Urban sanitation: where to next?

This paper sets the current research-related innovations in urban sanitation of low to middle income countries within a broader historic context. It highlights the key threads of urban sanitation discourse over the past four decades; from putting the last first, to a more nuanced understanding of household demand and uptake, and a focus on faecal sludge management (FSM). Particularly since 2008 the International Year of Sanitation, there has been increasing specialisation around the sanitation value chain and FSM, producing deeper knowledge and several diagnostic / decision support tools. Whist the sector has, in no doubt, made great progress, the paper suggests that there is a risk of (over)simplification. Now is the time, armed with a better understanding and decision support tools, to embrace urban complexity; to place sanitation back into the wider human-technology-environment systems of the city; and to plan for integrated basic services in the domestic and peri-domestic domains.