A survey of drinking water quality and community awareness of water related health risks in Nyeri town, Kenya
Mungai, Njoki Helen
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Poor accessibility to safe water is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in developing countries where mechanisms to monitor and enforce regulations for quality water are inadequate or lacking. The aim of this study is to determine the microbial and chemical quality of water in Nyeri Town and assess the health risks associated with the water used and the preferred water. Water supply system in Nyeri Town consists of Municipal piped water, natural river and stream water running down some parts of town, roof catchment water and commercially available bottled water. The Town was divided into five study regions (Upper Town, Lower Town, Ruringu, Kin'gon'go and Majengo) on the basis of the social-economic conditions and in terms of the source of water supply. Basic information was obtained through a pre-tested questionnaire administered to the relevant personnel at the municipal water and health departments. Randomly selected adult members of community in each of the five study regions were interviewed to assess the levels of awareness on the health risks associated with the local water supply. Quality and safety of water was assessed following WHO established methods for determining microbial and chemical concentrations in the water. Water samples collected from each water source in the five study regions and samples of different brands of commercially bottled water purchased from the local markets were subjected to laboratory tests in the university food and water laboratories. Study on the health risks in the drinking water was based on environmental sanitation conditions including open field excreta disposal and disinfection toilets; water quality and the occurrence of water related diseases. Municipal piped water supply w-as Widely distributed in all five regions and it was the most used source of drinking and the preferred water. It was least used in Ruringu (78%) whereas this was above 90°/o in other regions. Water from roof catchment was also commonly used in the region. Majengo recorded the highest rate (97%) but this was the preferred source by only 79% of the residents. Microbial concentration in the tap water was within the WHO limits but the river and stream water samples collected after the slum exceeded the recommended levels of E. colt concentration. Some brands of the commercially bottled water (20%) exceeded the WHO recommended Zero count of E toll. Chemical concentration exceeded the KEBS and WHO standards for cadmium and iron. Fluoride was significantly high in the stream water. In regard to health risks in the drinking water, environmental contamination through poor excreta disposal especially by children was reported by 53% of respondents in Majengo and 45% in Ruringu, 39% in lower town, 37% in Upper Town and Kingongo. These were the same regions who reported significantly high occurrence of water related illnesses Majengo 60%, Lower Town 33%. Municipal piped water was mostly used and preferred water in all regions. Though river water was used should be encouraged to use municipal water instead of river or stream water which were found to contain faecal contaminant bacteria Microbial contamination observed in commercially bottled water shows the need to enforce and enhance KEBS regulations to the bottling companies.