Preliminary Results from Water Quality Testing Survey

A team from Michigan and Arizona State Universities recently completed a water quality survey of more than 100 different water points across three villages (Ifakara, Idete and Namwawala).  The team worked in collaboration with MSABI and the field work was done together.  The data collected will be analysed in depth over the coming months with the expectation for at least one scientific paper to be produced.  A quick review has found very interesting results and a confirmation of the good work MSABI is doing.  On initial impressions of the data set:
  • MSABI borehole water points have the lowest average of e.coli contamination compared to other closed borehole and open well and river water sources. (Detailed results to follow)
  • Not surprisingly the water quality of open wells and rivers is contaminated with dangerous levels of bacteria.  Open well contamination is high across all villages and in many cases is worse than a raw river water source.
  • the rope pump delivers equal or better quality water compared to other pumps and that MSABI boreholes are on average the safest water sources in the Kilombero Valley of Tanzania.
  • The groundwater quality in Ifakara appears to be on average more contaminated.  A logical conclusion might be this is due to population density.
The team of Kelly, Nate and Novartis collect water samples.  This point is at Namwawala and the water point is a borehole with a Tanira pump located at the local Primary School.  The pump was in poor condition with the piston seal broken.  It took us 10 minutes (in turns) to get the 5L sample.  Note that Tanira pumps have a good reputation, however spares are costly and can be hard to obtain in isolated villages. Also the capital cost of a Tanira pump is USD$1600 more than 20x more expensive than a locally manufactured rope pump.
Water for sale TZS30 per bucket (AUD 2 cents).  The Water Basin Authority is currently broadcasting daily on local radio that all water points require a permit and anyone selling water will be arrested.  This is disappointing and IMO misleading considering the Tanzanian Water Resources Management Act states owners of shallow manually constructed water points do not need a permit and there is no statement either way regarding selling of water.  Further, traditional community management systems are designed such that people contribute a monthly payment for use of a government water point - so seems to be a contradiction here.  It frustrate me and I'm sure others that the poor are seemingly targeted in such campaigns.
We have stopped open well conversions on concern that the water quality improvement is not significant or does not make safe water.  The recent water quality survey will hopefully help us prove/disprove this theory.  In my opinion there is a definite improvement in water quality when we clean out a well, plaster the inside with cement and close with a rope pump - however I can't say yet whether or not the water is safe - but I think it is safer than what it was. 
This women has shown local ingenuity by obtaining an MSABI pump handle and constructing her own windlass pump over her open well.  The rope spins around the handle.  You could call this open well a semi-improved water point compared to the open well below in which all sorts of things can fall inside (including unfortunately the occasional animal or person).  Further contamination leaches through the porous brick walls.

On the left is a picture of water obtained from the above windlass open well.  On right is a picture of water obtained from a MSABI open well conversion that is only 5m away from the windlass open well.  The MSABI converted open well water had noticeably lower turbidity - lab results will show if there is any difference in bacterial contamination.  However, it should be noted wells so close to each other are likely to have potential cross-contamination.