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Access to good quality drinking water still remains a challenge in most rural areas of Zambia, Africa. The aim of this study was to assess the quality of groundwater for human consumption in rural areas of Mbala district in Zambia. A total of fifty nine (59) water samples were collected from fifty nine (59) boreholes in the aforementioned district. The water samples were analysed for physical, chemical and microbiological parameters using standard techniques specific for each parameter. Results were compared to the Zambian Bureau of Standards (ZABS) guideline values for drinking water and in some cases, with WHO guideline values if known. In general, most water parameters in Mbala district complied with ZABS drinking water guideline values. A few chemical parameters which include pH ranging from 5.1 to 6.98, sodium from 0.001mg/L to 49.9mg/L, sulphate from 2mg/L to 18.76mg/L, iron from 0 to 10.22mg/L and manganese from 0 to 0.23mg/L did not meet ZABS drinking water guideline values at a few boreholes. TSS and turbidity ranged from 0 to 133mg/L and 2 to 358NTU respectively. A few exceedances of the aforementioned parameters were recorded at a few boreholes. In contrast, significantly high turbidity levels (>20NTU) were recorded at a few boreholes in the district thus posing a significant threat to the health of the consumers. In terms of microbiological parameters, a few boreholes did not meet the ZABS drinking water guideline values for total coliforms rendering the water supplies from the affected boreholes unfit for human consumption unless boiled or treated with chlorine.
Keywords: Groundwater, Zambia, rural areas, water quality, Mbala district