This study assessed the effectiveness of improved storage containers on household drinking water quality in four low-income urban communities in Ibadan, Nigeria. Three hundred randomly selected respondents were interviewed, while 44 households were selected and randomly assigned to four improved container treatment groups: Covered Buckets with Taps (CBT), Covered Buckets without Taps (CB), Covered Kegs with Taps (CKT) and Covered Kegs without Taps (CK). Water samples from springs, regular storage containers (RSC), and improved containers were analysed for total coliform (TC), total viable bacteria (TVB) and Escherichia coli for 2 weeks. About 96% reported using the same containers for cooking and drinking water, while only 23.3% used a form of water treatment. TC count for RSC and CB exceeded the recommended limit. Only 3 (6.8%) of the samples from RSC contained E. coli. A statistically significant difference was observed between the mean TC counts of samples from the improved containers. Percentage reduction in TC count from RSC, and the improved containers (CB, CBT, CK and CKT) were 25.4%, 37.3%, 45.0%, 56.8% and 53.8% respectively. Bacillus, Staphylococcus, Klebsiella, Proteus and Pseudomonas were isolated from the water samples. CK produced the best result. Hygiene education on use of appropriate storage containers for drinking water is recommended at the household level.

INTRODUCTION

Lack of access to and availability of safe water and basic sanitation are responsible for high burdens of disease which disproportionately impact children under five years of age and influence the work burden, safety, education, and equity of women. In many parts of the developing world, poverty has been identified as a major barrier to gaining access to safe drinking water and sanitation. However, access to and the availability of safe water is a prerequisite to the sustainable growth and development of communities around the world (Institute of Medicine (US) Forum on Microbial Threats 2009).

Safe water, a pre-condition for health and development and a basic human right, is still denied to millions of people, especially in developing countries. Water-related diseases caused by inadequate safe water supply coupled with poor sanitation and hygiene causes 3.4 million deaths a year, mostly among children. Drinking water free of pathogenic organisms is fundamental to breaking one of the principal transmission routes of infectious diseases (WHO & UNICEF 2006).

In many developing countries, community water systems often consist of a single public well, spring or stand pipe that requires water to be collected, transported, and then stored for use in the home (Trevett et al. 2005). Water may also be collected by a variety of physical methods ranging from manual (e.g. dipping), to passive (e.g. roof catchments and diversions) to mechanical (e.g. pumps), and stored in a variety of containers over a period of 24 hours or more (Mintz et al. 1995; CDC 2001).

Although such water systems can supply water of excellent quality, there is considerable potential for deterioration to occur because of the method of handling between supply and consumption (Kaltenthaler et al. 1996; Genthe et al. 1997; Hoque et al. 1999; Bailey & Archer 2004; Gundry et al. 2004; Jagals et al. 2004; Jensen et al. 2004; Wright et al. 2004; Trevett et al. 2005).

Water collection and storage practices, especially the choice of water collection and storage containers are fundamental in determining household water quality (Sobsey 2002). Studies have documented that inadequate storage conditions and vulnerable water storage containers are factors contributing to increased microbial contamination and decreased microbial quality compared to either source water or water stored in improved vessels (Iroegbu et al. 2000; Dunne et al. 2001; Luby et al. 2001).

Today, metals, including aluminium, steel and iron, as well as other materials, primarily plastics, have come into widespread use for water collection and storage in the form of buckets, jerry cans, picnic coolers and other vessel types and shapes. Cisterns and other basins are also still widely used for water collection and bulk storage near or adjacent to dwellings, as they have been since ancient times (CDC 2001).

The hygienic condition of these water storage containers and the environment in which they are stored are believed to be major factors leading to the deterioration of stored water quality (Gundry et al. 2004; Jagals et al. 2004; Trevett et al. 2005). In Nigeria, Duru et al. (2013) investigated the effect of different storage vessels (glass, plastic, metal, calabash and clay pot) on water quality in Umuekebi village, Imo state, Nigeria over a period of 28 days. Also, Eniola et al. (2007) investigated the effects of colour of containers and storage conditions on the bacteriological quality of stored water. The main objective of this study was to assess the efficiency of improved storage containers in improving the bacteriological quality of household drinking water in selected communities in Ibadan North Local Government Area (LGA), Nigeria.

METHODS

Study area

The study was carried out in four communities in Ibadan North LGA, Oyo State, Nigeria. Ibadan North LGA is one of the five urban metropolitan LGAs in Ibadan city, the largest indigenous urban centre in Africa South of the Sahara with a projected population of four million. The target LGA is a multi-ethnic community and has a population of 308,119 people comprising 152,608 males and 155,511 females (Federal Republic of Nigeria, 2006). Figure 1 shows the map of Ibadan with the four communities where the springs are located.
Figure 1

Map of Ibadan showing the study locations.

Figure 1

Map of Ibadan showing the study locations.

Sample size calculation and sampling procedure

The study was carried out in four low-income, densely populated urban communities using protected springs as one of their major sources of drinking water. A sample size of 300 was calculated using the prevalence from a previous survey in Nigeria by Oloruntoba & Sridhar (2007) which showed that 77.3% of households studied stored their water in wide mouthed containers even though some of the containers were without cover. A total of 300 households were randomly selected from the communities. Only adult females who gave their informed consent (or other members of the households where the adult females were absent) were included in the study.

The number of households for intervention was determined based on the pilot study by the researchers. It was discovered that 70% of the water samples from the households’ storage containers had coliform counts greater than 10/100 ml. Sample size was calculated using the formula by Lwanga & Lemeshow (1991) and the assumption that the improved containers should be able to reduce the coliform count by at least 20%. Hence, 44 households, 11 from each community were used for the intervention study.

Data collection methods

Survey

Trained research assistants interviewed the adult females (or other members of the households where the adult females were absent) using a pre-tested semi-structured questionnaire to elicit information on socio-demographic characteristics, water supply and handling practices, sanitation practices, water treatment options; and willingness and ability to pay for improved options.

Intervention

The improved containers used were constructed of translucent high-density polyethylene plastic of white colour, and lightweight, easy to clean and inexpensive, which were produced locally. The containers had tightly fitting lids; and non-rusting, durable, and cleanable taps that were fixed on 22 of them (50%) to enable participants to draw water easily without contamination by their fingers. The use of improved containers is a physical treatment method which helps to improve sedimentation, a necessary step before other treatment methods and eventually safe storage. Sedimentation through simple settling using gravity helps in removing suspended solids and some pathogens.

Forty-four households with similar socio-demographic characteristics and using protected springs as sources of drinking water were systematically selected and randomly assigned to the four improved containers: Covered Buckets with Taps (CBT), Covered Buckets without Taps (CB), Covered Kegs with Taps (CKT) and Covered Kegs without Taps (CK) (Figure 3(a)(d)). The capacity of the buckets was about 13 l, while the kegs were about 10 l but could contain up to 12/13 l when completely full. All the selected households had regular storage containers (RSC) in which they stored water at room temperature after collection from the protected springs. The containers which were commonly plastic containers (about 30 l) or drums (50–100 l depending on the size) shown in Figure 2(a) and (b) therefore served as controls during the study. Thus 11 participants each were allocated to each of the four improved containers. Study participants in each household were told to maintain the storage containers at room temperature and to raise them from the bare floor, or preferably put them on a stool or an elevated surface.
Figure 2

(a) Plastic containers used for storing water for drinking and cooking purposes in some of the households. Features: there is a plastic cup on the plastic container that is used to collect water from it. There are also clothes hung on the wall and near the containers. (b) Plastic drum used for storing water for cooking and drinking in a household. Features: there is a shoe kept near the drum and also other items like polythene bags, foam and baskets that are not supposed to be kept in the vicinity of the drum.

Figure 2

(a) Plastic containers used for storing water for drinking and cooking purposes in some of the households. Features: there is a plastic cup on the plastic container that is used to collect water from it. There are also clothes hung on the wall and near the containers. (b) Plastic drum used for storing water for cooking and drinking in a household. Features: there is a shoe kept near the drum and also other items like polythene bags, foam and baskets that are not supposed to be kept in the vicinity of the drum.

Figure 3

Storage containers used for intervention in participants’ households. (a) Closed Bucket (CB); (b) Closed Bucket with Tap (CBT). (c) Closed Keg (CK). (d) Closed Keg with Tap (CKT).

Figure 3

Storage containers used for intervention in participants’ households. (a) Closed Bucket (CB); (b) Closed Bucket with Tap (CBT). (c) Closed Keg (CK). (d) Closed Keg with Tap (CKT).

Determination of bacteriological quality

Water samples were collected under aseptic conditions from the protected springs, RSC and improved containers (CBT, CB, CKT and CK); labelled, and stored in a cool box with ice packs at about 4 °C during transportation to the laboratory. The samples were analysed within 6 h for aerobic bacteria (ABC), total coliform (TC) and Escherichia coli (APHA 1998). Aerobic bacterial or heterotrophic plate count were determined using the pour plate method, while TC and Escherichia coli were determined as the Most Probable Number (MPN) using the Multiple Tube Fermentation Technique at 37 °C and 44 °C respectively (APHA 1998). Inoculum from the confirmed test was streaked on nutrient agar and purified by sub-culturing on MacConkey and pseudomonas agar until pure cultures were obtained. Isolates were identified after examining the cultural, morphological and microscopic characteristics on the plates using the shape, size, elevation, edges, colour and pigmentation.

Post-intervention evaluation

The selected households were visited after 8 weeks of use of the storage containers to assess the level of adoption of the improved storage. The containers were observed for consistent use and participants were interviewed to assess the level of adoption.

Data analysis

Significance of differences in quality of water samples from different containers was evaluated using one-way Analysis of Variance (ANOVA). The independent student's t-test was used to test for differences between the regular and the improved storage containers. Significance was taken as P < 0.05 level at 95% confidence level.

Ethical considerations

The recruitment of respondents was based strictly on informed consent. The aim and objectives of the study were fully explained to the participants. The study participants were also assured of the confidentiality of the information supplied and the fact that they would not be exposed to any harm/danger. They were also duly informed of their right to withdraw from the study at any time.

RESULTS

Socio-demographic characteristics

Respondents were predominantly females (95.7%) with a mean age of 39.1 ± 12.2 years. The majority of the households (92.3%) were male-headed with mean household size of 4.7 ± 1.6 people. The level of literacy was moderate as 50.0% and 8.6% had secondary and tertiary education respectively; and 79.6% were traders.

Water supply and handling

Figure 4 shows the reported sources of drinking water in the communities. Tap (i.e. pipe-borne water from government's water supply agency) and rainwater were used mostly (25.9% and 28.3% respectively) during the rainy season. However, during the dry season the number of people using wells increased from 13.4 to 36.3%; those using springs increased from 14.8 to 40.8% while the number of people being served from the water agency reduced from 25.9 to 14.7%.
Figure 4

Reported sources of drinking water in the communities.

Figure 4

Reported sources of drinking water in the communities.

More than half of the respondents (52.6%) reported storing water in plastic containers, 37.1% used plastic drums, 5.0% mentioned jerry cans, 3.3% used clay pots while 2.0% used basins. About 96% of the respondents claimed to use the same containers for cooking and drinking water, while only 23.3% used a form of water treatment. A majority (64.8%) claimed to use cups to collect water from storage containers, while others used bowls, ladles or jugs. Surprisingly, 16.2% of the participants claimed to use the same containers (cup/bowl/ladle or jug) to collect water from storage and directly drink from them. Figure 5 and Figure 2(a) and (b) provide information on the type of water storage containers used in some of the households. As shown in the figures, the most common of the containers are made of plastic and volume may vary from 30 to 100 litres.
Figure 5

Household drinking water storage containers.

Figure 5

Household drinking water storage containers.

Even though many of the respondents (76.7%) were not treating their drinking water, the majority (93.9%) were willing to start and 71.3% said that they would be willing to pay for the preferred option (chlorination with water guard). With regard to the amount to be paid, 9.3%, 72.3%, 16.8%, 0.9%, and 0.5% voted to pay N50 ($0.25), N100 ($050), N200 ($1.0), N300 ($1.5) and N500 ($2.5) respectively per month. Willingness to pay for the preferred treatment option was compared with reported principal income earner within the household. It was revealed that most (92.0%) respondents who were not principal income earners indicated their willingness for the preferred treatment option compared to 76.0% who did not. The association between willingness to pay for the preferred treatment options and the principal income earner was statistically significant (Table 1).

Table 1

Comparison of willingness to pay for the preferred treatment option with reported principal income earner

 Willingness to change for the preferred treatment options
Are you the principal income earner?Yes (%)No (%)Undecided (%)Total (%)χ2, Df, (p value)
Yes 17 (8.0) 6 (24.0) 7 (29.4) 30 (10.9) 8.956, 2, (0.011) 
No 196 (92.0) 19 (76.0) 29 (80.6) 244 (89.1) 
Total 213 25 36 274 
 Willingness to change for the preferred treatment options
Are you the principal income earner?Yes (%)No (%)Undecided (%)Total (%)χ2, Df, (p value)
Yes 17 (8.0) 6 (24.0) 7 (29.4) 30 (10.9) 8.956, 2, (0.011) 
No 196 (92.0) 19 (76.0) 29 (80.6) 244 (89.1) 
Total 213 25 36 274 

Bacteriological quality of water samples from springs and regular storage containers in all communities

The bacteriological quality of water samples from the springs and regular storage containers used in households expressed in terms of MPN of total coliform and Escherichia coli are as shown in Figure 6. The mean total viable count/heterotrophic plate count of water samples from the springs and regular storage containers were 2.3 ± 0.7 × 104 cfu/ml and 1.9 ± 0.2 × 104 cfu/ml respectively. Escherichia coli found in only three (6.8%) water samples (Figure 7) from RSC had a mean value which was higher than the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) standard of 0 MPN/100 ml. The mean for E. coli count was based on the number of samples (3) with E. coli (the range was 98.0 to 102.0 MPN/100 ml).
Figure 6

Bacteriological quality of water samples from springs and household.

Figure 6

Bacteriological quality of water samples from springs and household.

Figure 7

Proportion of RSC water samples with E. coli.

Figure 7

Proportion of RSC water samples with E. coli.

Bacteriological quality of water samples from RSC, CB, CBT, CK and CKT

The improved containers are shown in Figure 3((a)–(d)).

The bacteriological quality of water samples from the household regular storage containers and the improved containers (CB, BT, CK, AND CKT) expressed in terms of MPN of total coliform and Escherichia coli as well as the total viable bacteria/heterotrophic plate count are as shown in Figures 8 and 9. The total coliform count values for RSC and CB exceeded the limit while those of CBT, CK and CKT were below the SON limit or WHO guideline of 10 MPN/100 ml). All the total viable counts values were above the SON limit of 1 × 102 cfu/ml. A statistically significant difference was observed between the mean total coliform count of water samples from RSC, CB, CBT, CK and CKT using ANOVA test (P < 00.01).
Figure 8

Total coliform and E. coli counts in water samples from RSC and improved containers (CB, CBT, CK and CKT).

Figure 8

Total coliform and E. coli counts in water samples from RSC and improved containers (CB, CBT, CK and CKT).

Figure 9

Total viable bacteria/heterotrophic counts in water samples from RSC and improved containers (CB, CBT, CK and CKT).

Figure 9

Total viable bacteria/heterotrophic counts in water samples from RSC and improved containers (CB, CBT, CK and CKT).

Bacteria detected from water samples

The aerobic and coliform organisms detected in samples from the springs, regular storage containers and the treatment containers are presented in Table 2. Aerobic organisms found in the springs were Flavobacterium, Pseudomonas, Bacillus and Staphylococcus while that of RSC included Bacillus, Staphylococcus, Micrococcus, Pseudomonas and Flavobacterium. Coliform organisms in the springs were Enterobacter, Aeromonas, Pseudomonas, Klebsiella and Proteus. It was also revealed that CB, CBT, CK and CKT had similar aerobic (Bacillus, Staphylococcus, Pseudomonas, Flavobacterium and Micrococcus) and coliform organisms (Aeromonas, Enterobacter, Klebsiella and Proteus) as contained in Table 2.

Table 2

Bacteria detected from water samples from spring, RSC, CB, CBT, CK and CKT

SourceAerobic organismsColiform organisms
Spring Flavobacterium, Pseudomonas, Bacillus, Staphylococcus Enterobacter, Aeromonas, Pseudomonas, Klebsiella and Proteus 
RSC Bacillus, Staphylococcus, Micrococcus, Pseudomonas and Flavobacterium Aeromonas, Enterobacter, Klebsiella, Eschericia coli and Proteus 
CB Bacillus, Staphylococcus, Micrococcus, Pseudomonas and Flavobacterium Aeromonas, Enterobacter, Klebsiella and Proteus 
CBT Bacillus, Staphylococcus, Pseudomonas, Flavobacterium and Micrococcus Aeromonas, Enterobacter, Klebsiella and Proteus 
CK Bacillus, Staphylococcus, Pseudomonas, Micrococcus and Flavobacterium Aeromonas, Enterobacter, Klebsiella and Proteus 
CKT Bacillus, Staphylococcus, Flavobacterium and Pseudomonas Aeromonas, Enterobacter and Klebsiella 
SourceAerobic organismsColiform organisms
Spring Flavobacterium, Pseudomonas, Bacillus, Staphylococcus Enterobacter, Aeromonas, Pseudomonas, Klebsiella and Proteus 
RSC Bacillus, Staphylococcus, Micrococcus, Pseudomonas and Flavobacterium Aeromonas, Enterobacter, Klebsiella, Eschericia coli and Proteus 
CB Bacillus, Staphylococcus, Micrococcus, Pseudomonas and Flavobacterium Aeromonas, Enterobacter, Klebsiella and Proteus 
CBT Bacillus, Staphylococcus, Pseudomonas, Flavobacterium and Micrococcus Aeromonas, Enterobacter, Klebsiella and Proteus 
CK Bacillus, Staphylococcus, Pseudomonas, Micrococcus and Flavobacterium Aeromonas, Enterobacter, Klebsiella and Proteus 
CKT Bacillus, Staphylococcus, Flavobacterium and Pseudomonas Aeromonas, Enterobacter and Klebsiella 

Assessment of performance of improved containers

The performance of the improved containers was assessed by calculating the Log Reduction Values (LRV); which is the number of log units by which contaminants (coliforms) in drinking water was reduced during treatment/sedimentation with the improved containers. The LRVs are shown in Table 3, while Figure 10 shows the percentage reduction of total coliform from the springs through the RSC to the improved containers. This is an indication that CK had the highest percentage total coliform reduction. 
formula
Table 3

Log removal of total coliform in household drinking water

SourcesLRVFinal LRVPercentage reduction
Spring–RSC 0.13 0.13 25.4% 
Spring–RSC–CB 0.13 + 0.08 0.21 37.3% 
Spring–RSC–CBT 0.13 + 0.13 0.26 45.0% 
Spring–RSC–CK 0.13 + 0.24 0.37 56.8% 
Spring–RSC–CKT 0.13 + 0.21 0.34 53.8% 
SourcesLRVFinal LRVPercentage reduction
Spring–RSC 0.13 0.13 25.4% 
Spring–RSC–CB 0.13 + 0.08 0.21 37.3% 
Spring–RSC–CBT 0.13 + 0.13 0.26 45.0% 
Spring–RSC–CK 0.13 + 0.24 0.37 56.8% 
Spring–RSC–CKT 0.13 + 0.21 0.34 53.8% 
Figure 10

Percentage total coliform reduction.

Figure 10

Percentage total coliform reduction.

Escherichia coli was not detected in the households (6.8%) that initially had it in their RSC after using the improved containers. To calculate the log removal, a value of 0.5MPN/100 ml (halfway between zero and the lower detection limit of 1 MPN/100 mL), was used in the place of zero in order to calculate log differences (adapted from Levy et al. 2014). Hence E. coli LRV is 2.3, which is equivalent to 99.5% reduction.

Level of adoption of the improved storage

Out of the 44 participants, four changed location and could not be traced, the majority of the respondents 38(95%) still use the storage containers. One of the two that stopped, claimed the keg was slow and led to time wastage while the other reported that the tap of the container got broken. Participants (97.4%) claimed that the containers helped in preventing introduction of dirt into their drinking water. Many of them were however eager to have bigger containers for a small fee and that the facilities should be extended to other members of the communities.

DISCUSSION

This study investigated the effects of different household storage containers on drinking water quality in four communities in Ibadan. Common household storage containers were Clay pots, Basins, Jerry cans, Plastic drums and containers. Oloruntoba & Sridhar (2007) in their study showed that a sizeable number of households stored their water in wide-mouthed containers, some of which were without covers (plastic drums, basins) while very few stored water in narrow-mouthed containers (plastic kegs) that would not allow hands to be dipped inside.

Previous studies in developing countries showed that traditional water collection and storage vessels of various compositions and sizes are still widely used today (CDC 2001). A study by Trevett et al. (2005) concluded that the vessels used in collecting water from storage containers may contribute to the deterioration of microbiological quality of water.

The mean total coliform count (TCC) of the springs in the four communities and mean TCC of RSC exceeded the SON standard. Although spring water is considered to be aesthetically acceptable for domestic use, the presence of poorly designed pit latrines, poor wastewater management, poor solid waste management as well as poor and inadequate spring protection, may lead to contamination of water from the springs with pathogenic bacteria. In some cases, water is collected from a contaminated source to begin with. This microbial contaminated water poses health risks that can be reduced by improved storage conditions and household treatment (DWAF 1996).

In addition, this study showed that drinking water quality deteriorated in some households (6.8%) where E. coli was found in the RSC. Although, this proportion might be considered insignificant, the value was higher when compared with recommended guidelines. The WHO guideline and SON standard stipulated that there should be no E. coli in any source of drinking water. Even though the number is insignificant, the presence indicated recent and potentially dangerous pollution, which required urgent attention. A study on household drinking water quality deterioration by Trevett et al. (2004) showed that there were multiple points during the collection to use sequence where pollution could occur. Various studies (Jagals et al. 1997, 1999; Wright et al. 2004; Trevett et al. 2005) have reported that the type of containers used to store or transport water (i.e. closed-top or open-top) may contribute to the deterioration of stored water quality. This shows that there is the possibility of introducing faecal matter into the water container during the process of collecting water from those containers. In addition, household members might be using a different type of container without adherence to appropriate hygiene practice to collect water. These practices around the storage container could lead to contamination, especially with faecal matter. This argument is in line with this study.

Higher levels of microbial contamination and decreased microbial quality are associated with storage vessels having wide openings (e.g. buckets and pots), vulnerability to introduction of hands (Trevett et al. 2005), cups and dippers that can carry faecal contaminants (Mintz et al. 1995), lack of a narrow opening for dispensing water (Iroegbu et al. 2000), and bacterial regrowth within the storage container (Momba & Kaleni 2002).

Studies have also shown that organisms can prosper in biofilms in containers (Momba & Kaleni, 2002; Jagals et al. 2003; Nala et al. 2003). High total coliform levels indicate that there is a substantial risk of microbial infection with increased exposure to contaminated water.

The mean TCC after introducing the treatment containers in all communities reduced from CB > CBT > CKT > CK. No faecal coliforms (E. coli) were detected in water stored in the treatment containers. The significant difference seen in contamination levels between the treatment containers could be attributed to the fact that serving utensils could not be placed through the opening of narrow-mouthed vessels.

WHO (2011) recommends ≥4 log10 reduction or ≥2 log10 reduction in bacteria to be ‘highly protective’ or ‘protective’ in meeting the health-based targets of 10−6 DALY or 10−4 DALY per person per year, respectively. According to these criteria, the use of improved containers to achieve 2.3 E. coli LRV (in 6.8% households) could be considered protective in limiting the water-borne disease burden. The same cannot be inferred for 0.21–0.37 total coliform LRV achieved for all the households.

CONCLUSION

This study indicates the presence of microbial contamination at source and at household levels. Poor water quality at source for users supplied by protected springs emerged as a clear cause for concern. This indicates the need for improved education on the importance of cleanliness and hygiene at the springs themselves and in the immediate vicinity thereof. The provision of good drainage to minimise contamination by splashing and pooling of water, and regular inspection of the facilities are other possible management interventions.

Microbial contamination was higher in covered buckets without taps than covered buckets with taps; and also higher in covered kegs with taps than covered buckets without taps. The use of covered kegs without taps was best in reducing contaminants in drinking water. The fact that the improved storage containers provided between 37–57% reduction in total coliform is an indication that multiple barriers need to be used.

Therefore, hygiene education on the choice of appropriate household drinking water storage containers and handling practices should be encouraged to ensure preservation of water quality for household use.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

The authors express their gratitude to members of the selected communities and the research assistants for their cooperation during the study.

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