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  • Richard

IHUWASH Study Programme, IRC, The Netherlands

IHUWASH Study Programme with IRC, Den Haag, The Netherlands (GDP per person $48,223). IHUWASH is the Innovation Hub for Urban Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Solutions, India. The Study Programme included visits to Dunea, the water utility serving Den Haag, WaterNet, the utility serving Amsterdam as well as Sneek, Noord Nederlands, to visit a decentralised waste water treatment plant. The programme, including workshop sessions, was for participants from Mysore and Haryana, India (GDP per person USD$1,940, the contrast between country wealth suggesting some the challenges as well as some strengths in study programmes across such widely different countries, and therefore widely differing affordability, willingness to pay and state preparedness to invest.

Dunea Water Company and the infiltration lake in the coastal sand dunes, taking treated river water for infiltration into the dunes, before being abstracted through borewells for final treatment and distribution.

Sneek – North Netherlands: ‘Water purification of the future’ (below)

A Google Earth scan to give a sense of the type and scale of housing being served by this decentralised system, the treatment building being seen centre, the block of flats being served by the heating system, resulting from the burning of sewage gas, from the treatment being seen just ‘north’ of the treatment building.

“ WaterSchoon the system takes organic waste together with toilet water (black water) collected by means of a vacuum system. Domestic waste water (greywater) is separated inside the home. Both the blackwater and the greywater, also known as residual streams, are separated from each other in a local treatment plant, cleaned and then discharged to the rainwater sewer.” (courtesy Google Translate from WaterSchoon, Noorderhoek, Waterzuivering van de toekomst,, undated)

  • Informed on-site that the system served 210 households, a population of 330 who had an average water consumption of 100 lpcd. The treatment system, supported by EU funds, cost €1.5 million. In addition to the wastewater the outputs included biogas, 15m3 gas/day – from 3.5m3 inputs, converted in the plant to heat; plus struvite.

  • So USD$5,300 per person …

The decentralised treatment system building – with treatment plant inside this end of building and including the local area heating boiler at the far end.

Inside the heating part of the building, below.

Of course, this being the Netherlands, Sneek already has all the sophistication of a city wide wastewater treatment plant …. What value the ‘sewerless’ solution then (which includes the operational cost of vacuum sewers to get to the decentralised wastewater and recycling treatment unit – which also requires significant ongoing oversight and maintenance)?​

Time out:

During the course of the week we also had fun discussing Den Haag’s ‘Friday and Saturday Night Street Urinals’, rising from the pavement as needed:

Though to switch continents suddenly, those are more sophisticated than the deliberately 'fun' designed ones in a café in Lusaka:

Before the reminder, also from the Netherlands (Schiphol this time), of the various challenges of urinals and getting blokes to hit the right spot – perhaps the buckets are not such a bad idea after all

Though I was once assured by a student that the urinals at the airport were ‘dirty’ because of the ‘flies’ …. They are very convincing … and also as a target.

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