Most of our information is online at Build Simple Inc. for more aid planning assistance.

Healthy sites for healthy people need appropriate technology for clean water, greywater and wastewater. Appropriate technology may not be costly, but requires wisdom to select a strategy that works well with the culture and the land.

Surface water for washing.
CLEAN WATER can come from deep wells or surface water that is disinfected.
Three inexpensive ways to provide safer water for a family are the SODIS and the Slow Sand Filter and the Fair Water ceramic filter system.
Clean water for villages, schools, or refugee camps can come from lake or stream water that is pumped through large filters, or settled and treated with chlorine, often with large and expensive equipment.

Many people hand carry their water. Simpler systems can allow them safe water. Bruce Stouter has worked out a new way to use solar cells and a small UV filter to disinfect enough water for 15 families. Hooked up to electric current for most of the day it can supply drinking water for 100 families. And it fits in two 5 gallon (20 L) buckets. This would work for a small water business, an institution, or disaster relief.

Contact Bruce for more information at

Paying for water in Haiti.
Water Bucket UV Water Treatment.pdf Water Bucket UV Water Treatment.pdf
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UV light in pour system.
UV sterilizing unit.

GREYWATER is re-used water from washing or showers. Where there is little rainfall, water is precious. Rainwater can also be collected from roofs.

For single homes it may be as simple (and pleasant) as dumping the dishpan over the plants, or taking a bucket shower on the edge of the garden. 

Washing outdoors near the water.
Greywater can smell or clog pipes if it is stored or put through the wrong kind of system.
Different greywater needs different use; from kitchens in the developing world it can have a lot of bleach, from kitchens in the developed world it should pass through a grease trap.  Greywater from washing diapers can have disease bacteria and is best run into a mulch bed borderd by a raised lip.

For those with plumbing pipes in their houses, Art Ludwig has the best greywater information pages.

High groundwater, high latrine.
Low water toilets.

Above left: Latrine raised above groundwater level

Above right: Squat toilet

SANITARY SYSTEMS locate the wastewater or blackwater that flows out of flush toilets where it won't spread disease.

Different systems use more or less or no water. Where water is precious, squat toilets can be flushed by a bucket with very little water. Latrines and composting toilets don't use any water.

Different cultures have different ways to deal with their waste that relate to how they clean themselves and how much privacy they need, as well as whether they have much water or not.

Where most homes lack plumbing, hand washing with ash or clean water outside the latrine is important. A tippy-tap is a bottle that makes hand rinsing easy without catching germs from the bottle.

Below: Tippy tap

Use a tippy-tap to wash hands.
Blackwater should be put into the ground at least 30 m (100 feet) away from a well or stream or lake because it carries many diseases. If the well is very deep it may be safe to locate blackwater disposal only 15 m (50 feet) away.

In the developed world wastewater often goes into a septic field (pipes with holes laid in strip trenches of gravel). In other places it usually goes into a soakaway (a large hole 2- 2.7 m (6- 8 feet deep).

Latrines are common in most of the world. They have a seat or squat hole on a floor above a soakaway pit. Latrines do not need water, but are located far from the house because they smell. They can sometimes pollute groundwater supplies.

Often children are afraid to use latrines, and many slums lack space for safe latrines.  Another solution is the biodegradable PeePoo bag. It disinfects waste, reduces smell, and within several months turns it into good soil.

Below left: Concrete toilet made around bucket

Below right: Urine diversion for a composting toilet

Home-made raised latrine seat.
Urine diverting toilet.

Human waste is valuable to improve soil if it can be kept away from water supplies. Composting toilets work well if urine is diverted away. But people must learn to handle the waste carefully. Some latrines have 2 chambers so waste ages inside. 

A shallow latrine called the arbor-loo is spreading. Individual families dig their own shallow hole, and put a light enclosure and toilet floor above. Every six months they dig a new hole, cover the waste hole with earth, and plant a vine or fruit tree on it.

Site plan with rainwater capture.


When people build new communities and homes, they can plan for clean water, and decide what to do with rainfall and greywater and human waste. A designer like a landscape architect can ensure that there will be room for any alternative technologies and advise about the best shaped building for the climate. A civil engineer is needed on difficult sites. 

One family cannot keep their waste from polluting water all alone. If nearby families agree together, they can locate a well in a central location and keep the latrines at least 30 m away.

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