Journal of Water and Health

Mechanisms of post-supply contamination of drinking water in Bagamoyo, Tanzania

Angela R. Harris, Jennifer Davis, Alexandria B. Boehm


Access to household water connections remains low in sub-Saharan Africa, representing a public health concern. Previous studies have shown water stored in the home to be more contaminated than water at the source; however, the mechanisms of post-supply contamination remain unclear. Using water quality measurements and structured observations of households in Bagamoyo, Tanzania, this study elucidates the causal mechanisms of the microbial contamination of drinking water after collection from a communal water source. The study identifies statistically significant loadings of fecal indicator bacteria (FIB) occurring immediately after filling the storage container at the source and after extraction of the water from the container in the home. Statistically significant loadings of FIB also occur with various water extraction methods, including decanting from the container and use of a cup or ladle. Additionally, pathogenic genes of Escherichia coli were detected in stored drinking water but not in the source from which it was collected, highlighting the potential health risks of post-supply contamination. The results of the study confirm that storage containers and extraction utensils introduce microbial contamination into stored drinking water, and suggest that further research is needed to identify methods of water extraction that prevent microbial contamination of drinking water.

  • diarrheal pathogens
  • drinking water quality
  • fecal bacteria
  • recontamination
  • Tanzania
  • waterborne disease
  • Received January 14, 2013.
  • Accepted May 6, 2013.