Coupling microbiological testing and sanitary surveys in drinking water quality programs: results from Capiz Province, Philippines

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Developing countries often struggle to conduct laboratory-based water quality testing programs due to a lack of financial and technical resources. However, inexpensive, accurate, field-based tests are being developed which have the potential to overcome this barrier. This paper provides the results of an initiative by the Provincial Health Office in Capiz, Philippines, to conduct a first-ever, provincial, microbiological water quality test program. The effort was a collaboration with students from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which aimed to identify sources most at risk, to test field-based analytical methods against standard methods, and to make recommendations for improving supplies in the short and long term. The microbiological, chlorine residual, and sanitary survey results are described in this paper. The results showed that there was an increasing trend in water quality from ‘unimproved’ to treated and/or piped supplies, but that many ‘improved’ point sources were contaminated. Less than 20% of the samples tested for chlorine residual were above the World Health Organization guideline. Sanitary surveys identified potential sources of contamination and were used to recommend priorities for remedial action. The implications of this work for other resource-limited areas are that microbiological testing and sanitary surveys are two essential components to assessing water safety and they should both be consistently applied in drinking water quality test programs.

Keywords: drinking water, microbiological testing, point sources, sanitary surveys, water safety

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