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The effect of a water-hygiene educational programme on the microbiological quality of container-stored water in households

N.P Nala
P. Jagals
G. Joubert


This study investigated whether a water-handling hygiene education programme could improve the health-related microbiological quality of container water stored and used in households in a dense urban settlement in the Free State Province. Previous studies in the area indicated that stored container water became contaminated during the process of fetching from communal standpipes and then storing and handling the water at home, which exposed the study population to a potential risk of microbiological infection. A water-hygiene education programme was implemented together with a health-related microbiological water quality assessment programme. Members of selected households participated in a series of domestic water-handling hygiene education training sessions over a period of eight months and the quality of their stored water monitored for improvement in tandem over the same period. The results were compared to those of similar tests done during previous studies in the same area. Turbidity, heterotrophic bacteria numbers and total coliform bacteria were used as indicators of general microbial water quality while E. coli bacteria were used to indicate faecal pollution. While the results generally reflected significant improvements for all the indicators from the previous studies, a potential risk of infection was still indicated for consumers. Based on education programme attendance profile, the study sample was divided into frequent, intermittent and never groups. No significant changes were found in water quality between the three groups, even though the frequent group attended most of the training sessions. This implies that the programme did not have a particular influence on any one group. Container-stored water was still being contaminated in the domestic environment despite the water-handling hygiene education programme. An improved hygiene-education programme appears to be needed to change deep-rooted inherent behaviours such as hand- washing prior to water handling as well as proper protection of container-stored water from environmental contamination.

Keywords: Water-hygiene education, Container-stored water quality, Turbidity, Heterotrophic bacteria, Total coliforms, E. coli, Infection risk

(WaterSA: 2003 29(2): 171-176)

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eISSN: 1816-7950
print ISSN: 0378-4738