Comparison of two blanket surveys of arsenic in tubewells conducted 12 years apart in a 25 km(2) area of Bangladesh

Sci Total Environ. 2014 Aug 1:488-489:484-92. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2013.12.049. Epub 2014 Jan 16.


The arsenic (As) content of groundwater pumped from all tubewells within 61 contiguous villages of Araihazar, Bangladesh, was determined a first time in 2000-01 with laboratory measurements and a second time in 2012-13 using the ITS Arsenic Econo-Quick kit. The two surveys indicate that the total number of tubewells within the area almost doubled from 5560 to 10,879 over 12 years. The evolution of the distribution of well ages between the two surveys is consistent with a simple model that combines an annual increase of 42 wells/year in the rate of installations within the 61 villages starting in 1980 and a 7%/year rate of abandonment of wells as a function of well age. Colored placards were posted on each pumphead in 2012-13 on the basis of the kit results relative to the WHO guideline for As and the Bangladesh standard for As in drinking water: blue for As≤10 μg/L, green>10-50 μg/L, and red: >50 μg/L. According to quality-control samples collected from 502 tubewells for comparing the kit results with laboratory measurements, not a single well labeled blue in 2012-13 should have been labeled red and vice-versa. Field-kit testing in 2012-13 did not change the status of wells relative to the Bangladesh standard of 876 (87%) out of 1007 wells with a placard based on laboratory measurements in 2000-01 still attached to the pumphead. The high proportion of tubewells believed by households to be unsafe (66% out of 2041) that were still used for drinking and cooking in 2012-13 underlines the need for more widespread testing to identify low-As wells as an alternative source of drinking water.

Keywords: Arsenic; Bangladesh; Groundwater; Well testing.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Arsenic / analysis*
  • Bangladesh
  • Drinking Water / chemistry*
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods
  • Groundwater / chemistry
  • Quality Control
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis*
  • Water Supply / statistics & numerical data*


  • Drinking Water
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Arsenic