, Volume 62, Issue 8, pp 1619-1628
Date: 15 Jul 2010

Spring flow, bacterial contamination, and water resources in rural Haiti

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Abstract

Field data from 25 karst springs were collected during the summer of 2008 near Verrettes, Haiti, to gain a better understanding of water quality in fresh water springs used as the primary source of potable water in rural Haiti. Two water samples were taken at each spring for bacterial analysis: one sample was submitted to a local hospital for analysis, while a duplicate sample was cultured using inexpensive and commercially available Coliscan® Easygel® Kits. Both capped and uncapped springs were sampled in order to evaluate whether capping improves water quality. Water quality parameters and flow volume estimates were recorded at each spring; however, no correlations between field water parameters and the presence of E. coli or total coliform bacteria were found. Spring flow rates varied from 0.4 to 268.5 L/min. Geologic contacts and regional structures trend in a northwest direction and appear to be exerting a primary control on spring locations. E. coli and total coliform colony counts from the local hospital and Coliscan® Easygel® Kits yielded different results for the same springs due to sample handling and analysis complications common in rural Haiti. Water sample analysis and storage problems encountered during this study likely resulted in underprediction, rather than overprediction, of bacterial contamination. Water from 71 to 100% of the springs was unsafe to drink based on the World Health Organization (WHO) drinking water standard. Both capped and uncapped springs had bacterial counts in excess of the WHO standard, suggesting that water treatment from all sources is necessary to ensure clean and safe drinking water. Negatively impacted subterranean microbial ecosystems, poor sanitation practices, shallow karst aquifers with open flow paths, and high spring water temperatures, averaging 26.5°C, may be contributing to the observed bacterial abundance.