often, we think of gender equality in terms of associated “hot button” words—education, pay, civil rights. But we neglect an essential part of the female experience—dignity in access to toilets—which has profound implications for achieving gender equality. Isha Ray, Co-Director of the Berkeley Water Center, shares the experiences of women worldwide and why we need to reevaluate our understanding of women’s issues.
The recognition by the United Nations (U.N.) General Assembly1 and the U.N. Human Rights Council2 in 2010 of a human right to safe drinking water and sanitation has propelled awareness of the global water and sanitation crisis to new heights, while also raising a host of challenging issues. This article surveys the evolution of this right by attempting to place it within a broader historical context and by addressing some of the controversies around privatization.
Poor sanitation is thought to be a major cause of enteric infections among young children. However, there are no previously published randomized trials to measure the health impacts of large-scale sanitation programs.