Sustainable sanitation in Lobitos

Project developed in conjunction with ‘Engineers without Borders UK (EWB)’ to determine the feasibility of implementing public dry sanitation facilities to improve the town’s sanitation crisis.

EcoSwell and EWB's Newcastle Professional Network working in the construction of a composting toilet in the UK

EWB's Professional Network designing a dry composting toilet pilot

Sanitation hazard, contaminated sewage being released into the environment due to a collpased sewage system

Standard composting toilet (Source: NSW Government)

The sanitation system in Lobitos is in a deplorable state. There is no wastewater treatment plant and a sewage system built in 2013 has already collapsed, with broken pipes releasing sewage into the environment in the communities surroundings. The lack of appropriate infrastructure to deal with this problem puts the environmental/ecological well-being of the town and the health of its inhabitants and visitors at risk. As the influx of tourists increases, this sanitation problem grows/worsens.

That is why we have built a partnership with ‘Engineers without Borders UK (EWB)’ who are sending us one of their sanitation volunteers, Brittany Harris. Brittany is a Civil Engineer graduated from Bristol University and she will be leading a feasibility study to determine if a dry sanitation system could mitigate/reduce the impacts/effluents of the sewage being produced and if the technology would be socially accepted by the tourists and/or the local community.

EcoSwell UK helped build a dry toilet with the EWB Professional network in Newcastle, using this design as a model. This dry toilet is now being used in a farm in the UK.

The benefits of the proposed dry sanitation system include:

  • It does not require water (water is an extremely valuable and scarce resource in Lobitos);
  • Compost production from faeces, which can be used as a soil enhancer (natural nutrient reuse):
  • No production of residual waters (avoiding contamination and health risks);
  • Cheap and simple to design and build (relevant points given the socio-economic characteristics of Lobitos); and
  • Widely accepted by the surfing community and ecologically minded people (represents the majority of tourists visiting Lobitos).

Once the feasibility of the project has been determined in technical and social terms, ways in which this system or a similar one can be funded will be explored. This will be done with hotels/hostels and/or other community members in order to resolve the sanitation issues that affect the town.

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