Improved sustainability of water supply options in areas with arsenic-impacted groundwater

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The supply of water for rural populations in developing countries continues to present enormous problems, particularly where there is arsenic contamination in the groundwater, as exists over significant parts of Bangladesh. In response, improvements in the sustainability of water supplies are feasible through the use of a combination of water sources wherein rainwater harvesting is employed for a portion of the year. This can potentially reduce the duration of the year during which arsenic-contaminated groundwater is utilized. As demonstrated, a rainwater cistern volume of 0.5 m3 in the Jessore district area of Bangladesh can provide rainwater for periods averaging 266 days of the year, which allows groundwater at 184 μg/L arsenic to be used as a water supply for the remainder of the year. This dual supply approach provides the body burden equivalent to the interim drinking water guideline of arsenic concentration of 50 μg/L for 365 days of the year (assuming the water consumption rate is 4 L/cap/day for a family of five with a rainwater collection area of 15 m2). If the water use rate is 20 L/cap/day, the same cistern can provide water for 150 days of the year; however, although this is insufficient to supply water to meet the body burden equivalent guideline of 50 μg/L. Results are provided also for different rooftop areas, sizes of cisterns and alternative arsenic guidelines [World Health Organization (WHO) and Bangladeshi]. These findings provide useful guidelines on supply options to meet sustainability targets of water supply. However, they also demonstrate that the use of cisterns cannot assist the meeting of the 10 μg/L WHO target arsenic body burden, if the arsenic contamination in the groundwater is high (e.g., at 100 μg/L). © 2013 by the authors.




McBean, E. A., Rajib, M. A., & Rahman, M. M. (2013). Improved sustainability of water supply options in areas with arsenic-impacted groundwater. Water (Switzerland), 5(4), 1941–1951.

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