Social Innovation Factsheet #1.1: Monitoring drinking water quality for improved health in Africa
Access to safe and clean drinking water is a basic human right, as declared during the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in 2010. Moreover, an indicator and target on safe drinking-water was included in the UN Sustainable Development Goals, in 2015.
Climate change is recognised to have “both direct and indirect impact on human health” (ClimDev-Africa, 2013; UNECA, 2011). This social innovation factsheet focuses on the link between climate (change) impact and water availability that endangers population health as “many of Africa’s current health problems are a result of frequent contact with contaminated water and open sewerage” (ClimDev-Africa, 2013; UNECA, 2011). Outbreaks of diseases transmitted by water have a major impact on human health through diseases such as cholera, typhoid, hepatitis A and many types of diarrhoea. Water quality monitoring is as a major concern for society. In terms of water quality and its related impacts on health, two main sources of pollution can be distinguished: chemical and (micro)biological. As the chemical source is generally chronic and of long term impact (except for accidental pollution), monitoring the microbiological quality of water is of higher priority.
The quality of water depending on the living area - urban or rural - varies a lot according to its source (rainwater, surface water or groundwater) as the water supplies’ treatment cost. Generally, groundwater sources are of better quality and may only require source protection and disinfection, whereas surface water is often contaminated and requires treatment before use.