Intermittent water supply (IWS) is prevalent throughout low and middle-income countries. IWS is associated with increased microbial contamination and potentially elevated risk of waterborne illness. We used existing data sets to estimate the population exposed to IWS, assess the probability of infection using quantitative microbial risk assessment, and calculate the subsequent burden of diarrheal disease attributable to consuming fecally contaminated tap water from an IWS. We used reference pathogens Campylobacter, Cryptosporidium, and rotavirus as conservative risk proxies for infections via bacteria, protozoa, and viruses, respectively. Results indicate that the median daily risk of infection is an estimated 1 in 23 500 for Campylobacter, 1 in 5 050 000 for Cryptosporidium, and 1 in 118 000 for rotavirus. Based on these risks, IWS may account for 17.2 million infections causing 4.52 million cases of diarrhea, 109 000 diarrheal DALYs, and 1560 deaths each year. The burden of diarrheal disease associated with IWS likely exceeds the WHO health-based normative guideline for drinking water of 10–6 DALYs per person per year. Our results underscore the importance water safety management in water supplies and the potential benefits of point-of-use treatment to mitigate risks.
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- School of Civil, Aerospace and Design Engineering - Global Research Chair Environmental and Infrastructure Resilience
- Cabot Institute for the Environment - Director of the Cabot Institute for the Environment
- Water and Environmental Engineering
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