Article

Daily changes in household water access and quality in urban slums undermine global safe water monitoring programmes

Citation

Price HD, Adams EA, Nkwanda PD, Mkandawire TW & Quilliam RS (2021) Daily changes in household water access and quality in urban slums undermine global safe water monitoring programmes. International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health, 231, Art. No.: 113632. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijheh.2020.113632

Abstract
Global drinking water monitoring programmes and studies on water quality in urban slums often overlook short-term temporal changes in water quality and health risks. The aim of this study was to quantify daily changes in household water access and quality in an urban slum in Malawi using a mixed-method approach. Household drinking water samples (n = 371) were collected and monitored for E. coli in tandem with a water access questionnaire (n = 481). E. coli concentrations in household drinking water changed daily, and no household had drinking water that was completely safe to drink every day. Seasonal changes in drinking water availability, intermittent supply, limited opening hours, and frequent breakdown of public water points contributed to poor access. Households relied on multiple water sources and regularly switched between sources to meet daily water needs. There were generally similar E. coli levels in water samples considered safe and unsafe by residents. This study provides the first empirical evidence that water quality, water access, and related health risks in urban slums change at much finer (daily) temporal scales than is conventionally monitored and reported globally. Our findings underscore that to advance progress towards Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Target 6.1, it is necessary for global water monitoring initiatives to consider short-term changes in access and quality.

Keywords
Drinking water; Slums; Water access; Microbial pollution; SDG6; Malawi

Journal
International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health: Volume 231

StatusPublished
FundersRoyal Geographical Society
Publication date31/01/2021
Publication date online30/11/2020
Date accepted by journal11/09/2020
URLhttp://hdl.handle.net/1893/31964
PublisherElsevier BV
ISSN1438-4639