Objective: To pilot test an inexpensive, home-based water decontamination and storage system in a low-income neighborhood of Karachi.
Methods: Fifty households received a 20-L plastic water storage vessel with a high-quality spout and a regular supply of diluted hypochlorite solution. Twenty-five control households were recruited. Water samples were collected at baseline and during unannounced follow-up visits 1, 3, 6, and 10 weeks later.
Results: Baseline drinking water samples among intervention households were contaminated with a mean 9397 colony-forming units (cfu)/100 mL of thermotolerant coliforms compared with a mean 10,990 cfu/100 mL from controls. After intervention the mean concentration of thermotolerant coliforms decreased by 99.8% among the intervention households compared with an 8% reduction among controls. Two years after vessel distribution, 34 (68%) of the families were still using the vessel. Thirteen of the households had stopped using their vessel because it had broken after more than 6 months of use, a pattern most consistent with ultraviolet radiation-induced degradation of the plastic.
Conclusions: In a highly contaminated environment, a specifically designed water storage container and in-home water chlorination was acceptable and markedly improved water quality. Where plastic water vessels will be exposed to substantial sunlight, ultraviolet light stabilizers should be incorporated into the plastic.