Floating Latrine Design Project (Ecosan Project)

There are few appropriate and affordable sanitation options available for the floating and flood-affected communities in Cambodia, and many other environmentally constrained communities around the world. In response to this situation, Live & Learn Cambodia and Engineers Without Borders have been in partnership since 2008 to develop appropriate technology for floating sanitation, as part of a holistic approach to the problem of waste management— looking at waste capture, management and reuse. The result has been an innovative solution which makes sanitation a possibility for the first time in these communities.

History of the toilet

Throughout the floating latrine design project surveys and water quality tests were carried out in Phat Sanday commune, in the Kampong Thom Province.  These tests have demonstrated that in dry seasons when the water level is particularly low, the Phat Sanday community is exposed to levels of E. coli and Coliforms well above recommended WHO levels. Surveys also showed that villagers are thus highly concerned about access to sanitation and clean water. 

Working collaboratively with the Phat Sanday community has allowed the team to develop the community’s idea of sanitation and use their input to help develop a culturally appropriate sanitation solution for floating communities. The project also included education for the users of the floating latrine about the importance of total sanitation and how to use and maintain the latrine; this has involved classes at both Phat Sanday primary and secondary schools.

The preferred solution was a simple Urine Diversion Desiccation (ecological sanitation known as ecosan) toilet specifically designed to be small, lightweight, low-cost, and effective, and able to be manufactured using locally available materials. A number of prototype floating latrines have been built and trialled and Live & Learn continues to track their use. Following these trials, areas for improvement have been identified, and we are now working with another local Cambodian non-government organization, Rainwater Cambodia, to make these changes. The focus is now on improving the efficiency of production, quality of the product, and the development of training materials. This work also aims to initiate profitable local production through small enterprises.

Where to next for the ecosan toilet

This ecosan toilet is currently being rolled out in a number of different communities around Cambodia: four new floating and flood-affected communities around the Tonle Sap Lake and one wetland on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. The ecosan toilet forms one part of the holistic, integrated, solution. Other components are the Floating Gardens Project and the Floating Bio-digester project. These projects are all inter-connected in that the floating bio-digester works by turning the waste from the ecosan toilet into fertilizer for agriculture, which is then used in the floating gardens.

If you want to know more about Live & Learn Cambodia’s work in the Tonle Sap you can go straight to the Facebook page.

For further information on appropriate sanitation facilities for floating communities click here.

To watch a video about the project click here.