Date of Award


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Civil Engineering (MS)

College, School or Department Name

Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering


Brian Barkdoll


Water resource depletion and sanitation are growing problems around the world. A solution to both of these problems is the use of composting latrines, as it requires no water and has been recommended by the World Health Organization as an improved sanitation technology. However, little analysis has been done on the decomposition process occurring inside the latrine, including what temperatures are reached and what variables most affect the composting process. Having better knowledge of how outside variables affect composting latrines can aid development workers on the choice of implementing such technology, and to better educate the users on the appropriate methods of maintenance.

This report presents a full, detailed construction manual and temperature data analysis of a double vault composting latrine. During the author’s two year Peace Corps service in rural Paraguay he was involved with building twenty one composting latrines, and took detailed temperature readings and visual observations of his personal latrine for ten months. The author also took limited temperature readings of fourteen community member’s latrines over a three month period. These data points were analyzed to find correlations between compost temperatures and several variables.

The two main variables found to affect the compost temperatures were the seasonal trends of the outside temperatures, and the mixing and addition of moisture to the compost. Outside seasonal temperature changes were compared to those of the compost and a linear regression was performed resulting in a R2-value of 0.89. Mixing the compost and adding water, or a water/urine mixture, resulted in temperature increases of the compost 100% of the time, with seasonal temperatures determining the rate and duration of the temperature increases.

The temperature readings were also used to find events when certain temperatures were held for sufficient amounts of time to reach total pathogen destruction in the compost. Four different events were recorded when a temperature of 122°F (50°C) was held for at least 24 hours, ensuring total pathogen destruction in that area of the compost. One event of 114.8°F (46°C) held for one week was also recorded, again ensuring total pathogen destruction.

Through the analysis of the temperature data, however, it was found that the compost only reached total pathogen destruction levels during ten percent of the data points. Because of this the storage time recommendation outlined by the World Health Organization should be complied with. The WHO recommends storing compost for 1.5-2 years in climates with ambient temperatures of 2-20°C (35-68°F), and for at least 1 year with ambient temperatures of 20-35°C (68-95°F). If these storage durations are obtainable the use of the double vault composting latrine is an economical and achievable solution to sanitation while conserving water resources.


Peace Corps Master's International Program