A survey of domestic wells and pit latrines in rural settlements of Mali: Implications of on-site sanitation on the quality of water supplies

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Journal Article
International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health, 2017, 220 (7), pp. 1179 - 1189
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© 2017 Elsevier GmbH On-site sanitation is generally advocated as a means to eradicate the health hazards associated with open defecation. While this has provided a welcome upgrade to the livelihoods of millions of people in low-income countries, improved sanitation facilities are increasingly becoming a threat to domestic groundwater-based supplies. Within this context, a survey of pit latrines, domestic wells and improved water sources was carried out in a large rural village of southern Mali. All households were surveyed for water, sanitation and hygiene habits. Domestic wells and improved water sources were georeferenced and sampled for water quality (pH, electric conductivity, temperature, turbidity, total dissolved solids, thermotolerant coliforms, chloride and nitrate) and groundwater level, while all latrines were inspected and georeferenced. A GIS database was then used to evaluate the proportion of water points within the influence area of latrines, as well as to underpin multiple regression models to establish the determinants for fecal contamination in drinking supplies. Moreover, an appraisal of domestic water treatment practices was carried out. This revealed that nearly two-thirds of the population uses bleach to purify drinking supplies, but also that domestic-scale treatment as currently implemented by the population is far from effective. It is thus concluded that existing habits could be enhanced as a means to make water supplies safer. Furthermore, population, well and latrine density were all identified as statistically significant predictors for fecal pollution at different spatial scales. These findings are policy-relevant in the context of groundwater-dependent human settlements, since many countries in the developing world currently pursue the objective of eliminating open defecation.
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