Steve Luby – Household Water Treatment: A failed public health strategy?

September 14, 2012 · 5 comments

Below is a link to a presentation by Steve Luby and he welcomes comments about the presentation. Comments can be made at the end of this post.

Household Water Treatment: A failed public health strategy? Steve Luby, MD presentation at University of California, Berkeley Environmental Engineering Seminar September 7, 2012.

Excerpts from the presentation:

Barriers to Household Water Treatment

  • Very low demand for improved water quality, especially among the poor
  • The children who suffer most from waterborne disease are the poor
  • The poor are those who are least able to afford to purchase products to treat their water.

Hard Questions

  • Is household water treatment a failed strategy?
  • Is it a fundamentally bad idea to expect the poorest people in the world to set up a personal water treatment facility in their home?

Key Points

Water will continue to be contaminated with sewage in low income countries

  • Water demand is increasing
  • Water supply is reducing
  • Intermittent supply ==> contaminated supply

Point of use water treatment

  • Technically effective
  • Controversy over health impact
  • Low uptake in populations at greatest risk of death

Way forward?

  • Radical improvement of POU
  • With early consideration of uptake
  • Focus on system interventions
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Leave a Comment

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Eric Mintz September 14, 2012 at 3:15 pm

The slides are very clear and entertaining, as audiences familiar with Dr. Luby’s presentations have come to expect. It is hard to make a well-informed comment without the benefit (and pleasure) of having heard Steve’s remarks in the subject, but given the scope and magniitude of morbidity and mortality attributed to preventable waterborne diseases, it is hard to argue that an intervention which prevents even a small fraction of those deaths and DALY’s at a small cost is not value added. As new options for HWTS methods and product dissemination have come into play, the proportion of deaths and DALY’s prevented increases, and there is plenty of growth potential (for hardware and software) in a field that is still relatively new. That said, universal access to piped, treated water and safe sanitation remains the ultimate goal. Can the weakness is in currently available PoU practices be strengthened and can PoU treatment be integrated synergystically with other health interventions and serve as a step on the “ladder” towards universal access? I hope so, because I don’t see more viable alternatives on the horizon, especially in the current economic climate. (PoU treatment may also be a helpful aid to coping with crises precipitated by the current, and rapidly worsening meteorologic climate).


Tina September 21, 2012 at 5:47 am

Water demand is increasing. That is why water companies must have some water softener to have a safe and healthy drinking water.


Evans Tembo September 30, 2012 at 9:39 am

The main reason why household water treatment seem to be failing at community is because it is not coupled hygiene education which focus on changing the behaviour of the communities by understanding the consequences of drinking contaminated water.


Anna October 16, 2012 at 1:05 am

Thanks for sharing this post to us. This is really informative and helpful about water conditioning.


Bob Anderson May 15, 2013 at 11:31 pm

Excellent pdf, water is so important and we need to start treating it like gold because it is that precious. Liquid gold is truly a name to describe something that most don’t realize we are short on in the first place. I like the idea of getting more awareness about water and its importance out to everyone on the web. Nice article.


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