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Facts for Life


Supporting Information


All water that people drink and use should come from a safe source or be purified. Containers for carrying and storing water need to be kept clean inside and outside and covered to keep the water clean. Where necessary, home-based water treatment, such as boiling, filtering, adding chlorine or disinfecting with sunlight, should be used to purify the water.

Families have fewer illnesses when they have an adequate supply of safe water and know how to keep it clean and free from germs. If the water is not clean it can be purified using low-cost solutions at home. It can be (1) boiled, (2) cleaned through a filter, (3) purified with chlorine or (4) disinfected with sunlight or other simple measures.10 The trained health worker or extension agent should have information on home treatments that are available locally.

Safe water sources include properly constructed and maintained piped systems, public standpipes, boreholes, pond sand filters, protected dug wells, protected springs and rainwater collection. Water from unsafe sources – rivers, dams, lakes, ponds, streams, canals, irrigation channels, unprotected wells and springs – is best avoided. If necessary it can be made safer by the home-based water treatment methods referred to above. Water should be safely stored in a covered container that is clean on the inside and outside.

Families and communities can protect their water supply by:

  • lining and covering open wells, installing a handpump and protecting the immediate area from animals and vandalism
  • protecting a spring with a spring box
  • disposing of faeces and waste water (especially from latrines and household cleaning) well away from any water source used for cooking, drinking or washing
  • building latrines at least 15 metres away and downhill from a water source
  • always keeping jerry-cans, buckets, pitchers, ropes and jars used to collect and store water as clean as possible by storing them in a clean place, off the ground and away from animals
  • keeping all animals away from drinking water sources and family living areas
  • avoiding the use of pesticides or chemicals anywhere near a water source.

Families can keep water clean in the home by:

  • storing drinking water in a clean, covered container
  • washing hands regularly – including before handling stored clean water
  • taking water out of the container with a clean ladle or cup
  • having a tap on the water container
  • not allowing anyone to put their fingers or hands into the container or to drink directly from it
  • keeping all animals away from stored water.

If there is uncertainty about the safety of the drinking water, local authorities should be consulted.

10 Other home-based water treatment measures include keeping water in clear plastic bottles in strong sunlight for six hours or using combination flocculation-disinfection sachets that clean and disinfect the water.