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Appropriate management of on-site sanitation

Research output: Book/ReportDoctoral thesisCollection of Articles


Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationTampere
PublisherTampere University of Technology
Publication statusPublished - 2005
Publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)

Publication series

NameTampereen teknillinen yliopisto, julkaisuja
PublisherTampere University of Technology


The world is facing an enormous sanitation crisis: about 2.6 billion people lack of appropriate sanitation. Together with the lack of clean drinking water, it is causing 10 000 - 30 000 deaths daily. Roughly 6 000 children die every day from diarrhoeal diseases alone. And 88 per cent of those diseases are caused by unsafe water and inappropriate sanitation. In Finland, the lack of proper sanitation is not jeopardizing people s lives, but it causes deterioration of the environment, especially eutrophication of surface waters and in some cases also pollution of groundwater. There are more than 700 000 residential properties - either summer cottages or year-round houses - outside sewerage networks in the country. The wastewaters of these properties were mainly treated in septic tanks until the end of the 20th century. Since the beginning of the new millennium, the legislation concerning on-site sanitation has changed completely. For it to operate as planned, research on the proper management of on-site sanitation is required. The main objective of this research is to find answers to the questions: How to put the new laws and regulations into practice without major friction? What will the consequences of the new legislation be? What main topics should be researched further to avoid the deterioration of the environment due to wastewaters from sparsely populated areas? After collecting empirical data from different sanitation projects in Finland and a number of international conferences, as well as studying the theory of Social Construction of Technology (SCOT), path dependence theory, stakeholders theories and futures research methods, the author makes comparisons, analyses and reviews of the findings and gives his conclusions and recommendations concerning the research topics. Action research, which aims at interaction between practise and theories, is used as the strategy of the research. The main findings can be condensed into the following conclusions. Finland has enough up-to-date laws and regulations concerning on-site sanitation. The most important thing is that the legislation is interpreted with equal strictness all over the country to uphold respect for it. The quality of all activities taken must be first rate, availability of professional sector people is to be secured and product development - especially in dry toilet technology - must continue. We should apply the methods of futures research more seriously in the water and sanitation sector to ensure that we are moving in the preferred direction. There are also a couple of recommendations for future actions and research topics given. The research implies the question whether the dominating trend toward larger sewer networks and larger centralised wastewater treatment plants in Finland is desirable or should we also study the decentralised alternatives? Should we totally eliminate the concept of non-point source pollution to highlight the individual s responsibility for the environment? Finnish research, experiences and product development of on-site sanitation could help in solving the world s sanitation crisis if only given enough resources. It would support the country s own environmental protection, employment and economy as well. Key words: sanitation, on-site sanitation, decentralised sanitation, wastewater treatment, management options, environmental legislation, SCOT, non-point source pollution, water services, DESAR

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