Determination of Fecal Contamination Status of Shallow Wells in Dede Division, Migori County, Kenya



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Kenyatta University


A shallow well is a hole dug, bored or drilled less than 50M deep to extract water. Contamination of shallow wells with fecal matter presents a grave public health threat in developing countries, such as Kenya, where large numbers of households lack access to clean and safe water supplies and rely on untreated surface water sources or shallow unprotected groundwater for domestic utilization. A report by WHO shows that 1 billion people practice open defecation with nine out of ten of them in rural areas and it is estimated that 1.8 billion people use a source of drinking water that is fecally contaminated. In Kenya unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene are the 2nd leading risk factors causing morbidity and mortality at the national and county levels respectively. In Dede Division, 65.5% of households depend on shallow wells for domestic needs and there are rising trends of confirmed cases of fecal-related diseases. The study sought to assess human and technical determinants of fecal contamination status of shallow wells in Dede Division. A cross-sectional study of households using the wells was conducted. Fisher’s formula was then used to calculate the sample size of the heads of households. Since the approximated number of households using shallow wells was <10,000 (4008), the two stages of the formula were adopted, giving a sample size of 386 heads of households. Out of the 180 shallow wells, 54 (30% of 180) were proportionately sampled and grab sampling technique adopted while sampling water from each of the sampled shallow wells. Basic physical parameters like temperature, turbidity and pH were analysed by a portable turbidity meter and pH meter while H2S rapid field test was employed for total corliforms analysis of grab samples in the field. Fecal contamination status of each well was determined by Membrane Filter Technique in kisumu government labaratory. Chi-square test was used to measure associations between variables while Multi-variate logistic regression analysis applied to test the hypotheses. The study reported significant relationship between level of knowledge of respondents on a well being too close to a latrine as a potential route (risk factor), a well located downhill a latrine, an open/uncovered well, surface run-offs into wells, dropping objects in shallow wells, using a dirty drawer, people/animals dropping in wells, doing laundry next to a well, and human/animal feces dropping in the well as potential routes of fecal contamination. It further revealed significant associations between several technical determinants and fecal contamination status of shallow wells e.g distance (M) from a latrine to a well, with majority of wells within safe distances of contamination (>10M) but still tested positive for fecal corliforms, distance (M) from the nearest cattle pen if any with a significant majority of shallow wells testing positive for fecal corliforms, damage or lack of concrete plinth, breaks/cracks on the parapet walls, breaks/cracks in the cover/top slab, breaks in the drainage channels, shallow well covered while not in use and shallow well fenced out respectively. Majority of shallow wells (69%) tested positive for E. Coli, a strong indicator for presence of fecal matter in water, with only 31% testing negative. Common human and technical determinants (risk factors) by and large are functions of fecal contamination status of shallow wells in Dede Division. Efficient protection of shallow wells is a critical pointer to their ground water quality. Households in Dede Division should ensure adequate treatment of shallow wells for fecal contamination before utilization of water from these sources. This can be both at source or household level. They should be sensitized by the relevant authorities on common routes of fecal contamination of shallow well water and safe hygiene and sanitation practices around shallow wells to prevent fecal contamination of the wells. Households using shallow wells in Dede Division should ensure proper sighting and location of latrines in relation to shallow wells to avoid fecal contamination of the wells through leaching. The pit latrines should be sighted down hill the shallow wells and located atleast 10 meters apart.