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Evaluation of Household Water Treatment and Safe Storage Systems (HWTSS)

For an evaluation of Household Water Treatment and Safe Storage Systems (HWTSS), answers to the following key questions are requested:

  1. Is diarrheal disease a major health concern affecting water users in India? We know that diarrhoea is a problem, the Dean Spears study draws a correlation for sanitation and stunting for India. But is there any evidence from India of diarrhoea and water quality?

  2. What is the level (typical, range) of microbial contamination of drinking water as consumed by the people? I.e. contamination at the source, point of distribution, point of consumption). In our visits to Tamil Nadu where the TWAD Board is one of the best performing water boards in India, even they do not have water quality tests at all the 3 levels as evidence of contamination. Are you aware of any Indian or global evidence and reports that we could refer to?

  3. Given these contamination levels, can it be assumed that drinking water is a significant transmission route for diarrheal disease, relative to other pathways (lack of sanitation, inadequate hygiene behaviour)?

  4. Can HWTS promotion, considering the experience with the adoption of existing HWTS technologies in India so far, realistically make a significant contribution to improving the quality of the drinking water as consumed by the households? Are you aware of HWTS work and projects in India. If you have any reports or projects that have of HWTS specifically for India that will help.

  5. Do other stakeholders believe in the approach of HWTS promotion and its relevance to the drinking water and diarrhea problems? Is it a priority for your organisation. If not why not.

  6. Are there major trends in India that could make the strategy of HWTS obsolete in the near future (e.g. improved source treatment and distribution systems, sales of treated water)? What is your opinion and perspective on the scenario for India specifically considering the NRDWP commitment/aim of piped water coverage.

  7. Is promoting HWTS a challenge because there is no commercial product promotion when we promote SODIS and Boiling as HWTS options? This is important considering the PPP and privatisation push that is coming from many international agencies in the WASH sector. We witnessed Breast Feeding was a challenge to promote and Nestle and others did not want to support it initially. Soap manufacturers are happy to support hand washing with soap but not handwashing with ash as a behaviour.

  8. What are some of the challenges in advocating HWTS with government at national and state level? Which institutions would best be in a position to influence HWTS promotion as a government policy?

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The WHO gives estimates for diarrheal disease risk reductions associated with transitions from different water sources/service to household treatment and storage.

There are many studies that have found a positive health impact of WASH, but Wolf-Peter Schmidt recently wrote that these are all unreliable, especially the Dean Spear study you mention. You will find an overview of major health impact studies in Schmidt's article.

Earlier Schmidt & Cairncross wrote that there was insufficient evidence to justify scaling up of household water treatment studies. SODIS interventions in Bolivia have proved to be unsustainable, just as the use of household arsenic filters in Bangladesh. Even the highly promoted Tata Swach has received many user complaints.

For info HWTS projects in India, I suggest you contact any of the following Indian members of the Household water treatment and safe storage network (sorry but I don't have contact addresses for contact persons):

  • Alternative Water Systems Project, India

  • BAIF Development Research Foundation, India

  • Basic Water Needs, India

  • Environze Global Limited, India

  • Gomukh, India Hindustan Lever Limited, India

  • Institute of Rural Research and Development, India

  • Institute of Sustainable Development, India

  • National Institute of Communicable Diseases, India

  • NEERMAN, India

  • Planet Kerala, India

  • Rajputana Society of Natural History (RSNH), India

Please also check a recent IRC blog on "Reflecting on the 'Future perspectives for rural water supply' debate" on the "death of the handpump".

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