Department Sanitation, Water and Solid Waste for Development


Sandec conducts projects worldwide in close collaboration with international and local partner organisations. These projects contribute to increasing the research capacity and professional expertise in the partner countries, and are part of the work of our five research groups:


Strategic Environmental Sanitation Planning

Research Projects

Municipal Solid Waste Management

Research Projects

Zero Waste Schools and Communities
Zero Waste at Schools (ZW@S) develops and validates methods to foster integrated strategies and technologies leading to a “zero-waste” approach at school level.

SDG monitoring of solid waste collected and managed in controlled facilities
In collaboration with UN-Habitat and Wasteaware, this applied research project develops a systematic approach to measuring the SDG indicator 11.6.1 “Proportion of municipal solid waste collected and managed in controlled facilities”

Waste Flow Diagram (WFD)
In collaboration with GIZ, the University of Leeds and Wasteaware, this research project develops and validates a rapid and observation-based assessment to quantify and map plastic leakage from municipal solid waste management systems

FORWARD - From ORganic WAste to Recycling for Development
FORWARD is an applied research project that develops integrated strategies and technologies for the management of municipal organic solid waste in medium-sized cities of Indonesia. Designing organic waste treatment for value rather than treatment for disposal is at the core of this research project.

Black Soldier Fly Biowaste Processing
Organic waste sources have a high nutritional potential and thus make an excellent feed substrate for insect larvae of the black soldier fly (BSF), Hermetia illucens. These larvae are able to reduce the waste by 50-80% and convert up to 20% of the waste into larval biomass within ±14 days.

SIBRE – Sustainability of Insect-Based Recycling Enterprises
SIBRE is a project generating knowledge and developing tools for small & medium enterprises and municipalities on the economic perspectives of using Black-Soldier Flies (BSF) for valorizing organic waste.

Carbonization of Urban Bio-waste
Carbonization is a process during which biomass is heated in the absence of oxygen; the primary goal is to produce char. This char can be further processed into briquettes and used as household cooking fuel. The objective of our research on slow pyrolysis and hydrothermal carbonization (HTC) is to explore the potential of using organic waste to generate a char product that has a value in the local market as a replacement for wood-based charcoal and thus, could be a financial driver of organic waste processing businesses.

SOWATT - Selecting an Organic Waste Treatment Technology
This project provides decision support to help structure and assist in the process of comparing and selecting the most promising biowaste treatment options for a given case study.

Anaerobic digestion of organic solid waste
Besides composting or direct animal feeding, anaerobic digestion (biomethanation) of organic solid waste is considered a promising treatment option for this particular waste fraction. Anaerobic digestion converts biomass into energy (biogas). Biogas – a mixture of CO2 and methane (CH4) – can be used as a renewable energy source for cooking, lighting or to generate electricity, thereby replacing other fuel sources. Biogas digestate is a nutrient-rich fertiliser that can be applied in gardens or agriculture.

Decentralised composting
The existing physical plan and socio-economical situation of many cities in low and middle-income countries strongly favours the implementation of decentralised composting systems. Decentralised composting is less technology dependent, using locally available materials and simple technology. Our research on composting includes co-composting of organic waste and faecal sludge as well as market demand for compost from organic waste.

Management of Excreta, Wastewater and Sludge

Research Projects

  • NEST - WaterHub within NEST - Sandec’s contribution to NEST will include dewatering of faecal sludge and resource recovery. Research will be conducted in situ in the NEST building on the Eawag/Empa campus.
  • Tanzania - Working towards improved faecal sludge dewatering and resource recovery through pilot-scale research on locally available conditioners and carbonization.
  • SFD - Shit-Flow-Diagram - A figure designed to present complex information in easy to understand fashion. The SFD Promotion Initiative has developed a methodology to estimate excreta flows on a city-wide scale, in a way that ensures credible and transparent results.
  • Solid-liquid Separation -The goal of this project is to understand the governing mechanism of solid liquid separation in faecal sludge. Improved dewatering of faecal sludge will enhance collection and transport in urban settlements and ensure the development of high throughput and low footprint technologies.
  • eFSTP - Developing evidence-based design and operating guidelines based on in-depth monitoring of existing faecal sludge treatment plants in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Completed Projects

Water Supply and Treatment

Research Projects

REACH: Establishing a Drinking Water Security Strategy for Rural Nepal
In rural Nepal, 92% of households have access to an improved drinking water source. Yet assessments of microbial contamination in Mid-Western Nepal shows that 70 - 80% of taps are not delivering water that is safe for drinking. Achieving Sustainable Development Goal Target 6.1 (SDG 6.1), to deliver “universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all,” is especially challenging for remote rural settings facing multiple obstacles. These include unreliable supply chains for sampling materials, the high cost of laboratory equipment, and unreliable or non-existent access to electricity.


Participatory Action for Long-Term Arsenic-Safe Water (PACT)
This health related behaviour change research focuses on the prevention of arsenicosis and prevention of diseases caused by microbial contamination of drinking and cooking water in Bihar, India. Many safe water mitigation options exist, but most of the community based infrastructure is functional and not used. Combined, intervention on psychological ownership and habitual behaviour can lead to a long-lasting functionality and sustainable use of the safe water infrastructure. The effectiveness and the way how these concepts change peoples behaviour through psycho-social factors are subject to this research. The project takes place in Arsenic-affected areas of Bihar.


SMALL: Water Supply and Sanitation Service Provision in Small Town at the Urban-Rural Intersection
Project SMALL aims to support the development of applicable and sustainable water and sanitation provision models for small towns in Sub-Saharan Africa. Practice and research have traditionally focused either on distinct urban centers or rural communities. However, areas under transition, including small towns throughout Uganda and Mozambique, do not easily fit the definitions used by rural or urban planners. Small towns therefore lack clear guidance on applicable water and sanitation service models and, as a result, suffer from poor progress in expanding access to safely managed water and adequate sanitation. This project aims to identify and account for the specific needs, opportunities and challenges of transition zones in Uganda and Mozambique when devising improved service provision models, focusing on the experiences of the National Water and Sewerage Corporation (NWSC) and the Administração de Infraestruturas de Abastecimento de Água e Saneamento (AIAS).


Adapting Water Quality Testing Tools and Methods
The demand for water quality testing is rising globally, driven by efforts to meet SDG 6’s drinking water targets and, more generally, a growing awareness of widespread contamination of drinking water supplies of all types. However, access to the equipment, materials and logistical support needed for routine monitoring remains concentrated in urban centers, with slow diffusion of even basic water testing tools to non-urban areas. Our research in this area aims to test and adapt materials, equipment and laboratory protocols, with an emphasis on overcoming the major technical, logistic and financial barriers that impede local uptake.


Identifying factors contributing to sustained functionality of water supply infrastructure
As efforts to rapidly expand access to drinking water supplies intensify under SDG 6, concerns have been raised about the risks of wasted investments and poorly maintained projects. The WST group's research on system functionality aims to inform program managers and national governments concerned with ensuring the longevity of water infrastructure. These studies rely on variable-oriented designs and moderate to large sample sizes to identify factors determining project outcomes.

Compendium: Drinking Water Systems and Technologies from Source to Consumer
The Compendium combines and discusses the entire range of drinking water technologies, approaches and concepts relevant for rural, peri-urban and urban contexts in a single concise and well-structured document. It is a comprehensive and user-friendly manual that supports decision making for developing drinking water supply and treatment systems in the context of the global south. Technologies from six functional groups build drinking water systems applicable for different water sources, scales and contexts. The two-page information sheets developed for each technology provide major design, O&M considerations and key decision criteria. They link the choice of the technologies to key aspects of the enabling environment and crosscutting issues.


Evaluating Household Water Filters for Use in Emergency Contexts
Point-of-use water treatment is essential for ensuring the safety of drinking water during humanitarian emergencies. Over nine months an interdisciplinary team conducted a comparative analysis of five water treatment devices in emergency contexts in Palestine, Kenya and Somalia. Filters were assessed in terms of technical performance, acceptance and consistency of use. Based on the study results, the team delivered recommendations to manufacturers for filter design modifications to improve the suitability of household water filters for vulnerable populations.


Hybrid Coagulation-Ultrafiltration
Ultrafiltration (UF) is a promising technology for decentralised water treatment in developing countries; yet, a major hindrance to long-term operation of UF is membrane fouling. This leads to permeate flux losses, increased membrane cleaning routines and high operating costs. Several researchers have studied coagulation pre-treatment of feed water to overcome fouling, but little research exists on surface water sources characterised by the concentrated organic and inorganic matter content found throughout Uganda. This study examined the performance of a UF system for drinking water treatment, using polyaluminium chloride (PACl) coagulant for fouling control


Multiple-use Water Services Impact Evaluation
People living in poor rural areas need water for domestic and productive activities. Multiple-use water services (MUS) is an integrated water service delivery approach that takes into account households’ range of water needs as the starting point when planning, financing, and managing water supply services for rural communities.


Water-Energy-Environment (3E) Programme
The Water-Energy-Environment (3E) programme was launched in 2012 with funding support from the Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation (SDC), with the aim to support scientific partnerships between the International Institute for Water and Environmental Engineering (2iE) of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, and Swiss universities and institutes (EPFL, HEIG VD and EAWAG).

Safe Water Promotion

Research Projects 

Evaluation of larger size gravity driven membrane systems for institutions (schools, community kiosks), Uganda
GDM filtration is a safe water product innovation that has been tested at household level in Bolivia and Kenya. Due to its ease of operation, the technology had high levels of acceptance in both countries. High production cost for household units however currently limit their affordability for low income households. Water treatment through larger community scale systems is a different approach of using this technology, that probably can be operated at much lower cost. As community scale GDM Filters had not been tested in low income countries, the objective of this project therefore is to A) evaluate the technical feasibility as well as operation and maintenance requirements of the technology in larger community scale systems and B) to operate a water kiosk providing safe water to the local community and assess if sufficient demand for safe water can be generated and if a viable business can be operated through the water kiosk.


Evaluating the outcome of different business models for Water Kiosks
Previous evaluations of water kiosks identified different elements of a business model influencing their sustainable operation such as management structure, pricing, type of ownership, demand for safe water within community. In this project we compare water kiosks models using varying technologies with different operation demands and kiosk management models to gain insight into the technical, logistical and socioeconomic feasibility and sustainability of business operation.


Assess strategies to reduce recontamination of treated water during transport and storage
Water that is supplied at community level in hygienically critical environments commonly is subject to recontamination during transport and storage. The availability of products and approaches to reduce these recontamination risks are of high importance to assure safe water at the point of consumption, a critical indicator for achieving SDG 6.1. To provide a contribution towards this goal we are experimenting with different approaches to enhance safe storage such as secondary disinfection using UVC LEDs in storage containers, evaluation of passive low-cost chlorination approaches in water kiosks, assessment of cleaning strategies for water containers and the development of improved water transport containers.


Assess safe water promotion & implementation strategies in Midwestern Areas in Nepal
Critical hygiene and water handling practices as well as technical challenges in water supply schemes lead to the deterioration of the water quality at the point of consumption. This project in the Midwestern areas of Nepal therefore was conceived to get a better understanding of where and why water contamination takes place, to quantify the degree of recontamination, understand the behavioral determinants of people living in the project area regarding safe water and hygiene practices and review the potential market conditions for the marketing of household water treatment and safe water storage products. Project intervention strategies are conceived on the basis of insight gained during assessment and their health impact is evaluated.


Assessing the impact of carrying water on women’s health
Improved access to safe drinking water and sanitation are important determinants of human health. For decades the benchmark for improving access to drinking water as stated in the Millennium Development Goals has been community level access. Much greater health and economic benefits can be generated if access to safe drinking water is provided at the household level instead of community level. First, household water access will increase the amount of water available for hygienic practices in the household therewith reducing the amount of pathogens in the household environment. Second, drinking water itself will be less prone to recontamination during transport and storage if it can be collected at the tap in the household, and third, the tremendous work and health burden women are facing to transport water from the water supply point in the community to their homes will be reduced. This aspect is accounted for in the Sustainable Development Goal 6.1. where the definition of safely managed drinking water is drinking water from an improved source that is located on premises, available when need and free from faecal and priority chemical contamination. This project aims at quantifying the third aspect of health burden i.e. understanding health constraints women in Nepal are facing by carrying water from the community source to their homes to quantity the benefit that can be generated by increasing piped household level access to safe drinking water. The study is being conducted in collaboration with public health researchers from Dhulikhel Hospital, Kathmandu University and social psychologists from the University of Bern.


Solar Water Disinfection
SODIS (short for Solar Water Disinfection) started as an initiative of Eawag. We supported the improvement and spread of the SODIS method through research in microbiology, health, educational strategies and PET bottles. More information on the SODIS Website.