Thursday, January 9, 2014

Ecolatrine Project is a Work in Progress

An innovation in sanitation is underway at the Kessler Atmospheric and Ecological Field Station (KAEFS) in McClain County near Washington, Oklahoma. A new double-vault ecological composting latrine is being built by student groups at the farm owned by the University of Oklahoma. The latrine will be a working latrine at KAEFS, which hosts small classes and is the location for numerous biological and meteorological field research experiments.

The ecolatrine block substructure was laid by students in the 2013 Technical Field Methods course.

The latrine will be an aboveground double-vault structure, in which one vault is used for a set period of time (6 - 9 months) and then usage shifts to the other vault. Each vault platform has a toilet seat on top of it, and solids are collected in a sealed vault below. Urine is diverted away from the vault and collected in a 5-gallon container in which it is automatically diluted. The separation of liquid from solid waste both prevents odors and allows for separate collection of the valuable. nitrogen-rich urine, which can be utilized as a liquid fertilizer.

Schematic of the double-vault latrine, showing urine diversion hoses and cleanouts
The ecolatrine project is being built be a number of on-campus student groups, including architectural students, Sooners Without Borders (SWB), and a Technical Field Methods course taught in May of 2013.

Both the compost and liquid urine fertilizer are valuable amendments for plant growth.

The project has value not only as a working toilet, but also as a research project. The best composting material is that which has the proper ratio of carbon to nitrogen (C-to-N ratio) and appropriate levels of moisture content, oxygen, and heat. Because of the design features, the critical mix of these factors can be adjusted and measured, thereby producing the best possible gardening product.

Students from Sooners Without Borders (SWB) spend a few Saturdays working on site.

The project is scheduled to be completed in the spring of 2014. For more information on KAEFS, go here.

2013 OU International WaTER Conference

The University of Oklahoma WaTER Center hosted the 3rd Biennial OU International WaTER Conference on Sept. 23-25, 2013.  The conference theme, “Synergy at the Interface:  Integrating Technology, Social Entrepreneurship and Behavior Change,” attracted nearly 200 participants from multiple disciplines, all with the common goal of bringing water and sanitation to developing countries. 

The conference, held in Norman, Oklahoma, included representatives from 17 countries and hosted water and sanitation experts from academia, industry, NGOs, governments and foundations.  Two full days of presentations and networking opportunities included oral and poster sessions that addressed an array of water related topics, such as assessment of WASH interventions, behavior change, climate change, fluoride effects and mitigation, gender and social equity, hydro-philanthropy, social entrepreneurship and water technologies for emerging regions. The conference offered six keynote speeches from leading WASH professionals, an educational outreach Clean Water Poster Contest for local school-aged children, and a panel discussion on climate change.

Serving on the discussion panel was Dr. Christine Moe, Dr. Braimah Apambire, Dr. Richard Taylor, Dr. Pawan Labhasetwar, and Dr. Peter Lamb.

The conference also hosted two post-conference work-shops. One was a hands-on workshop in Field Methods, featuring sustainable pump technology, water well drilling methods, ecolatrine design, household water treatment systems, and biosand filters. 

The second workshop was on Social Entrepreneurship, where participants created a social business plan for a hypothetical urban sanitation case study involving problem and solution identification, customer analysis, fashioning a business model, and outlining its implementation. 
The highlight of the conference occurred at the banquet where the 2013 OU International Water
Prize was awarded to Ms. Ada Oko-Williams, assistant director of the Sustainable and Thriving Environments for West Africa Regional Development program, currently exploring a business approach to accelerate access to WASH in Africa.

2013 Water Prize winner Ada Oko-Williams gives the plenary lecture at the WaTER Conference Banquet
The 4th Biennial OU International WaTER Conference is scheduled to be held on Sept. 21-23, 2015.