Operations & Maintenance

Without a proper operations and maintenance framework, even the best community toilet structures would become dirty and broken down within a few months. Operations and maintenance (O&M) includes all aspects required for the day-to-day functioning the facility, like cleaning, repairs, staffing, operational timings, user relations, finance management and the overall coordination and monitoring of these elements.

The O&M of community toilet facilities is usually handed over to the communities themselves to manage, or contracted out to an external agency (either for-profit, or non-profit). People of sometimes tempted to thinking public toilet management and community toilet management as the same thing, but there are a few important points to be kept in mind about community toilet management:

  • Unless the facility is located in a hybrid location (i.e. accessible to both the public, and communities), the user traffic may not be very high. This means that revenue from user fees alone may not be enough to sustain operations.
  • Many community facilities will be located in internal locations. This make them less visible, meaning that they can be easily overlooked when monitoring.
  • The user base will be regular customers, and not just people in transit who may be using it just once. These users will likely have few alternative options: i.e. either they use the facility, or they have to go outside. In order for the facility to effectively address sanitation needs, whoever is managing the facility has to be able to maintain the facility in a way that encourages people to keep using it.
  • As the facility is located within a community, those in charge of O&M will have to be able to deal with community dynamics – this may be just user feedback, or broader disputes that may come up.
  • Most users will be spending a good deal of time at the facility, not just a few minutes for urination/defecation. Users will also be bathing, washing clothes and brushing their teeth. The quality of the O&M should be high enough that people will be able to comfortably spend this time at the facility, rather than quickly trying to get in and out.

Whether you opt for private or community management, these points are useful to keep in mind to make sure that your O&M strategy is tailored to community toilets (and not public toilets).