Water Currents: Household Water Treatment and Safe Storage


Water Currents is produced biweekly by USAID’s E3 Water Office. Each issue contains recent news and articles on water sector issues, partner and donor updates, latest sector research, and a special focus on one topic. Please provide your feedback and suggestions by contacting the

The World Health Organization (WHO) states that household water treatment and safe storage (HWTS) is an important public health intervention that improves the quality of drinking water, especially among those who rely on water from unimproved sources. In addition, safe drinking water is an immediate priority in most emergency situations, and HWTS can be an effective emergency response intervention.

This issue contains selected open access articles and reports that were published in 2016 and 2017 as well as links to HWTS websites.


Water Currents - In Focus

Economic/Social Aspects

Can You Taste It? Taste Detection and Acceptability Thresholds for Chlorine Residual in Drinking Water in Dhaka, BangladeshScience of the Total Environment, September 2017. Chlorination is a low-cost, effective method for drinking water treatment, but aversion to the taste or smell of chlorinated water can limit use of chlorine treatment products. This study finds that doses used for point-of-use chlorine products are too high for acceptability.

Systematic Risk Management Approach of Household Drinking Water from the Source to Point of UseJournal of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for Development, July 2017. This paper reports on the use of a hazard analysis critical control point approach to assess the risks of small water systems in South Africa.

User Preferences and Willingness to Pay for Safe Drinking Water: Experimental Evidence from Rural TanzaniaSocial Science & Medicine, January 2017. Participants in this study favored boiling, the ceramic pot filter, and where water was turbid, a combined flocculant-disinfectant. However, willingness to pay for all products at retail prices was very limited, indicating that efforts to scale up may require significant subsidies.

The Impacts of Household Water Quality Testing and Information on Safe Water Behaviors: Evidence from a Randomized Experiment in GhanaZEF-Discussion Papers on Development Policy, March 2017. A comparative study of household water quality self-testing and information behaviors found higher participation rates among schoolchildren when compared to adults. The results make a strong case for using schoolchildren as “agents of change” in improving safe water behaviors.

Climate and Health Co-Benefits in Low-Income Countries: A Case Study of Carbon Financed Water Filters in Kenya and a Call for Independent MonitoringEnvironmental Health Perspectives, September 2016. Researchers conclude that carbon financing could be a financially sustainable approach to scale up water treatment and improve health in low-income settings, though program effectiveness will remain uncertain without requiring monitoring data to be collected by third-party organizations.

Variations of Drinking Water Quality Influenced by Seasons and Household Interventions: A Case Study from Rural Maharashtra, IndiaEnvironments, September 2017. This research showed that water quality at the point of consumption is influenced by conditions of the raw water source and its watershed, seasonal variations, the municipal treatment system, and finally by storage and treatment practices at the household and consumer level.

Health Aspects

Water Quality and Health: Review of TurbidityWHO, January 2017. High levels of turbidity in source water may limit the effectiveness of household treatment methods. For example, turbidity can overload and clog filters, or reduce the effectiveness of chlorination or solar disinfection.

Integrating Household Water Treatment, Hand Washing, and Insecticide-Treated Bed Nets into Pediatric HIV Care in Mombasa, Kenya: Impact on Diarrhea and Malaria Risk. Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes, November 2017. The Healthy Living Initiative (HLI) in Kenya distributed basic care packages containing improved water storage vessels, water treatment solution, soap, and insecticide-treated bed nets to prevent diarrhea and malaria in children. Participation in the HLI was accompanied by high retention in care and reduced rates of diarrhea and malaria.

HWTS Methods

Global Waters Radio: Establishing a Sustainable Market for Water Purification Tablets in GhanaGlobal Waters, July 2017. Aquatabs are one of the world’s most popular water purification tablets. Produced by Medentech, a company specializing in the manufacture of disinfection products, Aquatabs were first introduced to the Ghanaian market roughly 10 years ago by the USAID Ghana Sustainable Change Project.

Effects of Boiling Drinking Water on Diarrhea and Pathogen-Specific Infections in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: A Systematic Review and Meta-AnalysisAmerican Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, September 2017. Boiling is the most prevalent household water treatment method, yet evidence of its health impact is limited. In this study, researchers found no evidence that boiling provides a protective effect for helminthic infections, but did find measureable health benefits against pathogens whose transmission routes are primarily water-based.

Review of Biosand Water FiltersWaterlines, July 2017. Evaluation results prove that biosand water filters improve drinking water quality and reduce diarrheal disease. However, no generally accepted field method exists for determining biosand water filter effectiveness that is useable in low-resource communities.

Community Challenges When Using Large Plastic Bottles for Solar Energy Disinfection of Water (SODIS)BMC Public Health, September 2016. The application of SODIS in large bottles has the potential to be an efficient and cost-effective method of disinfecting water. Further research, however, is needed that can address some of the limitations and challenges associated with the use of large bottles for SODIS.

Evaluation of the Natural Coagulant Moringa Oleifera as a Pretreatment for SODIS in Contaminated Turbid WaterSolar Energy, October 2017. In this study, researchers assess the efficacy of moringa seed powder added to clear turbid water as a pretreatment for SODIS.

Evaluation of a Silver-Embedded Ceramic Tablet as a Primary and Secondary Point-of-Use Water Purification Technology in Limpopo Province, S. AfricaPLoS One, January 2017. This study demonstrates that the silver-embedded ceramic tablet can effectively improve water quality when used alone, or with ceramic water filters, to reduce rates of recontamination.

A Re-Assessment of the Safety of Silver in Household Water Treatment: Rapid Systematic Review of Mammalian In Vivo Genotoxicity StudiesEnvironmental Health, June 2017. The authors conclude that colloidal silver should not be promoted as a primary water treatment product as it has little public health benefit and evidence suggests the possibility of genotoxic and embryotoxic effects.

International Scheme to Evaluate Household Water Treatment Technologies: Results of Round 1WHO, 2016. This report is the first-ever global assessment of household water treatment (HWT) technology performance. It details the results from a range of HWT technologies including solar, chemical, filtration, and ultraviolet. Of the ten HWT products evaluated, eight were found to meet WHO performance recommendations.

HWTS in Emergency Situations

Chlorination of Drinking Water in Emergencies: A Review of Knowledge to Develop Recommendations for Implementation and Research NeededWaterlines, January 2017. This article provides a summary of knowledge on chlorination in emergencies, gives recommendations for program implementation, and includes recommendations for future research.

Emergency Household Water Filter Challenge: Evaluation Matrix and ReportHumanitarian Innovation Fund (HIF), June 2017. In this report, HIF describes the results of an evaluation of 34 HWTS products. HIF identified 16 ideal filter features and criteria divided into three categories—ease of use, performance, and logistics—which it used to evaluate and compare the filters.

WASH Interventions in Disease Outbreak ResponseHumanitarian Evidence ProgrammeOxfam, 2017. Chapter 3.3 in this report summarizes the use of various household water treatment technologies and products.

WASH in Emergencies Problem Exploration Report: Water TreatmentHumanitarian Innovation Fund, January 2016. The report puts forward three key areas—better operational tools, a robust evidence base, and technological innovations—which would benefit from research and improve the provision of safe water in emergency contexts.


Introduction to Household Water Treatment and Safe Storage – In this course by the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne participants learn about the most important water treatment methods at household level, successful implementation strategies, and about assessing the impact of HWTS. The course is taught in English, with French and Spanish subtitles.


Centre for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology (CAWST) – CAWST is a Canadian charity and licensed engineering firm that works to build local WASH knowledge and skills on WASH. CAWST maintains the Biosand Filters Knowledge Base andHousehold Water Treatment and Safe Storage (HWTS) Knowledge Base.

Evidence Action: Dispensers for Safe Water – Dispensers for Safe Water is an entrepreneurial program for more than 4.7 million people in rural eastern and southern Africa.

SODIS: Safe Drinking Water for All – SODIS first started as an initiative of the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Sciences and Technology (Eawag). Eawag supports the improvement and spread of the SODIS method through research in microbiology, health, educational strategies, and recyclable PET bottles.

WHO/UNICEF International Network on Household Water Treatment and Safe Storage (HWTS Network) – The HWTS Network is an international forum to share and promote best practices in HWTS. Its mission is to contribute to a significant reduction in waterborne disease, especially among vulnerable populations. The UNC Water Instituteprovides communication services for the network. – is supported by the USAID Water Office, with the aim of fostering global knowledge and collaboration for sustainable water, sanitation, and hygiene access for all, and providing water practitioners with the latest news, learnings, and resources from USAID and its partners.


Water Currents - In the News

Evidence Action Honored at USAID’s 2017 Global Innovation WeekEvidence Action, October 2017. Evidence Action participated in USAID’s Global Innovation Week 2017 and its Dispensers for Safe Water program was honored to be a member of the Million Lives Club, a group of programs whose reach extends to millions of people worldwide.

Study Calls for Less Shame and Secrecy around Menstruation in Global Conflict Areas. Columbia University, October 2017. A new study, published in the journal Conflict and Health, provides evidence on the menstrual hygiene management-related challenges faced by adolescent girls and women in emergency contexts and what the appropriate humanitarian response should be to meet the basic needs of girls and women in these situations.

3D Printed, Solar-Powered Cart Could Help Ease Water Troubles in Developing Countries3dprint, October 2017. Jose Paris, a former automotive designer, is the inventor of Watt-r, a solar-powered, partially 3D-printed cart designed to carry water in developing nations.

Changing the Message: To Promote Handwashing, We Need to Stop Talking About ItWaterSHED, October 2017. HappyTap CEO Geoff Revell argues that tapping into people’s emotions and aspirations leads to greater adoption of portable sinks and lasting behavior change. The article draws from the company’s experience in Vietnam, where they learned valuable consumer insights that helped change the way they promote handwashing.

‘Compressed Demand’: How Uttar Pradesh Is Making Sure Rural Sanitation Subsidies for Toilets Go to the Most NeedyThe Water Blog, October 2017. In India, Swachh Bharat Mission uses socio-economic household surveys called “demand compression” to narrow down the number of households eligible for a subsidy before starting the triggering process, by determining who cannot afford to construct a toilet without financial help.

< If you would like to feature your organization's materials or suggest other content for upcoming issues of Water Currents, please send them to Dan Campbell, Knowledge Creation/WASH Specialist, at


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