To achieve citywide inclusive sanitation in developing countries, a strategic sanitation planning approach (SSA) needs to provide a variety of technical solutions that respond to different urban realities. Despite the development of various SSA frameworks, sanitation planning still often follows a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. Structured decision making (SDM) can help by balancing trade-offs among different solutions. But SDM requires a set of appropriate sanitation options to choose from. Because conventional sewer-based sanitation is often inappropriate, many novel technologies and systems have been developed (e.g. container-based sanitation). While these innovations enhance sustainability, they also increase planning complexity. In this review, we look at available frameworks and tools for SSA and discover a lack of systematic tools for the identification of planning options that are able to consider the growing portfolio of available solutions and multiple sustainability criteria. Therefore, we critically compare 15 tools from which we compile eight qualities that could help any future tool address the current sanitation challenge: it should be comprehensive, automated to deal with a large number of options, systematic, flexible towards future innovation and should consider all sustainability dimensions, make a contextualized evaluation, allow for participation, and consider uncertainties to be applicable ex-ante also for novel technologies.


  • Provides a historical review of frameworks for strategic sanitation planning.

  • This reveals a lack of systematic tools to identify suitable planning options considering innovations.

  • Compares how 15 tools for option selection address the current urban sanitation challenge.

  • Compiles eight qualities from this analysis that could improve any future tool.

  • Most important qualities are the ability to deal with the growing portfolio of novel technologies, multiple criteria, and uncertainties.

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