Household drinking water in developing countries: a systematic review of microbiological contamination between source and point-of-use


Dr Jim Wright (corresponding author) and Dr Stephen Gundry, Water and Environmental Management Research Centre, University of Bristol, 83 Woodland Road, Bristol BS8 1US, UK. Tel.: +44 117 954 5289; Fax: +44 117 954 5389; E-mail:,
Mr Ronan Conroy, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health Medicine, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Mercer Building, Mercer Street Lower, Dublin 2, Ireland. E-mail:


Objective  To assess the extent and causes of microbiological contamination of household drinking water between source and point-of-use in developing countries.

Methods  A systematic meta-analysis of 57 studies measuring bacteria counts for source water and stored water in the home to assess how contamination varied between settings.

Results  The bacteriological quality of drinking water significantly declines after collection in many settings. The extent of contamination after water collection varies considerably between settings, but is proportionately greater where faecal and total coliform counts in source water are low.

Conclusions  Policies that aim to improve water quality through source improvements may be compromised by post-collection contamination. Safer household water storage and treatment is recommended to prevent this, together with point-of-use water quality monitoring.