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What water quality PCVs and sampling regimes apply in Burundi?

Harriette Purchas

I'm currently planning a field trip to help a small NGO in Burundi with a Water Safety Plan and my French is letting me down. I am trying to find what water quality PCVs and sampling regimes apply in Burundi, and if anyone has experience of good labs in Bujumbura that can offer such analysis, or at least run faecal coliform counts. This definitely doesn't need your 24 hour response service, but it would be good to know in suitable advance of a planned October trip whether we need to have a delagua kit sent over so we can train up some local technicians.

It appears to be a capped spring, so I would hope that faecal coliform counts are zero, however I have been told that someone tested the water a while ago and found bacteria. I'm still trying to get their test report - as I have been told nothing more than 'bacteria' and that could be completely innocuous, but I'd like to test for faecals anyway. And on sanitary inspections, yes absolutely - I suspect cattle grazing could be an issue. It is my hope that we wouldn't have too much trouble from a capped spring, but I imagine source protection could be the quickest win. If that doesn't suffice then whether disinfection can be afforded may be the question, and either way I will be recommending ongoing monitoring and will try to develop an acceptably affordable regime. Something like point of use filters may be the best solution, but again affordability could be an issue. I don't suppose you have any feel for physicochemical values do you? I have read that nitrates, heavy metals and arsenic are the usual suspect problem contaminants in Burundi, but it would be good to know if there were any national prescribed concentrations or values, or other guidelines.



Harriette Purchas gravatar imageHarriette Purchas ( 2013-09-09 09:47:55 )

3 Answers

Harriette Purchas

I'm afraid I cannot give much up to date guidance on this but when I worked for Oxfam in Burundi some 15 years ago I am pretty sure that they had one or more Del Agua kits in the office which, if they are still around, I am sure they would be willing to Martin use to run a few tests. Having said that I am sure there will be a more formal laboratory that can run the tests that he needs at the Ministry of Water or Health or some similar institution.

As he is probably aware faecal coliform counts should be zero but rarely are in rural water sources such as wells. A chlorinated town water supply would be a different matter. The big problem is that the knowledge of water quality is only the first step. The big thing is what to do next to improve the situation and that is the expensive/time consuming part!

If there is not a full scale programme of works following on from the testing or an ongoing testing regime for a piped supply, he may be able to make an educated guess as to whether there is faecal contamination from a simple sanitary inspection.

Regards RedR Expert


A capped spring should be relatively safe depending on how long the water has filtered through the ground to get to it. My general experience with point of use filters is not very positive, especially where organisations try to construct relatively complex sand filters that have a significant maintenance requirement. Simple ceramic candle filters may be OK if people are trained in their use. I'm afraid I have no idea of levels of the different physio-chemical parameters to expect in Burundi. If you cannot find any local standards a good fall-back position is the WHO Guidelines There was recently discussion through the RedR TSS regarding high levels of fluoride in the Rift Valley in Kenya but I don't know if this problem extends along the valley into Burundi. Regards RedR Expert

Harriette Purchas gravatar imageHarriette Purchas ( 2013-09-09 09:48:31 )
Safe Water Strategy

Apparently, Burundi uses East African standards for water supply. These are listed in the 2009 Catalogue of East African Standards, under the heading 13.060.20 Drinking water.

The standards can be ordered from the Bureau Burundais de Normalisation et Contrôle de la Qualité (BBN):

Martin Currie _ Aqueum

Wonderful, thanks for this. I have contacted BBN, as it looks from their website like they may also be able to do the analysis for us.

Kind regards