Narrow-Mouthed Water Storage Vessels and in Situ Chlorination in a Bolivian Community: A Simple Method to Improve Drinking Water Quality

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  • Foodborne and Diarrheal Diseases Branch, Division of Bacterial and Mycotic Diseases, and Scientific Resources Program, National Center for Infectious Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Proyecto Salud Infantil y Comunitaria, Secretaria de Salud, Instituto Nacional de Laboratorios de Salud, Atlanta, Georgia, Bolivia
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Epidemiologic investigations of the Latin America cholera epidemic have repeatedly implicated untreated drinking water and water touched by hands during storage as important vehicles for disease transmission. To prevent such transmission, we provided a new narrow-mouthed, plastic, water storage vessel and 5% calcium hypochlorite solution for home disinfection of stored water to a Bolivian Aymara Indian community at risk for cholera. We evaluated acceptance of this intervention and its effect on water quality. Each of 42 families in the study obtained water from a household well; fecal coliform bacteria were found in water from 39 (93%) of 42 wells and 33 (79%) of 42 usual water storage vessels. One group of families received the special vessels and chlorine (group A), a second received only the special vessels (group B), and a third served as a control group (group C). Water samples collected every three weeks from group A special vessels had lower geometric mean fecal coliform colony counts (P < 0.0001) and lower geometric mean Escherichia coli colony counts (P < 0.0001) than water from group B or C vessels. Adequate levels of free chlorine persisted in these vessels for at least 5 hr. The special vessels and chlorine solution were well accepted and continued to be used for at least six months. Use of the vessel and chlorine solution produced drinking water from nonpotable sources that met World Health Organization standards for microbiologic quality.