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This study was conducted in WondoGenet district, Southern Ethiopia to assess the water quality of rural water supply schemes in relation to the sustainability of their service delivery. 28 functional water points were selected randomly, for their assessments. The assessments included sanitary surveillance of water points and water quality analyses. Water samples were analyzed for pH, temperature, total dissolved solids, turbidity, total hardness, fecal and total coliform bacteria, fluoride, chloride, nitrate, manganese, and iron. The results obtained show that most of the 'user perceived' acceptable drinking water quality parameters were within the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines for drinking water quality, based on aesthetic and taste considerations. Only one dug-well had marginally higher level of total hardness (that is, 220 mg/l of CaCO3), while four water points had higher turbidity ranging from 8.3 to 64 NTU when compared with the WHO guidelines. In all the sampled water points, the level of iron (<0.009 to 1.25 mg/l), manganese (0.10 to 1.50 mg/l), chloride (0.80 to 62.5 mg/l), and nitrate (0.90 to 12.7 mg/l) were within the WHO guidelines. Fluoride was also found to be below the WHO health based limit (<1.5 mg/l). However, majority (85.7%) of the water points had detectable levels of total coliform bacteria (1 to 68 cfu). On the other hand, it was only in 25% of the water points that fecal coliform bacteria were detected (1 to 10 cfu). This shows that the bacteriological water quality is of concern as majority of the water points had detectable levels of coliform bacteria. Therefore, regular chlorination of water points, particularly dug wells, should continue. Besides, disinfection of water at the household level can be an added advantage.
Key words: Ethiopia, quality, rural, supply, sustainability, water.