Assessment of Technology Options

Compiled by:
Naomi Radke, Dorothee Spuhler (seecon international gmbh)
Adapted from:
NETSSAF (Editor) (2008)

Executive Summary

The right decision on a suitable sanitation system is a key step towards sustainable sanitation. A sanitation system represents a configuration of different technologies: it takes into account all components required for the adequate management of human wastes. In order to be adequate, the different components have to be chosen according to the users’ needs and priorities as well as the local climatic conditions and financial and human capacity available in long term for operation and maintenance of the system. The participatory planning process introduced here can be started after sufficient information has been collected on the settlement conditions, existing sanitation situation and user priorities. The main steps towards the choice of the most suitable sanitation system are 1) the identification of sanitation alternatives and 2) a decision making process. The second step comprises various sub-steps. Importantly, both technical (such as suitable systems with regard to the settlement conditions) and non-technical issues (such as stakeholder preferences, financial and human capacity) will be taken into account.


The process of assessing and deciding on technology options can run as follows: First, planners, consultants and other stakeholders should compile all information that has been generated concerning the various sanitation options, which are technically suitable for the implementation in the project area. These options should be characterised by their technical, financial, institutional, and social feasibility as well as the impact on the environment.

When this information is gathered, a participatory decision-making process (see also deciding with the community) can be started. After the participatory decision-making process, the various sanitation options should be ranked reflecting the decision-makers’ priorities for every single criterion (or group of criteria). This ranking process will result in one or several systems, which is (are) considered most appropriate for the project area.

Step 1: Understanding and Shortening the List of Possible Options

Each sanitation system represents a configuration of different technology components that carry out different processes on specific waste flows and have particular management, operation and maintenance conditions. Starting at the household level with waste generation, a system can include storage and potentially also treatment and reuse of the different waste streams. However, it might not be feasible to manage the human waste on-site, and therefore it is necessary to transport the waste to a larger jurisdiction, where it is usually treated in large installations.

  NETSSAF (2008)

Technology components along the waste (product) flow. Source: NETSSAF (2008) 

There are 7 main systems divided in dry/wet, degree of product separation (source segregation) into various flow streams and the spatial level of treatment (on-site <-> off-site). Each system includes various system alternatives (find the complete system overview in ZURBRUEGG and TILLEY 2007). Whilst in theory there is a wide range of infrastructure options, in practice the choice is limited by 1) existing infrastructure and 2) physical characteristics of the site.

A holistic approach to assess sanitation systems includes criteria regarding the following aspects:

  1. Health criteria,
  2. Environmental and resource criteria,
  3. Technical and operational criteria,
  4. Financial and economical criteria,
  5. Social, cultural and gender criteria.

Find the table of evaluation criteria in TTZ and TUHH ny . The rating system can be adapted by experts e.g. for a qualitative comparison of different options (++ <-> --).

The product of this sub step should be a short list of feasible sanitation options given the local context (social, financial, environmental). The settlement conditions, existing sanitation situation and user priorities have been assessed in a previous step (exploring). This pre-selection list shall be based not only on the expert experiences but also on user functional demands as well as the requirements from the service provider's point of view.

Step 2: First Participatory Analysis

After the expert pre-selection and evaluation of sanitation options a participatory decision making process can be started (see also planning with the community). The information needed for making a decision is: 1) baseline data of the project area, detailed description of the system options shortlisted by the consultants, and a well arranged comparison of the alternatives based on a fixed set of criteria. The various stakeholders will have the opportunity to ask questions, discuss, propose modifications and give feedback to the options. Information revealed during such workshops (see also nominal group technique) shall be reflected in an adapted design of the various system alternatives.After the participatory decision-making process the various sanitation options should be ranked reflecting the stakeholders’ priorities for every single criterion (or group of criteria). This ranking process will result in one or several systems (for an overview see also ZURBRUEGG and TILLEY 2007), which is (are) considered most appropriate for the project area.

Step 3: System Exposure

  NETSSAF (2008)

Exposure to the sanitation system helps in making an educated technology decision. Source: NETSSAF (2008) 

The goal is to enable the stakeholder group to make an informed choice on their sanitation system components by building on their own experiences with various sanitation schemes, thereby also creating awareness and demand for a sanitation system. By giving stakeholders time to use, operate and maintain, discuss and reflect on the options provided in the setting of their own home (see also participatory monitoring and evaluation) they will be more able to contextualise the systems and propose creative, site-specific adaptations which can then be integrated in the final designs. Through this process it is hoped that future decisions will be based on actual knowledge of the systems rather than on assumptions and beliefs.

Step 4: Comparison of Alternatives

Another participatory workshop with the community (see also nominal group technique) will be needed to collect and analyse the experiences on the exposure sub-step. The goal of this workshop is to bring together the reflections of the members of the community regarding the demonstration units and the visited showcases, thus gathering feedback on the users’ perspectives and understanding of the systems (see also participatory monitoring and evaluation). It is also essential that the engineers and planners involved are willing to listen to suggestions, integrate innovative proposals, work around local barriers, and generally be flexible to a process that will not be short or clearly defined. The workshop would come out with a narrowed down list of possible systems.

Step 5: Final Decision Making Process

With the revised set of system alternatives, a final workshop can be held with the decision-makers in the project area. The information obtained during previous community workshops should be already reflected in an adapted design of the various system alternatives. At this point, the sanitation planning team should have information on cost estimates (see also budget allocation and resource planning) and the availability of construction material, tools, skilled labour and other essential components for the construction works. The target of this workshop should be to conduct a participatory decision-making process that integrates all stakeholder groups and attempts to reach an agreement on an option considered most appropriate. The process is iterated until a mutually acceptable system is agreed upon by experts (in terms of technical robustness) and stakeholders (in terms of usability and affordability).


An assessment of technology options is always required in order to understand what technologies are adequate from a technological perspective. The list of technological options can then be narrowed down according to non-technical factors such as financial, climatic, and socio-cultural preferences.

This approach involves all important stakeholder groups and thus cannot be limited to the decision of only a few groups, such as engineers only.


  • Involves all important stakeholders
  • A participatory process
  • Thorough decision-making process


  • Can be a lengthy decision-making process

References Library

ZURBRUEGG,C.; TILLEY, E. (2007): Evaluation of existing low-cost conventional as well as innovative sanitation system and technologies. Duebendorf: Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (EAWAG). URL [Accessed: 01.01.1970].

TTZ; TUHH; NETSSAF (n.y.): Criteria for the Assessment of Sanitation Technologies. Bremerhaven: NETSSAF. URL [Accessed: 08.08.2013].

NETSSAF (Editor) (2008): NETSSAF Participatory Planning Approach. A Tutorial for Sustainable Sanitation. NETSSAF. URL [Accessed: 10.02.2010].

Further Readings Library

Reference icon

WASHTECH (2012): Technology Assessment Framework. The Hague: Swiss Resource Center and Consultancies for Development (SKAT). URL [Accessed: 02.09.2013].

This information leaflet describes the Technology Assessment Framework (TAF)which WASHTECH Africa is developing. The TAF helps the user decide if a WASH technology is sustainable and applicable – or not – in the specific context of the user. The framework also indicates risks and supportive factors that may affect the technology introduction process in the user’s chosen context. The leaflet describes the four steps of the TAF process: screening, assessment, presentation of results, and interpretation.

Reference icon

ACPHD (Editor) (2004): A Handbook for Participatory Community Assessments Experiences from Alameda County. Oakland: ACPHD. URL [Accessed: 22.04.2012].

This handbook describes various tools for participatory community assessments. Step 8 explains how to write a community action plan.

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EAWAG (Editor) (2005): Household-Centred Environmental Sanitation, Implementing the Bellagio Principles in Urban Environmental Sanitation – Provisional Guideline for Decision Makers. Geneva, Switzerland: Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology. URL [Accessed: 17.03.2010].

This guideline for decision-makers has been developed to provide first guidance on how to implement the Bellagio Principles by applying the HCES approach. Assistance is given to those willing to include and test this new approach in their urban environmental sanitation service programmes. Since practical experience with the HCES approach is lacking, this guideline is neither comprehensive nor final, but will have to be developed further on the basis of extensive field experience. Available in English, French and Spanish.

See document in FRENCH, SPANISH

Reference icon

KAR, K. ; CHAMBERS, R. (Editor) (2008): Handbook on Community Led Total Sanitation. UK: Plan International UK. URL [Accessed: 17.04.2012].

This handbook about the CLTS approach contains a comprehensive description about how the approach was developed, came to live, and how this software can be implemented in one’s own community.

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LUETHI, C.; MOREL, A.; TILLEY, E.; ULRICH, L. (2011): Community-Led Urban Environmental Sanitation Planning (CLUES). Dubendorf: Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag). URL [Accessed: 03.11.2011].

CLUES presents a complete set of guidelines for sanitation planning in low-income urban areas. It is the most up-to-date planning framework for facilitating the delivery of environmental sanitation services for urban and peri-urban communities. CLUES features seven easy-to-follow steps, which are intended to be undertaken in sequential order. Step 5 of the planning approach relies on the Compendium, applying the systems approach to select the most appropriate technological option(s) for a given urban context. The document also provides guidance on how to foster an enabling environment for sanitation planning in urban settings. Published in 2011, 100 pages, with a memory key.

Reference icon

MCGRANAHAN, G. (2013): Community-Driven Sanitation Improvement in Deprived Urban Neighbourhoods. Research Report. London, Bangladesh: London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), International Center for Diarrhoeal Disease Research (ICDDR), International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), WaterAid, Sanitation and Hygiene Applied Research for Equity (SHARE). URL [Accessed: 07.08.2013].

There is an international consensus that urban sanitary conditions are in great need of improvement, but sharp disagreement over how this improvement should be pursued. Both market-driven and state-led efforts to improve sanitation in deprived communities tend to be severely compromised, as there is a lack of effective market demand (due to collective action problems) and severe barriers to the centralized provision of low-cost sanitation facilities. In principle, community-driven initiatives have a number of advantages. This report investigates these challenges and opportunities.

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OLSCHEWSKI, A.; DANERT, K.; FUREY, S.; KLINGEL, F. (2011): Review of Frameworks for Technology Assessment. WASHTech Deliverable 3.1. St. Gallenand The Hague : Swiss Centre for Development Cooperation in Technology and Management (SKAT) and International Water and Sanitation Centre (IRC). URL [Accessed: 14.03.2012].

A WASHTech literature review of existing frameworks for technology assessment reveals that there is a gap for a WASH technology assessment tool and a WASH technology uptake tool. The authors of the review, which supports the development of WASHTech’s Technology Assessment Framework, (TAF), conclude that a computer tool based on an algorithm is not appropriate because it is too rigid. Choosing a manageable number of appropriate indicators is key for assessing new technologies.

Reference icon

OTTERPOHL, R.; BRAUN, U.; OLDENBURG, M. (2002): Innovative Technologies for Decentralised Wastewater Management in Urban and Peri-urban Areas. (= Proceedings of the 5th Specialised Conference on Small Water and Wastewater Treatment Systems Istanbul-Turkey, 24th to 26th September 2002). London: IWA Publishing. URL [Accessed: 30.07.2013].

This article elaborates the principles of developing innovative technologies for decentralised wastewater management, historic errors made, and scenarios and projects of innovative water concepts.

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PARKER, A. (2011): Africa Wide Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Technology Review. Cranfield: Cranfield University. URL [Accessed: 30.07.2013].

WASHTech has published a literature review focusing on 14 technologies used in Africa in the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector. For each technology there is a description of the literature available on it, a concise description of the technology, a description of its application, a selection of interesting case studies, and an explanation as to whether the technology meets technical, financial, social and institutional success criteria.

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TILLEY, E.; LUETHI, C.; MOREL, A.; ZURBRUEGG, C.; SCHERTENLEIB, R. (2008): Compendium of Sanitation Systems and Technologies. Duebendorf, Switzerland: Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (EAWAG) and Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC). URL [Accessed: 15.02.2010].

This compendium gives a systematic overview on different sanitation systems and technologies and describes a wide range of available low-cost sanitation technologies.

See document in FRENCH

Reference icon

WSP (Editor) (2007): Philippines Sanitation Source Book and Decision Aid. pdf presentation. Washington: Water and Sanitation Program.

This Sanitation Sourcebook distils some of the core concepts of sanitation in a user-friendly format so that the book can serve as a practical reference to sanitation professionals and investment decision-makers, particularly the local governments. The annexe contains a practical collection of factsheets on selected sanitation system options.

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WSUP (Editor) (2013): Getting communities engaged in water and sanitation projects: participatory design and consumer feedback. London: Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP). URL [Accessed: 26.02.2013].

Community engagement in water and sanitation service delivery is key for ensuring project sustainability and accountability. This Topic Brief looks at community engagement approaches used by WSUP in three cities within the African Cities for the Future (ACF) programme: Antananarivo (Madagascar), Kumasi (Ghana) and Maputo (Mozambique). The Topic Brief highlights some of the key challenges, and ends with practical recommendations for programme managers about how to engage low-income communities in the design of water supply and sanitation projects.

Reference icon

BARRETO DILLON, L.; BUZIE FRU, C.; ONADIPE, E. ; ROBERTI PÉREZ, L. (Editor) (2008): Introduction to the NETSSAF Participatory Planning Approach, a tutorial and guideline for sustainable sanitation planning . (= Proceedings of the NETSSAF Final Conference “Pathways towards Sustainable Sanitation in Africa"). Ouagadougou: NETSSAF. URL [Accessed: 02.04.2010].

This paper presents the NETSSAF participatory planning approach in a brief manner.

Case Studies Library

Reference icon

NETSSAF (Editor) (2003): Processus participatif d’élaboration d’un plan stratégique de développement par la méthode de Journée publique de dialogue (JPD). Bremerhaven: Network for the Development of Sustainable Approaches for large scale implementation of Sanitation in Africa (NETSSAF). URL [Accessed: 30.07.2013].

Cette étude de cas montre la mise en œuvre du processus participatif d’élaboration d’un plan strategique de développement. Le projet a été executé dans la commune de Kaya en Burkina Faso pour le Centre Regional pour l´Eau Potable et l´Assainissement a faible cout (CREPA).

Language: French

Training Material Library

Reference icon

IRC (Editor) (2013): Technology Applicability Framework and the Technology Introduction Process Guide. The Hague: International Water and Sanitation Center (IRC). URL [Accessed: 30.07.2013].

This four-page leaflet explains two tools which the WASHTech project is developing: The Technology Applicability Framework (TAF) helps to decide if a WASH technology is sustainable and applicable in a specific context. The framework also indicates risks and supportive factors that may affect the technology introduction process. The second tool is the Technology Introduction Process (TIP) Guide, which is a management tool that seeks to support the sector in introducing technology.

Reference icon

NETSSAF (Editor) (2008): Participatory Planning Approach. A Tutorial for Sustainable Sanitation Planning. Bremerhaven: Network for the Development of Sustainable Approaches for large scale implementation of Sanitation in Africa (NETSSAF). URL [Accessed: 30.07.2013].

The NETSSAF tutorial for sustainable sanitation planning introduces a participatory planning approach. It targets planners of sanitation programmes in West Africa and provides guidance in facilitating “informed choices” in consultation with users and other stakeholders.

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SRINIVASAN, L. (1990): Tools for Community Participation. A Manual for Training Trainers in Participatory Techniques. New York: PROWESS/UNDP Technical Series.

This manual focuses on one approach to participatory training which PROWESS has applied in numerous projects and workshops. Intended primarily for the training of trainers in participatory techniques, it describes these techniques in a "how to" step-by-step fashion. This manual is also intended to be a "discussion starter" and delves into some of the political issues underlying participation and the often conflicting priorities of communities and development practitioners.

Important Weblinks [Accessed: 14.11.2013]

The Technology Applicability Framework (TAF) provides a neutral approach for investigation of WASH technological innovation through an objective examination of criteria in the key dimensions technology performance, market potential and scalability, institutional support, innovation and planning, sustainability of service provision and potential and process uptake of new technologies. [Accessed: 30.07.2013]

This video is a webinar that teaches about investing in effective technologies with the Technology Applicability Framework (TAF) developed by WASHTech.