availability of cheap and simple water testing kits
We are currently working with a village to improve the current water supply they have there. We need to determine if the water from the local source is contaminated; is there a simple test we can use, or may it be a case of taking samples and taking them to a laboratory?
There are Hydrogen Sulphide kits H2S which show the presence or absence of faecal coliforms, there is some debate about them. They are available here: http://www.lteksystems.com/bactoh2s/h2sstripkit.htm
Here are several publications that might help. The Oxfam manual on emergency water quality testing is good, the WHO guidelines on drinking water quality are definitive (Found at http://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/norms/en/index.html)
You probably will have to carry out a strong level of hygiene promotion to make communities understand about water quality and disease and to try to change their behaviour. The PHAST methodology http://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/hygiene/envsan/phast/en/ (Participatory Hygiene and Sanitation transformation) is good but not, as the name suggests, very fast Regards, Toby Gould
Check out UN-Habitats guide for rapid assessment of the bacterial quality of water. It covers sampling, how to conduct the test, contact information of the suppliers, interpreting, recording and presenting the results with COLILERT (also a presence/absence test) and Petrifilm (previously mentioned by RotaryStewart).
These test are cheap and does not require lab knowledge.
While emergency approaches rightly focus on biological contamination as the primary risk, if you are improving a water supply for a village long-term you also need to consider long term chronic risks. These can come from a wide range of chemicals in the water that simple portable tests kits will not detect.
If a laboratory is available then I would strongly recommend that route. As well as not having to invest money up front in equipment and reducing the risk of user error, a good laboratory will be able to test for more contaminants.
I would advise that you also engage a water quality expert to help you produce a water safety plan. You can read about these in the World Health Organisation's free-to-download Water Safety Plan Manual: http://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/publication_9789241562638/en/ but an experienced advisor should be able to vastly simplify the process and focus on the specific needs of your village.
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