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Better Sanitation = Happier Oceans

The Urban Water Challenge features the Ocean Sewage Alliance & Sanivation on World Oceans Day

Last year on World Ocean Day, the Urban Water Challenge featured The Nature Conservancy’s Stephanie Wear to explain sewage pollution, the ocean sized problem no one was talking about. Since then, we have worked with Stephanie and 15 other water and conservation businesses, nonprofits, and funders to make sure everyone is talking about it.

On World Ocean Day 2021, we are excited to launch the Ocean Sewage Alliance with a goal to create awareness and action around sewage, and change people’s perception of ocean sewage — from a form of waste to a resource.

Left: Sanivation’s graphic on Malindi’s problem. Right: Operator monitoring quality of sludge inputs.

Coastal pollution — from our sewage, septic systems, cesspools, pit latrines, and even open defecation — is happening all around the world, from NYC to Malindi. This wastewater pollution negatively impacts not just coastal habitat health, but community health.

Solving our coastal sewage pollution will require a variety of new approaches and cross sector collaborations. Let’s take a deeper look into what Sanivation (UWC 2020) is doing to tackle this issue in Malindi.

Sanivation imagines affordable sanitation services and infrastructure for all…

The coastal city of Malindi is a very popular tourist destination in Kenya. With a population growth rate of 3.4% each year, it is astonishing to know that it’s 300k residents do not have access to sewer lines and waste treatment options.

Presently, the city is only able to safely manage sanitation for 35% of its population, which is simply not enough. As a result, the untreated wastewater is contaminating water supplies, leading to health consequences not just for people but marine and coral life in the National Marine Park.

To help solve this problem, Sanivation is working with WSUP (UWC Deployment Partner) and the county government, among other partners, to provide city-wide inclusive sanitation services. In December, Malindi launched a 20-year city-wide inclusive sanitation plan and accompanying investment plan. The plan aims to ensure everyone within Malindi Municipality has access to safely managed sanitation by promoting a range of solutions — both onsite and sewered, centralized or decentralized — tailored to the realities of the world’s burgeoning cities.

With funding and support from the Urban Water Challenge, Sanivation is finalizing a feasibility analysis to deploy non-sewered sanitation through a “waste-to-energy” model across Kenya.

But what is a “waste-to-energy” model?

Sanivation uses low-cost technology to transform fecal waste into briquettes.

  • First, their treatment plant receives sludge from pit latrines and septic tanks that are transported by exhauster trucks
  • This fecal sludge is de-watered, treated, and combined with other waste products, like sawdust, rose waste, or sugarcane bagasse (depending on availability in a town)
  • These solid wastes are then compressed together to make a high-performing solid briquette
  • Briquettes are sold to industry partners like tea farms and textile factories, where they outperform firewood by 15–30%

How does this help our People, Planet and Oceans?

Better Sanitation for the People

  • At city-wide coverage, Sanivation has reduced diarrhea for the community by 32%
  • Containment and adequate treatment of fecal waste has saved communities from exposure to fecal pathogens and diarrheal diseases.
  • This non-sewered sanitation is 5x cheaper than sewerage
  • For each plant, the Kenyan company employs at least 50 people.

Better Sanitation for the Planet

  • Sanivation’s briquettes burn longer and generate less smoke as compared to other locally available sources like firewood or charcoal (Energy saved: 5,582MWh/yr compared to firewood)
  • The use of every ton of briquettes has been claimed to save 22 trees and offset 2 tons of CO2 eq.

Better Sanitation for the Oceans

  • Lower demand on water use: By promoting non-sewered approaches that use less water, the number of people who can access sanitation services with the same quantity of water increases.
  • Better for water reuse: Beyond reducing the need for water, by separating feces from other wastewater sources, the process to treat grey water for reuse will be more effective and cost-efficient.
  • Increase in protection of water sources: By providing access to safely managed sanitation, more groundwater and freshwater sources will be protected from environmental pollution.
  • Service provision without water: Non-sewered approaches can be used without water; thus, adapting to varying climate change effects, including rainfall shortages.
  • Resilient infrastructure: Without the need for a sewered network, there is no concern for corroding pipes due to water shortages or damage due to flooding.

This form of a circular economy process is cleaning cities, creating jobs, and safeguarding our oceans.

For the 2020 Urban Water Challenge (UWC), Imagine H2O partnered with 11th Hour Racing and Oceankind to spotlight the connection between cities and ocean health.