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UNESCO-IHE – Smart eSOS toilet for emergencies

29 July 2014 14:17 (America/New_York)

UNESCO-IHE – Smart eSOS toilet for emergencies | SOURCE: UNESCO-IHE, July 2014 |

The emergency Sanitation Operation System (eSOS) concept provides a sustainable, holistic and affordable sanitation solution during the aftermath of a disaster. The eSOS reinvents (emergency) toilet and treatment facilities, and uses ICT to bring cost savings to the entire sanitation management chain. The toilet will improve the quality of life of people in need during emergency situations – from natural to anthropological disasters – and minimizes the threat to public health of the most vulnerable members of society.  

The eSOS concept was developed by UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education. The experimental prototype of the smart toilet was developed in collaboration with FLEX/The INNOVATIONLAB and SYSTECH and is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation-funded project SaniUP – Stimulating local innovation on sanitation for the urban poor in Sub-Saharan Africa and South East Asia.

Smart features
The eSOS emergency toilets are easily deployable in disaster areas because of their robust and light-weight specifications. The smart eSOS toilet includes some unique features in the prototype that will shed new light on how the toilets are used in emergencies. This includes remote-sensing monitoring, an energy supply unit, GSM/GPS sensor/card, occupancy sensors, urine/faeces accumulation sensor, an S.O.S. button, and a communication system that allows for data collection by remote sensing and their transfer to an on or off-site emergency coordination center. The data resulting from the use of the toilets will allow the toilets as well as the entire sanitation management chain to be improved.

Field testing
The eSOS toilet will be tested further in a refugee camp in the Philippines in September with support of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Asian Development Bank. UNESCO-IHE PhD fellow Fiona Zakaria from Indonesia will carry out further experimental testing in cooperation with relief agencies on the ground. The eSOS smart toilet design prototype will be manufactured based on the results and feedback obtained from the experimental application.

The Future Technologies for Water Competition

25 June 2014 12:34 (America/New_York)

The Future Technologies for Water Competition (FTW) aims to identify breakthrough technologies for safe water with a sustainable business plan with wide-scale applicability. The first-place winner will receive $15,000, and the second place winner will receive $5,000. 

The first-place winner will receive $15,000, and the second-place winner will receive $5,000.

From June 9 until July 31, we will be accepting initial entries in the form of a one-page summary, via the competition website.

Entries should relate to the following themes:

  • Shortening the water cycle by looking at grey water and/or wastewater reuse
  • Rapid testing of water samples with an emphasis on in situ, online testing
  • Protecting vulnerable and sensitive populations (e.g. young, elderly, immunocompromised)

The Future Technologies for Water competition is managed by the Water Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and sponsored by Takata Corporation.

Visit the competition website, or email for more information.

Have a Thirst for Knowledge? Introducing the Drinkable Book

16 June 2014 16:59 (America/New_York)

Have a Thirst for Knowledge? Introducing the Drinkable Book | Source:, June 11, 2014.

An estimated 3.4 million people die annually from preventable water-borne diseases, and many aren’t aware that their drinking water is contaminated. Water filter technology has come a long way in recent years, but most options are still restrictively expensive for use in the Global South or unsuitable for mass distribution. Enter the Drinkable Book.

Developed by chemist Dr. Thersa Dankovick of the University of Virginia and McGill University, the drinkable book seeks to provide both cheap, clean drinking water and information on healthy sanitation practices. After ad agency DDB heard about Dr. Dankovich’s project and put her in touch with another of their clients, the NGO Water is Life. Together they developed the final product and are working to distribute the book through their programs. According to NPR, Dr. Dankovich tested the product in South Africa in 2013 and is planning further field trials in Ghana later in 2014.

Crucially, the book costs just pennies to produce, making it far cheaper than alternative systems. Each page provides an individual with clean water for a month, and a book can last over a year. It filters over 99.9% of bacteria, making it as clean as tap water in the United States. It filters out cholera, typhoid, and e. coli, as well as larger pollutants and debris.

The pages are about a millimeter thick and work like a high-tech coffee filter using silver nanoparticles. Silver causes interacting microbes to die, but has very little effect on people. Using the book is easy: simply tear our a perforated page, slide it into the included case, and pour contaminated water through it. With no other steps, the water is ready to drink safely.

The silver turns the paper a burnt orange, making it eye-catching and distinct from other books. Information is printed on each page explaining safe water habits, like keeping trash and feces away from water sources and the benefits of regular hand washing. The information is currently being printed in English and Swahili using non-toxic food-grade ink.

Using English and Swahili is a great step in accessibility, however it does restrict illiterate users or those who speak other languages or dialects. Hopefully as the project gains traction other languages can be incorporated, including Braille and non-verbal graphical systems. It is currently unclear how users know when each page is past its usefulness, though hopefully this will be incorporated into future designs.

The book is also not suited for emergency or conflict zones that may require residents to move often. The soft material makes susceptible to wear and damage, and it is bulky to carry. However, Water is Life also uses an amazing straw that picks up where the drinkable book leaves off.

For more information on the book and how to provide one for a community in need, check out the Water is Life website (specifically the blog) or this article from NPR.

fhi360 care Winrock International

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