Effectiveness of Household Water Treatment is Inconsistent

Rosa G, Clasen T. Consistency of Use and Effectiveness of Household Water Treatment among Indian Households Claiming to Treat Their Water. Am J Trop Med Hyg. 2017 Jul;97(1):259-270. doi: 10.4269/ajtmh.16-0428.

Household water treatment (HWT) can improve drinking water quality and prevent disease if used correctly and consistently by populations at risk. Current international monitoring estimates by the Joint Monitoring Programme for water and sanitation suggest that at least 1.1 billion people practice HWT. These estimates, however, are based on surveys that may overstate the level of consistent use and do not address microbial effectiveness. We sought to assess how HWT is practiced among households identified as HWT users according to these monitoring standards. After a baseline survey (urban: 189 households, rural: 210 households) to identify HWT users, 83 urban and 90 rural households were followed up for 6 weeks. Consistency of reported HWT practices was high in both urban (100%) and rural (93.3%) settings, as was availability of treated water (based on self-report) in all three sampling points (urban: 98.8%, rural: 76.0%). Nevertheless, only 13.7% of urban and 25.8% of rural households identified at baseline as users of adequate HWT had water free of thermotolerant coliforms at all three water sampling points. Our findings raise questions about the value of the data gathered through the international monitoring of HWT as predictors of water quality in the home, as well as questioning the ability of HWT, as actually practiced by vulnerable populations, to reduce exposure to waterborne diseases.

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