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Indian Journal of Community Medicine

Access to Quantity and Quality Water: Problems Perceived by Residents of Village Palwa in Ujjain District

Author(s): Kirti Deshpande, Rakesh Kakkar, Vishal Diwan

Vol. 32, No. 4 (2007-10 - 2007-12)

ISSN No. 0970-0218

Kirti Deshpande, Rakesh Kakkar1, Vishal Diwan

Access to safe water in adequate quantity is one of the biggest challenges in the recent times. Despite the national commitment to supply safe drinking water, access to water is difficult especially in the rural areas.1 Water scarcity in terms of quantity and quality has severe implications on the overall development and health of citizens. Factors such as poor availability, affordability and distance between water source and home may lead households to depend on less safe sources and reduce the volume of water used for hygiene purposes,2 resulting in water-related infections.

Access to safe drinking water is estimated by the percentage of the population using improved drinking water sources, but a number of studies have documented higher concentrations of faecal coliforms in household water containers.3 This indicates that access to safe drinking water depends not only on the quality of water at source but also on contamination throughout its way to the user and practices related to purification and sanitation.

Thus, the present study was carried out to find out the accessibility to water, sanitary conditions of water sources and to identify purification and sanitary practices and problems with water scarcity to the people living in village Palwa of Ujjain district.

Materials and Methods

The study area of the present study was village Palwa of Ujjain district with a population of 1368 residing in 255 households. The village was surveyed by medical undergraduates to find out the major sources of water, followed by an assessment of their sanitary conditions. A 9-point standard format4 was prepared with some modifications and used to assess the sanitary status of water sources and its surrounding area. The source was labeled sanitary if it fits into all the 9-point criteria.

A sample size of 41 households was estimated with anticipated population proportion of 60%, confidence level of 95% and absolute precision of 15%. The households were selected by simple random sampling. Out of the total households, there was no adult member available for interview in two households, and the adult member in one household refused to participate. A total of 38 randomly selected households were included in the study (response rate – 93%). One adult member from each household was interviewed using a pre-designed questionnaire. The questionnaire included questions on location of water source, time consumed in collection, household member responsible for water collection, washing hands before water collection and drawing, water purification practice and problems with access to water.

Health education regarding water sanitation was given to the villagers at the end of the study.


The major source of water in the village was groundwater through four hand pumps and one well. No source of water was sanitary as none fulfilled the criteria. The water sources were exposed to contamination by different means [Table 1].

Out of 38 households, 32 (84%) did not have access to water within the household premises, and 21 (55%) had access to water source at the distance of more than 50 m. On an average, it took 1.25 h per day to collect water; in more than half (58%) of the households, females were responsible to collect water. Only 12 (31%) reported of washing hands before drawing water from the vessels.

The only water purification method known and practiced in village was filtration by cloth or plastic sieve. Eighty-four percent reported problem regarding water facility. The main problem perceived was scarcity of water (81.6%) especially in summers followed by excessive distance (42%) and polluted water (21%).

Discussion and Conclusion

The findings of the present study show that groundwater is the only source of water available in the study area, which is generally considered safe, but all the sources in the village Palwa were communal. Studies have shown that safe drinking water supplied to the developing communities from communal sources becomes contaminated during the processes of fetching water in containers over the distance between home and supply source, as well as storing and using it at home.5 In the present study, practices by villagers were favourable to contamination, and the only measure to purify water known to villagers was filtration. This indicates that there is lack of awareness regarding water sanitation.

Table 1: Sanitary status of water sources as per 9-point criteria

9-point criteria Source 1 Source 2 Source 3 Source 4
1. Is there any source of pollution within 15 m? No (+) No (+) Yes Yes
2. Is there any fencing around source? No Yes (+) No No
3. Is there any parapet around the source? No No No No
4. Is there platform around the source? Yes (+) No Yes (+) No
5. Is there any drainage facility? Yes (+) No Yes (+) Yes (+)
6. If the source is well, is there any concrete apron? NA No NA NA
7. Are the rope and bucket exposed to contamination? NA Yes NA NA
8. Is there open Želd defecation within 15 m No (+) No (+) Yes Yes
9. Other activities like washing/bathing near source Yes Yes Yes No (+)
Total points for sanitary status 4+ 3+ 2+ 2+

NA – Not applicable

It is well recognized that women bear the major burden of fetching and serving water to the household members, and similar practice was observed by the present study. The gender difference has implications on the overall development and health of women as they spend hours to manage water for the family even in days of illness and pregnancy, and a majority of women are not aware of safe drinking water practices and hence need training.1

The study identified that the problem of availability of adequate quantity of water is of highest concern for villagers. The possible reason for ignorance towards quality may be lack of knowledge about waterborne diseases. Evidences suggest that water quality receives too much attention than the quantity of water.3 Although quality of water is of utmost importance, sufficient quantity of water is required to get rid of pathogens and maintain sanitation; thus the perceived problem of insufficient water also demands attention. Further research and interventions are required to search for other sources of water and mobilize and educate the community towards protecting the water sources.


  1. Pattanaik BK. Safe drinking water for all. Kurukshetra 2005;53:53-7.
  2. Howard G, Bartram J. Effective water supply surveillance in urban areas of developing countries. J Water Health 2005;3:31.
  3. Kjellen, McGranahan. Urban water – towards health and sustainability: A document by the Stockholm Environment Institute 1997. p. 11.
  4. Smith M, Shaw R. Sanitary surveying. Water Lines 1996;15:15-8.
  5. Jagals P, Bokako TC. The Effect of container-biofilm on the microbiological quality of water used from plastic household containers. Water Health 2003;1:101.

Department of Community Medicine, R.D. Gardi Medical College, Ujjain and (1)Department of Community Medicine, Himalayan Institute of Medical Sciences, Swami Ramnagar, Jolly Grants, Dehradoon, India

Correspondence to:
Dr. Kirti Deshpande,
Community Medicine, R.D. Gardi Medical College, Ujjain, India.
E-mail: kirtiujjain(at)
Received: 14.09.06
Accepted: 08.09.07

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