Water Use and Handling Changes Related to Deep Tubewell Installation in Rural Bangladesh – Potential for diarrheal risk substitution?

Authors: Varun Goel*, UNC Chapel Hill
Topics: Medical and Health Geography, Human-Environment Geography
Keywords: Bangladesh, tubewells, water quality, diarrhea, risk, access, distance
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/3/2019
Start / End Time: 4:30 PM / 6:10 PM
Room: Taylor, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

In response to elevated arsenic levels in groundwater in the 1990s, rural Bangladeshis switched to nearby privately owned low arsenic shallow tubewells as a mitigation strategy. However, such tubewells are found to have poorer water quality and are associated with higher incidence of diarrheal diseases. The alternative mitigation approach—sourcing from public and often distant deep tubewells— has demonstrated protection against arsenic exposure and offers improved water quality at source. However, findings from an ongoing community surveillance survey suggest that diarrheal disease prevalence among deep tubewell users is not significantly lower as expected. In this study, we analyse the impact of longer distances and lack of ownership of deep tubewells on changes in water use and handling, and its potential for risk substitution for diarrheal diseases. Our results suggest that due to increased distances, deep tubewell users take fewer trips, use larger containers, and collect and store higher volumes of water, as compared to shallow tubewell users, resulting in poorer water quality at point of use. In addition, deep tubewell households engage in significantly higher surface water use for non-drinking purposes such as washing utensils, bathing, cleaning drinking water storage containers and hand-washing, compared to households sourcing drinking water from shallow tubewells. This suggests that riskier practices of increased surface water usage among deep tubewell users maybe responsible for higher diarrheal disease burden than expected, and that interventions related to non-drinking water usage need to considered in context of the shifting groundwater usage landscape in rural Bangladesh.

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