In MICS6, a new module on water quality was introduced to measure faecal contamination of drinking water. During the surveys, measurers collect and test samples of water for an indicator of faecal contamination (E. coli) from two places: the source of drinking water, such as piped water at home or a community borehole, and drinking water in the home. These results provide a powerful lens into comparative levels of contamination and coupled with MICS stratifiers, such as wealth and location of residence, provide new insights into how water contamination varies across and within countries.
Below are five facts based on new MICS data:
- Water quality varies greatly across countries, from 16 per cent of the population using contaminated water sources in Mongolia to 90 per cent in Sierra Leone.
- Even in middle income countries such as Georgia and Suriname, large proportions of the population have faecal contamination in their drinking water (31 per cent and 64 per cent, respectively).
- E. coli was more frequently detected in household drinking water than water taken directly from the water source, demonstrating that water quality often deteriorates during transport or storage. In the Gambia, for example, contamination of household water is 28 per cent higher than source water.
- Water contamination, like many social issues, affects the poorest and rural populations disproportionately. In Lesotho, household drinking water in rural areas is twice as likely to be contaminated as in urban areas (66 per cent rural vs 31 per cent rural contaminated with E. coli).
- The mode of water delivery is a key determinant of good water quality. In households where water is delivered using an improved source, such as piped water, it contains markedly less E. coli, compared with households which get their water from unimproved sources such as unprotected springs.
At the end of MICS6, more than three dozen countries will release new water quality data. Details can be found on www.mics.unicef.org/surveys.
Detailed results on water quality testing for individual surveys are available in the Survey Findings Report and Statistical Snapshots for each country at http://mics.unicef.org/surveys.