Charting a path for innovative toilet technology using multicriteria decision analysis.


Practical and theoretically sound methods for analyzing innovative environmental technologies are needed to inform public and private decisions regarding research and development, risk management, and stakeholder communication. By integrating scientific assessments with a characterization of values, multicriteria decision analysis (MCDA) supports the ranking of alternative technology pathways on the basis of technical, financial, and social concerns. We applied MCDAto evaluate the use of NoMix urine separating toilets for managing environmental risk and postponing expensive upgrades to a large wastewater treatment plant near Zürich, Switzerland. Results indicate that, given current priorities, no single, fixed course of action (including the status quo) will be desirable to all stakeholders over the considered time horizon. However, a path forward is suggested that is not significantly disadvantageous to any stakeholder now and leaves open future options, allowing society to achieve overall greater benefits if priorities change, new environmental risks are revealed, or technology improves. While our analysis focuses on a particular catchment in Switzerland, many communities worldwide are faced with an aging and inefficient wastewater treatment infrastructure while also experiencing growth and development. Our framework can help these communities balance the conflicting objectives of diverse stakeholders and gain insight into the role that urine separation can play in transitioning to a more comprehensive and sustainable urban water management system.