Water Currents issues – USAID Water Team

Water Currents is a biweekly compilation of recent research on a specific WASH topic. watercurrentsPlease send us an email if you have suggestions for Water Currents topics or comments on how to make Water Currents more useful to you.

Recent WASH research – July 20, 2017


Assessment of Fecal Exposure Pathways in Low-Income Urban Neighborhoods in Accra, Ghana: Rationale, Design, Methods, and Key Findings of the SaniPath Study. AJTMH, July 17, 2017.
The study results highlight widespread and often high levels of fecal contamination in the public and private domains and food supply. The dominant fecal exposure pathway for young children in the household was through consumption of uncooked produce. The SaniPath Study provides critical information on exposure to fecal contamination in low-income, urban environments and ultimately can inform investments and policies to reduce these public health risks.

Women still carry most of the world’s water. The Conversation, July 16, 2017.
In this article, Bethany Caruso of Emory University discusses her research in India, Bolivia and Kenya on the water and sanitation challenges that women and girls confront and how these experiences influence their lives.

Decision-making on shared sanitation in the informal settlements of Kisumu, Kenya. International Journal of Environmental Health Research, July 13, 2017.
Using a grounded theory approach, landlords and tenants were interviewed to identify sanitation decisions, individuals involved in decision-making and factors influencing decision-making. The results indicate that the main sanitation decisions are on investment, emptying, repair and cleaning. Sanitation interventions in informal settlements should thus, target landlords and tenants, with investment efforts being directed at landlords and maintenance efforts at tenants.


The effect of young children’s faeces disposal practices on child growth: Evidence from 34 countries. TMIH, July 16, 2017.
Improved child faeces disposal practices could achieve greater reductions in child undernutrition than improving toilet access alone. Additionally, the common classification of child faeces disposal as ‘safe’ regardless of the type of toilet used for disposal may underestimate the benefits of disposal in an improved toilet and overestimate the benefits of disposal in an unimproved toilet.

Open defecation explains differences in nutritional status between Bengali and tribal children in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh. Ethnicity & Health, July 1, 2017.
We describe differences in linear growth as measured by height-for-age z-score (HAZ) between children from Bengali and tribal populations in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh and examine factors associated with HAZ in both groups. Different responses among Bengali and tribal children to village-level open defecation are an explanatory factor for the difference in HAZ between Bengali and tribal populations. Open defecation may also act a proxy for unmeasured factors such as household environmental conditions and food hygiene.

Recent WASH research – July 18, 2017

WASHwatch – Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Maps – Projections of use of basic and safely managed sanitation 2000-2030. These maps have been produced by the WASHwatch team, based on data from WHO/UNICEF’s 2017 Progress Report on Drinking Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene. All data points after 2015 are WASHwatch calculations using the average rates of progress between 2000 and 2015.

Household sanitation is associated with lower risk of bacterial and protozoal enteric infections, but not viral infections and diarrhoea, in a cohort study in a low-income urban neighbourhood in Vellore, India. TMIH, July 17, 2017. The presence of a household toilet was associated with lower risk of bacterial and protozoal enteric infections, but not diarrhoea or viral infections, suggesting the health effects of sanitation may be more accurately estimated using outcome measures that account for aetiologic agents.

Identifying behavioural determinants for interventions to increase handwashing practices among primary school children in rural Burundi and urban Zimbabwe. BMC Research Notes, July 14, 2017. This article presents the development of a school handwashing programme in two different sub-Saharan countries that applies the RANAS (risk, attitudes, norms, ability, and self-regulation) systematic approach to behaviour change.

Sanitation practices and perceptions in Kakuma refugee camp, Kenya: Comparing the status quo with a novel service-based approach. PLoS One, July 13, 2017. This study used qualitative and quantitative methods to design, implement, and pilot a novel sanitation system in Kakuma refugee camp, Kenya. An initial round of 12 pre-implementation focus group discussions (FGDs) were conducted with Dinka and Somali residents to understand sanitation practices, perceptions, and needs.

Menstrual hygiene management among Bangladeshi adolescent schoolgirls and risk factors affecting school absence: results from a cross-sectional survey. BMJ Open, July 2017. Risk factors for school absence included girl’s attitude, misconceptions about menstruation, insufficient and inadequate facilities at school, and family restriction.

Assessing development assistance for child survival between 2000 and 2014: A multi-sectoral perspective. PLoS One, July 11, 2017. Aid for water and sanitation grew from 4.17 billion ($0.86 per capita) in 2000 to 7.27 billion ($1.23 per capita) in 2014 with an average annual growth rate of 5.0%. During this period, the top 10 countries received largest amount of aid (India, China, Viet Nam, Iraq, Morocco, Tanzania, Bangladesh, Jordan, Indonesia, and Ethiopia) accounted for 35% of total aid in water and sanitation (S8 Table), and nine of them were Countdown countries.


Plastic bottle battle: members respond to our new environment series

Plastic bottle battle: members respond to our new environment series. The Guardian, July 2017.

The Guardian’s Bottling It series is shining a light on the problem of what to do with the 1m plastic drinking bottles produced every minute. Your replies were thoughtful and inspiring

We often hear from members about our environment reporting – you tell us that you value it and would like us to increase our focus in this area.

A cat crouches on a polluted beach strewn with plastic bottles near Dakar in Senegal. Photograph: Nic Bothma/EPA

A cat crouches on a polluted beach strewn with plastic bottles near Dakar in Senegal. Photograph: Nic Bothma/EPA

So we were interested in hearing your views on our Bottling It series, which asks who is responsible for the world’s plastic binge, and how we might solve the environmental crisis it is creating. Thank you to all who got in touch – your thoughts were informed, passionate and often inspiring, which is why we have published a selection of them below.

The series has been very well read, and this week continues with our reporter Nicola Davis documenting her attempts to avoid buying anything with plastic in it or on it. Do you want to join her? Let us know how you get on using #nomoreplastic on Twitter and Instagram.

Read the complete article.

Young Water Solutions – the Young Water Fellowship Program

Young Water Solutions – Young Water Fellowship Program

The Young Water Fellowship Program aims to empower young leaders from low and middle income countries to implement projects to tackle water, sanitation & hygiene (WASH), water pollution and water scarcity issues, by offering them an intensive training program, seed funding grants for their projects, and mentoring support by senior level experts during one year. Logo_YWF_1706__color-1030x547.png

This program will bring about in its first edition (2017) 10 young community leaders capable of successfully designing and implementing sustainable and inclusive water projects that significantly improve living conditions in their communities, while contributing to the achievement of SDG #6 (water and sanitation for all).

Read more.


Recent WASH research – July 14, 2017


Counting how many people have water, sanitation and hygiene. WASHwatch, July 13, 2017.
New data from UNICEF/WHO estimate the percentage of the global population using at least a basic level of service for drinking water and sanitation to be 89% and 68%, respectively. Stuart Kempster, WaterAid’s Policy Analyst for Monitoring and Accountability, looks into what we can tell from the estimates.

Habit Formation and Rational Addiction: A Field Experiment in Handwashing. Reshmaan Hussam, December 2016.
Motivated by scholarship that suggests handwashing is habitual, we design, implement and analyze a randomized field experiment aimed to test the main predictions of the rational addiction model.

Assessing Women’s Negative Sanitation Experiences and Concerns: The Development of a Novel Sanitation Insecurity Measure. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health, July 11, 2017.
We developed a sanitation insecurity measure to capture the range and frequency of women’s sanitation-related concerns and negative experiences. The final sanitation insecurity measure includes 50 items across seven factors that reflect the physical environment, the social environment, and individual-level constraints. This measure will enable researchers to evaluate how sanitation insecurity affects health and to determine if and how sanitation interventions ameliorate women’s concerns and negative experiences associated with sanitation.

Prediction of Human Development from Environmental Indicators. Social Indicators Research, July 8, 2017. The results showed that exposure to unsafe sanitation, access to drinking water, tree cover loss, unsafe water quality, wastewater treatment level, and household air pollution are excellent predictors of human development index of a population. This tool can help stakeholders to monitor and control indicators attributed to good health and well-being, quality education, clean water and sanitation, decent work and economic growth, sustainable cities and communities and life on land sustainable development goals.


Effects of sanitation on cognitive development and school absence: A systematic review. International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health, July 1, 2017.
While studies to date provide some support for positive effects from sanitation on cognitive development, the effects on school absence are uncertain. Differences in effects may be due to differences in study settings, type of sanitation exposure and most notably in outcome definitions.

Switching to sanitation: Understanding latrine adoption in a representative panel of rural Indian households. Social Science & Medicine, July 6, 2017.
Among rural households that defecated in the open in 2005, we investigate what baseline properties and what changes over time are associated with switching to latrine use between 2005 and 2012.

Animal feces contribute to domestic fecal contamination: Evidence from E. coli measured in water, hands, food, flies and soil in Bangladesh. Environ. Sci. Technol., July 7, 2017.
We provide empirical evidence of fecal transmission in the domestic environment despite on-site sanitation. Animal feces contribute to fecal contamination, and fecal indicator bacteria do not strictly indicate human fecal contamination when animals are present.

We make fake poo in a laboratory – to improve sanitation in Bangladesh

We make fake poo in a laboratory – to improve sanitation in Bangladesh. Phys.org, July 12, 2017.

Across the world, almost three billion people do not have the luxury of a flushing toilet. Instead they rely on static sanitation systems, like pit latrines to deal with their waste. As these are not often connected to a sewer, they require manual emptying and disposal.

Poor understanding of the risks involved means that untreated sludge is often thrown into nearby fields and rivers. The impact of this can be devastating.

Manual emptying. Credit: sswm.info

Manual emptying. Credit: sswm.info

Yet is is estimated that every dollar invested in better sanitation returns up to US$5.50 in social and economic benefits. These come through increased productivity, reduced healthcare costs and prevention of illness and early death.

A crucial part of improving sanitation lies in researching and developing simpler, more efficient ways of treating sludge in places where a sewerage and centralised waste water treatment is not available.

My research is part of a partnership with the engineering firm Buro Happold (BH) who were asked by WaterAid Bangladesh to find a sludge treatment technology which was effective, practical and affordable.

After considering options which included biogas and pit additives – products used to try and reduce sludge volume – the company opted for unplanted drying beds. They are simple in design and make use of the reasonable amount of sunshine in Bangladesh.

Read the complete article.