Decentralised wastewater treatment - global innovation for sustainable rural communities
The development of the sanitation and wastewater treatment infrastructure is often credited to be one of the biggest public health innovation in human history. But the conventional centralised paradigm of sewers and large treatment plants is not well suited to small geographically dispersed communities.
The interdisciplinary project delivers a physical system and secures its long term operations and maintenance leading to the establishment of a modular decentralised wastewater treatment and recycling system that can be deployed across a range of rural communities regardless of geography. Demonstrating the efficacy and resilience of the innovative technologies at small-scale will give courage to implement change at a larger-scale; offering a real alternative to large scale capital intense urban and peri-urban systems.
The project`s main objective is the development of a decentralised wastewater treatment system in a school in Berambadi village in Karnataka. The system benefits a community and enhances public health while safe guarding the environment.
The project engages the community at all stages of the project and work with them throughout the duration of the study to ensure that the treatment system is sustained over time and well beyond the end date of the study. The project includes a series of surveys within the community to gauge attitudes towards the project and seek to identify social benefits attributable to the project. As part of the project, the team has issued health diaries to the children and staff of the school so that their health can be monitored before, during and after construction of the system with the objective of generating qualitative and quantitative data that provides measurable evidence of improvement to health and wellbeing as a result of improved sanitation. A strategically important component of this project is evaluating the cost of the system, including planning, construction, maintenance and replacement through a lifecycle assessment. The final component of the project evaluates and delivers enhanced value from the waste streams produced. The constructed wetland has been constructed and is being used to grow plants which can be used for fuel or other purposes agreed with the local community.
ATREE’s specific role in the project is to deploy a monitoring strategy to establish the existing baseline water quality going into the pilot system and the wastewater effluent discharge. A monitoring strategy will be enacted through the project cycle to capture data that informs optimisation of the system and provides evidence that the system delivers water quality improvements. The monitoring will include the taking of spot samples periodically to be analysed at ATREE. This spot sampling is being supplemented by remote sensing and “citizen science” activities.