May 2017

How Much will it Cost to Monitor Microbial Water Quality in sub-Saharan Africa?

Delaire, C., Peletz, R., Kumple, E., Kisiangani, J., Bain, R., Khush, R. (2017). How Much will it Cost to Monitor Microbial Water Quality in sub-Saharan Africa? Environmental Science and Technology. 51,11: 5869-5878


Microbial water quality monitoring is crucial for managing water resources and protecting public health. However, institutional testing activities in sub-Saharan Africa are currently limited. Because the economics of water quality testing are poorly understood, the extent to which cost may be a barrier to monitoring in different settings is unclear.

This study used cost data from 18 African monitoring institutions (piped water suppliers and health surveillance agencies in six countries) and estimates of water supply type coverage from 15 countries to assess the annual financial requirements for microbial water testing at both national and regional levels, using World Health Organization recommendations for sampling frequency. We found that a microbial water quality test costs 21.0 ± 11.3 USD, on average, including consumables, equipment, labor, and logistics, which is higher than previously calculated. Our annual cost estimates for microbial monitoring of piped supplies and improved point sources ranged between 8 000 USD for Equatorial Guinea and 1.9 million USD for Ethiopia, depending primarily on the population served but also on the distribution of piped water system sizes. A comparison with current national water and sanitation budgets showed that the cost of implementing prescribed testing levels represents a relatively modest proportion of existing budgets (<2%). At the regional level, we estimated that monitoring the microbial quality of all improved water sources in sub-Saharan Africa would cost 16.0 million USD per year, which is minimal in comparison to the projected annual capital costs of achieving Sustainable Development Goal 6.1 of safe water for all (14.8 billion USD).

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