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Is drinking water from ‘improved sources’ really safe? A case study in the Logone valley (Chad-Cameroon)

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Within a cooperation project coordinated by the Association for Rural Cooperation in Africa and Latin America (ACRA) Foundation, water supplies were sampled across the villages of the Logone valley (Chad-Cameroon) mostly from boreholes, open wells, rivers and lakes as well as from some piped water. Microbiological analyses and sanitary inspections were carried out at each source. The microbiological quality was determined by analysis of indicators of faecal contamination, Escherichia coli, Enterococci and Salmonellae, using the membrane filtration method. Sanitary inspections were done using WHO query forms. The assessment confirmed that there are several parameters of health concern in the studied area; bacteria of faecal origins are the most significant. Furthermore, this study demonstrated that Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) classification and E. coli measurement are not sufficient to state water safety. In fact, in the studied area, JMP defined ‘improved sources’ may provide unsafe water depending on their structure and sources without E. coli may have Enterococci and Salmonellae. Sanitary inspections also revealed high health risks for some boreholes. In other cases, sources with low sanitary risk and no E. coli were contaminated by Enterococci and Salmonellae. Better management and protection of the sources, hygiene improvement and domestic water treatment before consumption are possible solutions to reduce health risks in the Logone valley.

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