Towards sustainable sanitation management: Establishing the costs and willingness to pay for emptying and transporting sludge in rural districts with high rates of access to latrines

Motivation: Proper management of fecal sludge has significant positive health and environmental externalities. Most research on managing onsite sanitation so far either simulates the costs of, or the welfare effects from, managing sludge in situ in pit latrines. Thus, designing management strategies for onsite rural sanitation is challenging, because the actual costs of transporting sludge for treatment, and sources for financing these transport costs, are not well understood. Methods: In this paper we calculate the actual cost of sludge management from onsite latrines, and identify the contributions that latrine owners are willing to make to finance the costs. A spreadsheet-based model is used to identify a cost-effective transport option, and to calculate the cost per household. Then a double-bound contingent valuation method is used to elicit from pit-latrine owners their willingness-to-pay to have sludge transported away. This methodology is employed for the case of a rural subdistrict in Bangladesh called Bhaluka, a unit of administration at which sludge management services are being piloted by the Government of Bangladesh. Results: The typical sludge accumulation rate in Bhaluka is calculated at 0.11 liters/person/day and a typical latrine will need to be emptied approximately once every 3 to 4 years. The costs of emptying and transport are high; approximately USD 13 per emptying event (circa 14% of average monthly income); household contributions could cover around 47% of this cost. However, if costs were spread over time, the service would cost USD 4 per year per household, or USD 0.31 per month per household—comparable to current expenditures of rural households on telecommunications. Conclusion: This is one of few research papers that brings the costs of waste management together with financing of that cost, to provide evidence for an implementable solution. This framework can be used to identify cost effective sludge management options and private contributions towards that cost in other (context-specific) administrative areas where onsite sanitation is widespread.