Water Currents: Water Quality

Globally, at least 2 billion people use a drinking water source contaminated with feces. More than 1,300 children under 5 years of age die every day from diarrhea linked to unsafe water and poor sanitation. The U.S. Government Global Water Strategy and the USAID Water and Development Plan in support of the strategy include a focus on increasing sustainable access to safe drinking water, recognizing it as crucial to lifting people out of poverty and especially important for unlocking educational and economic opportunities for women and girls.

This issue of Water Currents looks at water quality—specifically drinking water—and includes research and technical resources on water safety plans, water quality monitoring, and chemical and microbial hazards in water. A special thanks goes out to the staff of Sattva for contributing to this issue. Sattva is a key member of the SAFEBillion initiative, a collaborative effort to create solutions for access to clean drinking water, free from arsenic and fluoride.

Standards and Guidance
Guidelines for Drinking-Water Quality (GDWQ)World Health Organization (WHO), 2017. This is the fourth edition of the Guidelines and it builds on over 50 years of guidance by WHO on drinking-water quality. The report also includes fact sheets on a broad range of chemicals that can affect water quality.

Developing Drinking-Water Quality Regulations and StandardsWHO, 2018. This document provides practical guidance to support the development or revision of customized national or subnational drinking water quality regulations and standards.

Safely Managed Drinking Water: Thematic Report on Drinking Water 2017WHOUNICEF, 2017. WHO/UNICEF’s Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation (JMP) introduced “safely managed drinking water services” as a new standard of drinking water quality in its 2017 report, which examines this new designation in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

A Global Overview of National Regulations and Standards for Drinking-Water QualityWHO, 2018.  The WHO GDWQ provides a standard for many countries when setting national drinking water quality regulations. This global review summarizes information from 104 countries and territories on values specified in national drinking water quality standards for aesthetic, chemical, microbiological, and radiological parameters.

Water Safety Plans (WSP)
USAID Africa BureauWater Quality Assurance Plan (WQAP) Template – WQAPs are the preferred method for ensuring water quality in projects involving the provision of drinking water. USAID recommends that new initial environmental examinations for drinking water provisioning activities require implementing partners to develop, implement, and report on a WQAP.

Water Safety Plans: An Online Distance Learning Program, March 11–May 10, 2019UNC Water Institute. The Water Institute is offering a nine-week online course on risk management for drinking water supplies aimed at those in the water industry with management, engineering, or operational responsibilities.

Global Status Report on Water Safety PlansWHO, 2017. Using information gathered from 118 countries representing every region of the globe, this report provides a picture of WSP uptake worldwide.

Potable Reuse: Guidance for Producing Safe Drinking-WaterWHO, 2017. This guide describes how to apply appropriate management systems to produce safe drinking water from municipal wastewater. It provides information on specific aspects of potable reuse, including the quality and protection of source wastewaters, types of control measures, monitoring considerations, and public acceptance.

Water Quality Monitoring
Why Do Water Quality Monitoring Programs Succeed or Fail? A Qualitative Comparative Analysis of Regulated Testing Systems in Sub-Saharan AfricaInternational Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health, July 2018. Water quality monitoring programs require institutional commitment, a skilled and reliable staff, and adequate transportation to achieve targets. Equipment, procurement, infrastructure, and enforcement also contribute to strong monitoring performance.

Locally Produced Hydrogen Sulphide Detecting Water Quality Test Kits Increase Household Level Monitoring in Rural TanzaniaJournal of Water and Health, June 2018. A lack of affordable, field-based water quality tests for rural water sources prompted an NGO in rural Tanzania to design, produce, and evaluate a new H2S water quality test kit. The H2S test garnered wide acceptance, with 94 percent of those surveyed willing to buy the test in the future.

Safe Water in Towns and Peri-Urban Areas: Challenges of Self-Supply and Water Quality Monitoring. Rural Water Supply Network (RWSN) Secretariat, May 2018. Millions of people in towns and cities across sub-Saharan Africa depend on groundwater day to day—but is it safe to drink? In this webinar, two experts present the latest updates on their research into urban groundwater monitoring.

Chemical Hazards in Drinking Water
Chemical Hazards in Drinking WaterWHO, 2017. The WHO Guidelines for Drinking-Water Quality cover a broad range of chemicals that can affect drinking water quality. These fact sheets provide new or revised background  for selected chemical hazards in drinking water.

Geogenic Contamination HandbookEawag, June 2017. This digital resource offers information and guidelines for practitioners dealing with arsenic- and fluoride-contaminated drinking water in developing countries.

Cost and Efficiency of Arsenic Removal from Groundwater: A ReviewUnited Nations University, 2018. Currently, a wide range of technologies exists to remove arsenic from water. However, despite ongoing research on such technologies, their widespread application remains limited. To bridge this gap, this review aims to compare the effectiveness and costs of various arsenic remediation technologies
while considering their practical applicability.

Prediction Modeling and Mapping of Groundwater Fluoride Contamination Throughout IndiaEnvironmental Science & Technology, July 2018. Researchers created a highly accurate prediction map of fluoride concentrations throughout India that can be used by authorities in conjunction with detailed groundwater utilization information to prioritize areas in need of mitigation measures.

Microbial Hazards Associated with Drinking Water 
Livestock Ownership and Microbial Contamination of Drinking-Water: Evidence from Nationally Representative Household Surveys in Ghana, Nepal and BangladeshInternational Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health, January 2018. Owning livestock can increase the risk of drinking water contamination. Addressing human sanitation without factoring in livestock excreta is not sufficient to prevent drinking water contamination.

Bacterial Contamination of Drinking Water in Guadalajara, MexicoInternational Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health, January 2019. Guadalajara is a rapidly growing urban center with more than 5 million residents where household storage of drinking water is nearly ubiquitous. This pilot study in July 2018 examined the microbiological quality of drinking water in the city.

The Association Between Domestic Animal Presence and Ownership and Household Drinking Water Contamination Among Peri-Urban Communities of Kisumu, KenyaPLoS One, June 2018. Interventions to prevent drinking water contamination have often focused on preventing exposure to human waste. In many cases though, the infectious agent may be of zoonotic rather than human origin, suggesting that unsafely managed animal waste may contribute to contamination.

Treatment Methods
Household Water Treatment and Cholera Control. Journal of Infectious Diseases, October 2018. Household water treatment (HWT) has been shown to improve the microbiological quality of stored water and reduce the disease burden. A systematic review of published and gray literature examined the outcomes and impacts of HWT in preventing disease—specifically cholera.

The Effect of SODIS Water Treatment Intervention at the Household Level in Reducing Diarrheal Incidence Among Children Under 5 Years of AgeTrials, July 2018. A solar disinfection intervention substantially reduced the incidence of diarrhea among under-5 children in a rural community of northwest Ethiopia, underscoring the need for such interventions in rural communities.

Alternative Drinking-Water Disinfectants: Bromine, Iodine and SilverWHO, 2018. Although chlorine has been used as the disinfectant of choice for public drinking water supplies for the past century, a number of other compounds can be used for water treatment. This series reviews the state of the knowledge on the application, efficacy, and toxicity of bromine, iodine, and silver as drinking water disinfectants.

Biochar Adsorbent for Control of Synthetic Organic Contaminants in Affordable Decentralized Water TreatmentCAWST, November 2017. This webinar discusses biochar adsorbents and the public health consequences of chemical exposure that are now comparable to or greater than those of widespread infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria.

Lead-Lag Series and Staged Parallel Operational Strategies Improve the Performance and Cost-Effectiveness of Bonechar for Control of Fluoride in Groundwater. Journal of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for Development, October 2018. Bonechar is a promising low-cost sorbent for fluoride that can be produced using local materials. However, the sorption capacity of bonechar is low relative to the quantities of fluoride that must be removed to meet health criteria.

Other Resources
Evidence of Economically Sustainable Village-Scale Microenterprises for Arsenic Remediation in Developing CountriesEnvironmental Science & Technology, January 2019. Natural arsenic contamination of groundwater affects more than 50 countries and up to 200 million people. The results from field data and cost modeling provide clear evidence of economic growth and job creation for systems managed by villagers’ committees through collection of monthly tariffs.

Challenges to Sustainable Safe Drinking Water: A Case Study of Water Quality and Use Across Seasons in Rural Communities in Limpopo Province, South AfricaWater, February 2018. Researchers aimed to provide a comprehensive analysis of water quality in a low-resource setting in Limpopo Province, South Africa. They found that increased water quantity in the wet season correlates with increased treated water from municipal taps and a decrease in the average contaminant levels in household water.

What is the Microbial Quality of Drinking Water in Africa?  Aquaya Institute, January 2018. The JMP has classified protected dug wells as improved water sources, but researchers frequently found them to be as contaminated as unimproved water sources. Water tested from rainwater catchment systems, boreholes, and protected springs also contained non-negligible levels of contamination, illustrating that source type is not an adequate substitute for water quality.

USAID Globalwaters.org – This website is a global knowledge resource for USAID staff, implementing partners, and the broader community working in the international development water sector. A keyword search on “water quality” retrieves information on more than 200 USAID reports and projects.

WASH-Toxics Interdisciplinary Working Group – WASH-Toxics aims to: raise the problem of hazardous chemical contaminants to prominence in the global WASH sector; stimulate targeted innovation of affordable treatment technologies; and generate feedback from experts regarding technical merit and real-world applicability of proposed solutions in an iterative design process.

International Network on Household Water Treatment and Safe Storage (HWTS) – The HWTS Network is a WHO and UNICEF initiative that brings together key stakeholders worldwide to promote and scale up the adoption of practices and technologies that improve the quality of household drinking water for vulnerable populations.


Water Currents
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USAID Bureau for Economic Growth, Education and Environment (E3) Water Office