Navigating Multidimensional Social-Ecological System Trade-Offs across Sanitation Alternatives in an Urban Informal Settlement

John T. Trimmer, Hannah A.C. Lohman, Diana M. Byrne, Stephanie A. Houser, Fulgensio Jjuuko, David Katende, Noble Banadda, Assata Zerai, Daniel C. Miller, Jeremy S. Guest

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Urban growth in low- and middle-income countries has intensified the need to expand sanitation infrastructure, especially in informal settlements. Sanitation approaches for these settings remain understudied, particularly regarding multidimensional social-ecological outcomes. Guided by a conceptual framework (developed in parallel with this study) re-envisioning sanitation as a human-derived resource system, here we characterize existing and alternative sanitation scenarios in an informal settlement in Kampala, Uganda. Combining two core research approaches (household survey analysis, process modeling), we elucidate factors associated with user satisfaction and evaluate each scenario's resource recovery potential, economic implications, and environmental impacts. We find that existing user satisfaction is associated with factors including cleaning frequency, sharing, and type of toilets, and we demonstrate that alternative sanitation systems may offer multidimensional improvements over existing latrines, drying beds, and lagoons. Transitioning to anaerobic treatment could recover energy while reducing overall net costs by 26-65% and greenhouse gas emissions by 38-59%. Alternatively, replacing pit latrines with container-based facilities greatly improves recovery potential in most cases (e.g., a 2- to 4-fold increase for nitrogen) and reduces emissions by 46-79%, although costs increase. Overall, this work illustrates how our conceptual framework can guide empirical research, offering insight into sanitation for informal settlements and more sustainable resource systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12641-12653
Number of pages13
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number19
StatePublished - Oct 6 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2020 American Chemical Society.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry


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