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Monitoring Safely Managed On-Site Sanitation

For SDG indicator 6.2.1a households can potentially be classified as having safely managed sanitation services if they use sewer connections or improved on-site sanitation facilities such as septic tanks and improved pit latrines. These households are counted as having at least basic sanitation services if these sanitation facilities are not shared. To be counted as safely managed, the sanitation facilities should additionally prevent the discharge of wastewater and faecal sludge to the surface environment, and they should ensure that excreta are either treated and disposed of in situ or transported and treated off-site. However, while at least some data are often available for centralized wastewater treatment of sewage, large data gaps remain regarding monitoring the safe management of on-site sanitation (SMOSS) services. SMOSS can be assessed across all steps of the sanitation service chain, from containment and on-site treatment in storage pits, tanks and leach fields; to emptying, transport and treatment of faecal sludge in off-site treatment plants. For more details, see the WHO Guidelines on sanitation and health, especially Chapter 3 for definitions and Chapter 4 for implementation. On-site sanitation services can be safely managed through on-site storage and treatment (e.g. septic tanks with leach fields; improved pit latrines that are abandoned and covered when full; on-site storage pits and tanks that contain excreta but aren't yet full) or through off-site treatment (e.g. excreta emptied from a pits or tanks and transported to faecal sludge treatment plants). 

Safely Managed On-Site Sanitation along the sanitation service chain
Safely managed on-site sanitation along the sanitation service chain.
Source: WHO Guidelines on Sanitation and Health, 2018

Comprehensive monitoring of SMOSS therefore requires data to be collected at the household level, but also from service providers involved in emptying, transport and off-site treatment. Different data sources will be more appropriate and reliable for different steps of the sanitation chain. Household questionnaires and sanitary inspections are best suited for determining what types of sanitation facilities are being used, and how well pits and tanks contain and separate excreta from the surface environment and provide in-situ treatment; while data from local government authorities or service providers are more suitable for routinely monitoring emptying, transport and treatment. Spot checks can also be used to verify local government and service provider data on emptying, transport and treatment.

SMOSS data collection methods
Different data sources are needed along the sanitation service chain

Since 2019, the JMP has been working with sanitation, wastewater and monitoring experts at the global and national levels to strengthen national monitoring of safely managed on-site sanitation services. In-depth pilots have been conducted in six countries representing a range of socio-economic and geographic conditions: Bangladesh, Ecuador, Indonesia, Kenya, Serbia, and Zambia. A synthesis report includes a summary of core and expanded indicators to monitor SMOSS; methods and tools for collecting this data; and lessons and examples from the six pilots.

Some key findings from the pilot countries have been that national monitoring systems should be designed to allow reporting both to global and locally-defined indicators, and that it is more efficient to adapt and build on existing data sources rather than build new monitoring systems from scratch. It remains difficult to assess safe management by service providers, and to combine data from service providers with data from households. However, it is increasingly possible to monitor containment, treatment and disposal in-situ by adding core questions to routine household surveys and conducting household sanitary inspections. Sanitary inspections can also be used to recommend remedial measures that households, local authorities and service providers can take when risks are identified.   

The JMP will be working with additional pilot countries in the coming years, and is preparing guidance documents for strengthening monitoring of SMOSS along the entire sanitation chain, including recommended core questions to include in different types of data collection systems.