Application of Stored Urine

Stored urine is a concentrated source of nutrients that can be applied as a liquid fertilizer in agriculture and replace all or some commercial chemical fertilizers.

The guidelines for urine use are based on storage time and temperature (see WHO guidelines on excreta use in agriculture for specific requirements). However, it is generally accepted that if urine is stored for at least 1 month, it will be safe for agricultural application at the household level. If urine is used for crops that are eaten by people other than the urine producer, it should be stored beforehand for 6 months.

Another beneficial use of urine is as an additive to enrich compost. Technologies for the production of urine-based fertilizers are currently under research (e.g., struvite, Emerging Sanitation Technologies).

From normal, healthy people, urine is virtually free of pathogens. Urine also contains the majority of nutrients that are excreted by the body. Its composition varies depending on diet, gender, climate, water intake, etc., but roughly 88% of nitrogen, 61% of phosphorus and 74% of potassium excreted from the body is in urine.

Design Considerations

 

Stored urine should not be applied directly to plants because of its high pH and concentrated form. Instead, it can be:

1) mixed undiluted into soil before planting;

2) poured into furrows, but at a sufficient distance away from the roots of the plants and immediately covered (although this should take place no more than once or twice during the growing season); and

3) diluted several times, whereby it can be frequently used around plants (up to two times weekly).

The optimal application rate depends on the nitrogen demand and tolerance of the crop on which it will be used, the nitrogen concentration of the liquid, as well as the rate of ammonia loss during application. As a general rule of thumb, one can assume that 1 m2 of cropland can receive 1.5 L of urine per growing season (this quantity corresponds to the daily urine production of one person and to 40-110 kg N/ha). The urine of one person during one year is, thus, sufficient to fertilize 300 to 400 m2 of cropland.

A 3:1 mix of water and urine is an effective dilution for vegetables, although the correct amount depends on the soil and the type of vegetables. If diluted urine is used in an irrigation system, it is referred to as “fertigation”. During the rainy season, urine can also be applied directly into small holes near plants; then it is diluted naturally.

Appropriateness

Urine is especially beneficial for crops lacking in nitrogen. Examples of some crops that grow well with urine include: maize, rice, millet, sorghum, wheat, chard, turnip, carrots, kale, cabbage, lettuce, bananas, paw-paw, and oranges. Urine application is ideal for rural and peri-urban areas where agricultural lands are close to the point of urine collection. Households can use their own urine on their own plot of land. Alternatively, if facilities and infrastructure exist, urine can be collected at a semi-centralized location for distribution and transport to agricultural land. Regardless, the most important aspect is that there is a need for nutrients from fertilizer for agriculture which can be supplied by the stored urine. When there is no such need, the urine can become a source of pollution and a nuisance.

Health Aspects/Acceptance

Urine poses a minimal risk of infection, especially when it has been stored for an extended period of time. Yet, urine should be carefully handled and should not be applied to crops less than one month before they are harvested. This waiting period is especially important for crops that are consumed raw (refer to WHO guidelines for specific guidance).

Social acceptance may be difficult. Stored urine has a strong smell and some may find it offensive to work with it or to have it nearby. If urine is diluted and/or immediately tilled into the earth, however, its smell can be reduced. The use of urine may be less accepted in urban or peri-urban areas when household gardens are close to peoples’ homes than in rural areas where houses and crop land are kept separate.

Operation & Maintenance

Over time, some minerals in urine will precipitate (especially, calcium and magnesium phosphates). Equipment that is used to collect, transport or apply urine (i.e., watering cans with small holes) may become clogged over time. Most deposits can easily be removed with hot water and a bit of acid (vinegar), or in more extreme cases, manually chipped off.


References

Further Readings

  • Cover image of a reference book or miscellany.

    ECOSANRES (Editor) (2008): Guidelines on the Use of Urine and Faeces in Crop Production. Factsheet. (pdf presentation). Stockholm: Stockholm Environment Institute. PDF

    A 2-page factsheet summarizing the EcoSanRes ‘Guidelines on the Use of Urine and Faeces in Crop Production’ publication with short information on urine as a fertilizer, application rates etc.

  • Cover image of a reference book or miscellany.

    RICHERT, A.; EcoSanRes (Editor); Richert Miljoekompetens (Editor) (2009): Large Scale Handling of Urine and Faeces. (pdf presentation). Stockholm: Stockholm Environmental Institute. PDF

    This presentation gives a brief overview on aspects related to larger scale application of urine in agriculture.

  • Cover image of a reference book or miscellany.

    TILLEY, E.; ULRICH, L.; LUETHI, C.; REYMOND, P.; SCHERTENLEIB, R.; ZURBRUEGG, C. (2014): Compendium of Sanitation Systems and Technologies (Arabic). 2nd Revised Edition. Duebendorf, Switzerland: Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag). PDF

    This is the Arabic version of the Compendium of Sanitation Systems and Technologies. The Compendium gives a systematic overview on different sanitation systems and technologies and describes a wide range of available low-cost sanitation technologies.

  • Cover image of a reference book or miscellany.

    VALLEY VIEW UNIVERSITY (Editor) (2008): Fertilisation with Urine in Agriculture – in a Nutshell. University of Hohenheim Germany: Berger Biotechnik and Valley View University Ghana.. PDF

    This leaflet provides a summary on why and how to fertilize with urine including brief application recommendations, hygiene considerations and trouble shooting support.

  • Cover image of a reference book or miscellany.

    RICHERT, A.; GENSCH, R.; JOENSSON, H.; STENSTROEM, T.A.; DAGERSKOG, L. (2010): Practical Guidance on the Use of Urine in Crop Production. Stockholm: Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI). URL [Accessed: 20.07.2010]. PDF

    This practical guideline on the use of urine in agricultural productions gives some background information on basic plant requirements and how they can be met with urine as a liquid fertiliser.

  • Cover image of a reference book or miscellany.

    DAGERSKOG, L. ; SuSanA (Editor) (2009): Urine and Faeces as Fertilizers in the CREPA Network. pdf presentation. Ouagadougou: Sustainable Sanitation Alliance. PDF

    Presentation on experiences with the use of urine (and faeces) in agriculture including research results, conducted taste tests and calculations on the fertiliser value.

  • Cover image of a reference book or miscellany.

    HOLMER, R.; SANTOS, C.; SOL, G.; LEE, S.; ELORDE, E.; AQUINO, A.; GUANZON, Y.; ACHAS, D.; CASERIA, J.; FACTURA, H.; MISO, A.; OCLARIT, R.; MONTES, A.; Periurban Vegetable Project (PUVeP) (Editor) (2008): Philippine Allotment Garden Manual. (pdf presentation). Cagayan de Oro City: Xavier University College of Agriculture. PDF

    This manual provides information on the allotment garden project in Cagayan de Oro including an introduction to Ecosan and the use of treated urine in the gardens.

  • Cover image of a reference book or miscellany.

    MORGAN, P. (2009): Garden Trials Using Urine as a Plant Food. Addis Ababa 2009. PDF

    This presentation describes some practical methods on how to do garden trials with urine used as a fertilizer.

  • Cover image of a reference book or miscellany.

    WHO (Editor) (2006): Guidelines for the safe use of wastewater excreta and greywater. Volume III. Wastewater and Excreta Use in Aquaculture. Geneva: World Health Organisation. URL [Accessed: 26.02.2010]. PDF

    Volume III of the Guidelines for the Safe Use of Wastewater, Excreta and Greywater deals with wastewater and excreta use in aquaculture and describes the present state of knowledge regarding the impact of wastewater-fed aquaculture on the health of producers, product consumers and local communities. It assesses the associated health risks and provides an integrated preventive management framework.

  • Cover image of a reference book or miscellany.

    WHO (Editor) (2006): Guidelines for the safe use of wastewater excreta and greywater. Volume IV. Excreta and Greywater Use in Agriculture. Geneva: World Health Organisation. URL [Accessed: 26.02.2010]. PDF

    Volume IV of the Guidelines for the Safe Use of Wastewater, Excreta and Greywater recognizes the reuse potential of wastewater and excreta (including urine) in agriculture and describes the present state of knowledge as regards potential health risks associated with the reuse as well as measures to manage these health risks following a multi-barrier approach.

Case Studies

  • Cover image of a reference book or miscellany.

    HOLMER, R.; SuSanA (Editor) (2009): UDD Toilets with Reuse in Allotment Gardens.. (pdf presentation). Cagayan de Oro Philippines: Sustainable Sanitation Alliance. URL [Accessed: 11.08.2010]. PDF

    Case study on an urban agriculture project with urine reuse in Northern Mindanao, Philippines.

  • Cover image of a reference book or miscellany.

    KUMAR, P. ; SuSanA (Editor) (2008): Community-Led Water and Ecosan Programme. Shaanxi Province, China: Sustainable Sanitation Alliance (SuSanA). PDF

    Case study on a community led sanitation project that introduced UDDT, Biogas & Double Urn Toilets and use of urine in Shaanxi Province, China.

  • Cover image of a reference book or miscellany.

    MUELLEGGER, E. ; SuSanA (Editor) (2009): UDD Toilets at a Rural Secondary School Kalunga, Uganda. Sustainable Sanitation Alliance. URL [Accessed: 12.12.2012]. PDF

    Case study on a school UDDT project and the reuse of the collected urine in Kalunga, Uganda

  • Cover image of a reference book or miscellany.

    SAYRE, E.; VON MUENCH, E.; SuSanA (Editor) (2009): Rural Community and School UDD Toilets in Misamis Oriental. (pdf presentation). Libertad, Initao & Manticao, Philippines: Sustainable Sanitation Exchange. PDF

    Case study on a community and school UDDT project with urine reuse in Misamis Oriental, Philippines.

  • Cover image of a reference book or miscellany.

    DAGERSKOG, L. ; SuSanA (Editor) (2009): Urine and Faeces as Fertilizers in the CREPA Network. pdf presentation. Ouagadougou: Sustainable Sanitation Alliance. PDF

    Presentation on experiences with the use of urine (and faeces) in agriculture including research results, conducted taste tests and calculations on the fertiliser value.

  • Cover image of a reference book or miscellany.

    MORGAN, P. (2005): Ecological Sanitation in Southern Africa. Many Approaches to a Varied Need. Stockholm : Ecological Sanitation Research (EcoSanRes), Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI). URL [Accessed: 21.06.2013]. PDF

    This document describes the ecological sanitation situation in South Africa, focussing on the range of technological options, promotional methods and recycling methods and the problem areas.

  • Cover image of a reference book or miscellany.

    HORT, N. ; EKBO (Editor) (n.y.): Alternatives to Conventional Wastewater Systems. Stockholm: Ecological Tenant-Owners’ Society in Orhem. PDF

    Case study on the Gebers collective housing project in Stockholm, Sweden with larger-scale use of urine in Agriculture.

  • Cover image of a reference book or miscellany.

    BAMUTAZE, A.B.N.; BABIRYE, V. (2013): Drip Irrigation and Fertigation Prospective. A Case Study of Cabbage Growing at the ATC, Mukono District. Mukono: Appropriate Technology Centre (ATC) for Water and Sanitation. URL [Accessed: 21.10.2013]. PDF

    The study aimed at assessing the feasibility of using urine as a fertilizer and drip irrigation technology to address food scarcity that has hit Uganda as a country of late. The study revealed high rates of return for a farmer who chooses to practice drip irrigation and fertigation. This however gives best results with effective disease control.

Awareness Material

  • Cover image of a reference book or miscellany.

    WECF (Editor) (2010): How to Separate Urine. Utrecht/Munich/Annemasse: Women in Europe for a Common Future. URL [Accessed: 06.01.2011]. PDF

    This flyer contains information about the importance of urine reuse. The nutrients in urine are easily taken up by plants. The fertilised plant will grow faster, develop more leaves and produce higher yields. Applying urine to crops instead of chemical fertilisers saves money and energy and produces a similar yield. One person produces about 500 liter urine per year.

Training Material

  • Cover image of a reference chapter of a book/miscellany.

    JENSSEN, P.; HEEB, J.; GANAKAN, K.; CONRADIN, K. (2008): M4-7: Agricultural Aspects. In: HEEB, J.; JENSSEN, P.; GNANAKAN; CONRADIN, K. (2008): Ecosan Curriculum 2.3. Switzerland, India and Norway. URL [Accessed: 21.03.2011]. PDF

    Lecture on agricultural aspects of ecosan comprising chapters on plant requirements, composition and plant availability of nutrients in human excreta as well as general application recommendations and safety measures.

  • Cover image of a reference book or miscellany.

    XAVIER UNIVERSITY (Editor) (2009): Excreta Use in Agriculture, Lecture taken from the XU Ecosan Course. XAVIER UNIVERSITY . PDF

    Short lecture on the reuse of urine and faeces in agriculture with a local Philippine focus.

Important Weblinks

  • http://www.ecosanres.org/BigSweetTomatoes.htm [Accessed: 21.01.2010]

    This link provides information on the Stockholm World Water Week Session ‘Big Sweet Tomatoes – Food Security and Productive Sanitation’ that focussed on a project funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) in Niger with a strong focus on urine reuse.