Environmental Monitoring and Assessment

, Volume 185, Issue 5, pp 4261–4272 | Cite as

A spatial analysis of pit latrine density and groundwater source contamination

  • Jim A. WrightEmail author
  • Aidan Cronin
  • Joseph Okotto-Okotto
  • Hong Yang
  • Steve Pedley
  • Stephen W. Gundry


This study aims to assess the relationship between chemical and microbial contamination of groundwater sources and a range of potential hazards in two peri-urban areas of Kisumu, Kenya where shallow wells and pit latrines are widely used. From 1998 to 2004, 263 samples were taken from 61 groundwater sources and tested for thermotolerant coliforms. Eighteen of these sources were also tested for chemical contaminants, including nitrate, chloride and fluoride. The locations of all water sources, buildings and pit latrines in the study area were surveyed. Local pit latrine densities were calculated using a geographic information system. Ten out 18 samples were above the World Health Organization guideline values for nitrate, 236 out of 263 were positive for thermotolerant coliforms, and all were above the guideline values for fluoride. There was neither a relationship between thermotolerant coliform levels and daily rainfall patterns nor with sanitary risk inspection scores for samples from shallow wells (r = 0.01, p = 0.91, n = 191). The density of pit latrines within a 100-m radius was significantly correlated with nitrate and chloride levels (r = 0.64, p = 0.004 and r = 0.46, p = 0.05, respectively) but not with thermotolerant coliforms (r = 0.22, p = 0.11). These results illustrate both the public health risks associated with shallow groundwater sources, on-site sanitation and high population density. These findings have implications for current policies that promote latrine construction, especially in peri-urban areas of high population density. More comprehensive studies of larger communities should be commissioned to extend this analysis of the links between latrine density and groundwater contamination and so identify the contingent policy risks.


Groundwater On-site sanitation Geographical information systems Nitrate Thermotolerant coliforms 



This study was originally funded by the US Environmental Protection Agency through a project entitled ‘virus analysis of shallow African groundwaters’ (ref: R-82860301-0). The authors wish to acknowledge the role of the University of Linkoping, Sweden who also participated in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jim A. Wright
    • 1
    Email author
  • Aidan Cronin
    • 2
  • Joseph Okotto-Okotto
    • 3
    • 4
  • Hong Yang
    • 1
  • Steve Pedley
    • 2
  • Stephen W. Gundry
    • 5
  1. 1.Geography and EnvironmentUniversity of SouthamptonSouthamptonUK
  2. 2.Robens Centre for Public and Environmental HealthUniversity of SurreySurreyUK
  3. 3.Victoria Institute for Research on Environment and Development (VIRED) International, Rabuour Environment and Development CentreKisumuKenya
  4. 4.Lake Basin Development AuthorityKisumuKenya
  5. 5.Water and Health Research Centre, Merchant Venturers BuildingUniversity of BristolBristolUK

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