Most sanitation systems have been designed with these aspects in mind, but in practice they are failing far too often because some of the criteria are not met. In fact, there is probably no system which is absolutely sustainable.
The concept of sustainability is more of a direction rather than a stage to reach. Nevertheless, it is crucial, that sanitation systems are evaluated carefully with regard to all dimensions of sustainability. Since there is no one-for-all sanitation solution which fulfils the sustainability criteria in different circumstances to the same extent, this system evaluation will depend on the local framework and has to take into consideration existing environmental, technical, socio-cultural and economic conditions.
Taking into consideration the entire range of sustainability criteria, it is important to observe some basic principles when planning and implementing a sanitation system.
These were already developed some years ago by a group of experts and were endorsed by the members of the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council as the "Bellagio Principles for Sustainable Sanitation" during its 5th Global Forum in November 2000:
Source: Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council
- Human dignity, quality of life and environmental security at household level should be at the centre of any sanitation approach.
- In line with good governance principles, decision making should involve participation of all stakeholders, especially the consumers and providers of services.
- Waste should be considered a resource, and its management should be holistic and form part of integrated water resources, nutrient flow and waste management processes.
- The domain in which environmental sanitation problems are resolved should be kept to the minimum practicable size (household, neighborhood, community, town, district, catchments, city).