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Risky behaviours related to household water handling and storage

related country: Cambodia


We are involved in design of a national campaign on nutrition-sensitive WASH behaviors for Under 5s to reduce stunting.

Formative research is showing that re-contamination of safe water needs to be addressed.

Observations show a number of behaviors contributing to recontamination.

  1. handling treated water incorrectly (scooping with dirty hands etc.)
  2. improper storage of treated water, uncovered storage that exposes treated water to germs
  3. drinking from unhygienic utensils that then recontaminate the water
  4. adding unhygienic ice to treated water (not sure if this is something that can be addressed in this behavior change campaign)

Folks designing the campaign want to get specific about which of these behaviors to address.

So the question is, do we have any Knowledge on which of these behaviors poses greatest risk of contamination?

many thanks


3 Answers


Its a very old text, but very well written though it only has bullet point safe water messages on this "Safe Drinking Water" but has a lot of very good tested advice on Hygiene Education Policy. The Text is Hygiene Education Policy Guidelines for Afghanistan" prepared by Ministry of Health and ACBAR Hygiene Education Working Group in collaboration with Water & Sanitation Sector Group for Afghanistan March 2001 (including Save the Children, WHO, UNICEF... et all). I recommend to have a look at it. It was very successful in Afghanistan, and from my knowledge of rural Cambodia (been here a few years with Cambodian wife from rural village, and son, we have a home in rural village) it could be used / adapted here in Cambodia. You will also need to look at other aspects such as shared utensils (shared cup / glass), the hygiene of the traditional village water storage jars (their maintenance, cleaning, etc) , unsuitabi;lity of tap water in city even, definitely the ice is a big and prevalent issue ... look at the way it is carried, handled, crushed and its ubiquitous uses, rainwater harvesting from roofs, water taken from aquifers that are too shallow and are river contaminated, wells that have been contaminated by seasonal flooding overtoping the well apron, indiscriminate reuse of plastic (and other) water bottles, and that in some locations the ground water is naturally contaminated with local deposits of minerals / heavy metal (eg natutrally occurring arsenic). There is also some very good graphics on this (2 pages) in the Helvetas Sri Lanka Pocket Booklet (Section on Drinking Water Supply and sanitation) If you need a copy of the book (it is too old to be soft copy) or other materials contact me at, 012388964 ..... if I am away and my wife answers speak slowly leaving a message and contact as English is not her first language. Chris Nixon


All of those are ways to contaminate water and many others, we could keep making a long list of "do not (s).... " Normally we conduct a KAP survey (knowledge Attitudes and Practices) to see what people understand about, in this case water quality and water protection, identify harmful practices and assumptions. This would then be very helpful in designing a targeted campaign for your context.

I would like to suggest that the campaign should have a healthy section on "do .... " based activities that focus on preserving and protecting water quality.

Do use a protected water source. Protected water source in (context) are (type of water source) Do treat your water if you are uncertain of the water quality. Water treatment can be done using boiling. Do collect in a container that is clean and has a tight fitting lid. Do store in a container that is cleaned regularly has a tight fitting lid and the water is accessed through a tap


Identifying recontamination is a good start. Many project treat water and it still ends up in dirty containers.

You need to find out what are the local factors. There will be multiple pathways and addressing all of them may be difficult. Some may be more resistant to change (e.g. some people like to use clay containers as it makes the water cooler).

When cleaning containers, the visible dirt/ algae needs to be removed before using a chlorine solution and then rinsing. However too much abrasive cleaning can damage the inside of the container and mean it gets dirty faster.

The OXFAM bucket is well designed - see if you can find something similar locally.

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2019-03-11 10:26:10
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Last updated:
Jun 11 '19