Promoting Household Water Treatment through Women’s Self Help Groups in Rural India: Assessing Impact on Drinking Water Quality and Equity. PLOS ONE, September 2012.
Matthew C. Freeman1,2*, Victoria Trinies3, Sophie Boisson2, Gregory Mak3, Thomas Clasen2
1 Department of Environmental Health, Center for Global Safe Water, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, United States of America,
2 Faculty of Infectious Disease, Environmental Health Group, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, United Kingdom, 3 Department of Environmental Health, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, New York, New York, United States of America
Household water treatment, including boiling, chlorination and filtration, has been shown effective in improving drinking water quality and preventing diarrheal disease among vulnerable populations. We used a case-control study design to evaluate the extent to which the commercial promotion of household water filters through microfinance institutions to women’s self-help group (SHG) members improved access to safe drinking water. This pilot program achieved a 9.8% adoption rate among women targeted for adoption. Data from surveys and assays of fecal contamination (thermo tolerant coliforms, TTC) of drinking water samples (source and household) were analyzed from 281 filter adopters and 247 nonadopters exposed to the program; 251 non-SHG members were also surveyed.
While adopters were more likely than non-adopters to have children under 5 years, they were also more educated, less poor, more likely to have access to improved water supplies, and more likely to have previously used a water filter. Adopters had lower levels of fecal contamination of household drinking water than non-adopters, even among those non-adopters who treated their water by boiling or using traditional ceramic filters. Nevertheless, one-third of water samples from adopter households exceeded 100 TTC/100ml (high risk), and more than a quarter of the filters had no stored treated water available when visited by an investigator, raising concerns about correct, consistent use.
In addition, the poorest adopters were less likely to see improvements in their water quality. Comparisons of SHG and non-SHG members suggest similar demographic characteristics, indicating SHG members are an appropriate target group for this promotion campaign. However, in order to increase the potential for health gains, future programs will need to increase uptake, particularly among the poorest households who are most susceptible to disease morbidity and mortality, and focus on strategies to improve the correct, consistent and sustained use of these water treatment products.