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Design challenges and recommendations for the user interface of low-water toilets in urban environments

IWRA World Water Congress 2017 - Cancun Mexico
1. Water, sanitation and health
Author(s): ross tierney
Leon Williams
Alison Parker
Sean Tyrell
Ewan McAdam
Athanasios Kolios

ross tierney
Cranfield
r.tierney@cranfield.ac.uk
Leon Williams
Cranfield
l.williams@cranfield.ac.uk
Alison Parker
Cranfield
a.parker@cranfield.ac.uk
Sean Tyrell
Cranfield
s.tyrell@cranfield.ac.uk
Ewan McAdam
Cranfield
e.mcadam@cranfield.ac.uk
Athanasios Kolios
Cranfield
a.kolios@cranfield.ac.uk


Keyword(s): Sanitation, Product development, Water conservation, Urbanisation, bottom of the pyramid
Oral:

Abstract
 
This paper systematically reviews current low-water toilet technologies and discusses the associated problems encountered by the users. In urban slums of developing countries, pit latrines shared by multiple families are the most common sanitation option and one that accelerates the spread of disease through the community. Meanwhile in developed countries, the desirable 'flush and forget' mentality is enabled by a system that uses around nine litres of clean water per visit, having a significant impact on the environment. As more people around the world move out of poverty, the toilet that people will aspire to own is the impractical luxury that is the flushing toilet. This will lead to increased demand on the already strained water sources. To make low water toilets as pleasant and simple to use as the flushing variety, new technology is needed to address a range of problems. There is potential that improvements to toilets for developing countries can also be effective at reducing water usage of toilets in developed countries. The major user-frustrations of toilets in the literature are identified highlight the overlap between the top and the bottom of the pyramid. These are discussed against existing and promising new technologies that could potentially address these problems. Areas for further research are presented to stimulate innovation with a focus on transferable features to improve the toilet interface, regardless of the economic position of the user.
This paper contributes to the wider knowledge of sustainable sanitation by discussing 12 potential design features to address the frustrations of the users. This has implications for product designers, WASH NGOs and commercial toilet manufacturers aiming to develop desirable low-water toilet solutions in both developing and developed markets.
 
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