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Romania - Safe Sanitation, Health and Dignity

Implementation of dry urine diverting toilets and and waste water soil filters for schools and private households


Countries: Romania
Donors: Fondation Ensemble, France; Royal Netherlands Embassy in Romania
Partners: Medium et Sanitas Slobozia, EuroTeleorman Association, Femei pentru un Viitor Curat (Women for a Clean Future)
Issues: Water & Sanitation
Duration: 10/2007 - 09/2010

A three year ecological sanitation and organic waste composting program for poor rural communities. Sponsored by Fondation Ensemble (France).

Background Information

The Project Safe Sanitation, Health and Dignity, sponsored by Fondation Ensemble and coordinated by WECF, implements dry urine diverting toilets, wastewater and organic solid waste treatment systems for schools and private households in some 20 villages in three regions of Romania: Ialomita, Teleorman and Mehedinti.

The implementing partner organizations from each of these counties are: Medium et Sanitas Slobozia, EuroTeleorman Association and Femei pentru un Viitor Curat (Women for a Clean Future) respectively.

The ecological sanitation approach of recycling the nutrients - following WHO safety guidelines - enables the use of sanitized urine and sanitized faeces in agriculture.

Demonstration gardens are implemented in cooperation with the villagers to show the use of sanitized products as fertilizer.

The project carried out by WECF and it's partners focuses on three areas:

  • implementation and awareness raising on water source protection, safe sanitation, organic waste management, hygiene and health
  • capacity building: creating an enabling environment for replication through applied training for local builders, citizens and pupils
  • up-scaling: through the publication of case studies in cooperation with a Ukrainian University and a market analysis to identify potential enterprises interested in local production of ecosan equipment.

The project is expected to have long term positive effects: reduction of ground (drinking) water pollution, improved health of the villagers, and reduction of health cost thus leading to a reduction of poverty. Possibly, urine as fertilizer and compost as soil conditioner will increase harvests yields.

For more information on Fondation Ensemble, its programmes and fields of involvement please see

For more information on the implementing partners, see below.

The sanitation situation in Romania

The project has been born from one of the most pressing needs of Romania in the environment and health sectors.

Out of Romania‘s total population of around 21 millions, 10 millions do not have a proper access to safe sanitation and 8 millions do not have access to a safe drinking water.

45 % of the total population leaves in the rural areas. Almost the entire population in the rural areas in Romania do not have access to sewage systems and depend on unsatisfactory sanitary installations such as pit latrines, soak away pits and drains. These results in high morbidity especially among children, high number of people affected by water related diseases, as well as significant ground and surface water pollution.

As an example in one of its previous projects WECF found in the village of Garla Mare, Romania, that all 480 drinking water wells are polluted with nitrates (up to 10 times the allowed level) and human faecal bacteria from pit latrines.

The school toilets in the rural areas of Romania are in a such deplorable state that many of the pupils declare that do not use the toilet throughout the day and rush back home after school. The WHO and government of Romania recognize that Blue Baby disease, mainly caused by too high nitrate levels in drinking water, remains a health concern. In period 1990-2000 almost 3000 babies are recorded to have suffered from Blue Baby Disease (methemoglobinemia).

Left: School toilet in the Perieti commune, Ialomita, right: Sanitary group in Teleorman

The Project

The project "Safe Sanitation, Health and Dignity" Romania implements dry urine diverting toilets for schools and private households, an ecological sanitation technique that has proven its efficiency in previous projects in Romania (see links below), and enables the use of sanitized urine and faeces in agriculture.

The project addresses also awareness raising on water protection, improvement of the sanitary conditions in rural areas, hygiene and health, as well as creating an enabling environment for replication and up scaling through a team of local trained ecosan builders, enterprises interested in local ecosan equipment production and dialogue with policy makers to address legal and institutional barriers for up scaling.

The main goal of the project is to create a sustainable and affordable way for improvement of the sanitation conditions in the schools and the households in rural settlements in Romania. The recent sanitation conditions in the rural schools do not meet the hygienic requirements. Every school uses a pit latrine for a toilet. These toilets are very inconvenient especially for girls, and most of the children don’t use the toilet during the day because of bad conditions. The use of such toilet makes it more difficult during winter time.

Local builders were and are trained and local population is involved in the development of the water safety plans.

School children are educated on the relationship between safe sanitation, water protection, hygiene and health and are actively monitoring drinking water quality on nitrates (sanitation pollution indicator).

Local families are being trained to develop an organic waste composting program, allowing improved agricultural activities in these impoverished communities greatly dependent on good yields.

The expected results of the project focus on three elements:

  • Implementation: alltogether, 70 private household toilets will be build in 15 villages and 5 new ecosan school toilets; 25 households will use urine as fertilizer in their vegetable gardens, using the WHO guidelines for safety measures; 5 school projects will test sanitized urine and dehydrated faecals in demonstration vegetable gardens; 5 grey-water filters will be built for the schools
  • Capacity Building: tutoring programs, trainings, development a water safety plan for the villages, etc.
  • Up-Scaling: Case studies and cost analysis of the 70 household toilets and 5 school toilets; One Romanian university (Bucharest Technical University of Construction) cooperates in designing and monitoring the dry urine diverting toilets and grey water soil filters; Development of business plan for local production of ecological sanitation equipment

School toilet and village hall toilet executed during the WECF project in Garla Mare 2003

Private household toilet executed in 2006 during the WECF project funded by Foundation Ensemble in Garla Mare

Project areas

1. The villages Garla Mare and Vrata in the Mehedinti county have a total of 4.700 citizens (southern part of the country). These villages have neither gasification nor drinking water or sewage system utilities. Poverty and unemployment are the mayor problems in the villages. Previously WECF together with local partners carried out in Garla Mare a two-year MATRA project "Safe Drinking Water" from 2002-2004 and a one-year project "Sustainable Development for All" with financial support of the French Foundation Ensemble from September 2005-2006.

WECF wants to focus on Vrata village, as there was again a case of blue baby disease (metahemoglobinia) in 2006. This is still an indication of an existing high levels of nitrates in drinking water. Therefore awareness especially with young women should be increased.

2. Teleorman county is located in the Lower Danube Plain, south of Romania, west of Bucharest. The county has a surface of 5.872 km2, and 42.7745 inhabitants. 66.6% (one of the highest percentages in the country) are leaving in the rural settlements, 33.3% in five towns.

The population of the rural areas of Teleorman are dealing with poor sanitation practices, lack of drinking water of good quality and a general absence of systems to deal with wastewater.

In the countryside houses are mostly having the shallow pit latrines (90%) and these toilets are not connected to the sewage system nor equipped with a septic tank. The use of open pit latrines is seen as environmentally damaging, as well as a potential danger to the public health.

3. Medium & Sanitas Slobozia is the Romanian partner organisation that coordinates the activities in Ialomita province, in the villages around the spa Amara. Medium & Sanitas is a member of WECF and has been the local project partner in a previous Matra project in Romania, which focussed on awareness raising and demonstrating water protection and water improvement measures.

What is a Dry Urine Diverting Toilet System?

A urine diverting toilet has two outlets and two collection systems; one for urine and one for the faeces, in order to keep these excreta fractions separate. Besides that, the system has mainly conventional technical construction material/devices, even if they are used in completely or partly new ways.

Urine and faeces are collected in separate containers, stored or treated, and finally used in crop production. Grey water is treated separately, and this is not in the scope of the report as mentioned above. Urine diversion in itself shall be seen as a complementary technology since the other wastewater flows (faeces, greywater and stormwater) also need to be handled and treated.

This project applies 2 types of ecological sanitation/wastewater treatment systems:

  • dry urine diverting toilets
  • soil/sand waste water filters

It has been chosen for these 2 types of ecological sanitation/ wastewater treatment as they provide the highest level of hygiene, environmental and health protection at the lowest price and can be produced and maintained locally with no need for highly skilled experts.


The project is fiananced by Fondation Ensemble and benefits presently of co-funding from the Embassy of the Netherlands in Romania as well as the organisation ORT and local contributions.

Implementing organization on a local level

  • FCV, Garla Mare, Mehedinti county
  • EuroTeleorman Association, Teleorman county
  • Medium & Sanitas Slobozia, Ialomita county


If you want to donate money to this project, here are the bank account numbers for tax deductable donations:

The Netherlands: Women in Europe for a Common Future, WECF

  • Account Number: 435 42 99 14
  • IBAN: NL 84 ABNA 0435429914

Germany: Women in Europe for a Common Future, WECF e.V.

  • Account Number: 13 1390 50
  • Bank code: 701 500 00
  • IBAN: DE68 7015 0000 0013 1390 50
  • Bank: Stadtsparkasse München

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