Sand dams can be an effective community-scale solution to increasing water supplies in some arid and semi-arid regions, but there are few studies that have investigated water quality at sand dams. This study investigated the levels of coliform bacteria and salt content as parameters of potential concern. Most water taken from sand dam sources had fecal coliforms present. Median fecal coliforms were in the range of 150–800 cfu/100 ml for unprotected sources (scoop holes, surface water or hand dug wells), levels which are considered high or very high health risk. Pump wells had less contamination, with fecal coliforms detected in one-third of samples in the dry season. Despite this contamination, user surveys indicated that 74% of communities generally view water as clean for drinking, and 72% reported that no or few people in their community treat their water. Salt content in the dry season was in the poor or unacceptable range (above 900 ppm as total dissolved solids) in 33% of water samples. Results suggest that fecal coliforms and salt content represent two types of challenges to water quality at sand dams: fecal coliforms are a health hazard, whereas high salt content potentially reduces the amount of usable water that is available.

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