Climate change is expected to increase waterborne diseases especially in developing countries. However, we lack understanding of how different types of water sources (both improved and unimproved) are affected by climate change, and thus, where to prioritize future investments and improvements to maximize health outcomes. This is due to limited knowledge of the relationships between source water quality and the observed variability in climate conditions.

To address this gap, a 20-month observational study was conducted in Tanzania, aiming to understand how water quality changes at various types of sources due to short-term climate variability. Nine rounds of microbiological water quality sampling were conducted for Escherichia coli (E. coli) and total coliforms (TC), at three study sites within different climatic regions. Each round included approximately 233 samples from water sources and 632 samples from households. To identify relationships between water quality and short-term climate variability Bayesian hierarchical modelling was adopted, allowing these relationships to vary with source types and sampling regions to account for potentially different physical processes. Across water sources, increases in E. coli/TC levels were most closely related to increases in recent heavy rainfall. Our key recommendations to future longitudinal studies are: a) demonstrated value of high sampling frequency and temporal coverage (a minimum of 3 years) especially during wet seasons; b) utility of the Bayesian hierarchical models to pool data from multiple sites whilst allowing for variations across space and water sources; c) importance of a multi-disciplinary team approach with consistent commitment and sharing of knowledge.

Contact us

For information and access to the full data set from this study please contact lead CI Dr Jacqueline Thomas or or Dr Fiona Johnson