Southwest coastal Bangladesh has an acute scarcity of safe drinking water. Both the government and non-government organizations are now promoting reverse osmosis based small scale desalination plants (SSDPs) to ensure safe drinking water. The aim of this study was to assess the physico-chemical and bacteriological quality of the desalination plants (DPs) installed in southwest coastal Bangladesh. Water samples were collected from the inlet and outlet of 10 DPs. The product water mostly complied with water quality standards. High levels of total dissolved solids (TDS) and electrical conductivity (EC) in feed water were reduced significantly after the treatment, although 10% and 20% of the product water samples respectively did not comply with the WHO drinking water standards for those parameters. Compliance of product water with the WHO and Bangladesh drinking water standards for chloride, bicarbonate and sodium were found in respectively 80%, 90% and 70% of the samples, although their concentrations in all the feed water samples were higher than both of the standards. About one-third of the DPs did not meet the drinking water standard for sodium, which may be an important health concern for the people consuming this water. Apart from one of the DPs, all of them complied with the standard for faecal coliform and Escherichia coli. Results suggest that proper maintenance of the SSDPs is necessary to ensure safe drinking water for the coastal population of southwest Bangladesh.

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