Dry Composting Latrines

Poorly built pit latrines can harbor diseases such as Hepatitis A, Protozoal Amoebiasis, and Ecoli as well as contaminate the environment over time. Trees, Water & People began installing dry composting latrines in El Salvador to improve quality of life and the environment by providing more sanitary conditions and controlling human waste that otherwise leaches into the soils and surrounding water supplies.

A before and after picture of a newly installed dry composting latrine in El Salvador.

How Does a Dry Composting Latrine Work?

The dry composting latrine consists of two chambers made of cinder blocks with a toilet seat and urine diverter, placed over each of the chambers. After each use, stove ash, compost, and/or sawdust is added to the chamber to reduce odors and keep it dry. There is also a vent to allow fresh air to circulate and further dry the solid matter. After one chamber is filled it is left to dry for a six to eight month period while the second chamber is in use. The contents of the first chamber are then transformed into a rich fertilizer or "humanure" that can be used on surrounding crops or trees after it is exposed to sunlight and mixed with a 1:1 ratio of soil. One dry composting latrine can serve a family of six for more than 10 years with proper maintenance.

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An example of a unimproved pit latrine. A newly built dry composting latrine in El Salvador. The beneficiaries of a new dry composting latrine in El Salvador. View more photos