Over 97.7 percent of Bhutanese have access to improved drinking water. Access, however, does not mean availability of safe drinking water.

As per the Bhutan Drinking Water Quality Standard (BDWQS) 2016, per capita mean annual flow of available water in the country was 109,000 cubic metres. However, according to Royal Centre for Disease Control (RCDC) report, only 17 percent of stream water sources and 28 percent of spring water sources were safe for drinking.

In order to ensure safe drinking water, not only in the urban centres, but also in the rural areas, health workers in BHUs and Community Health Units (CHU) across the country are being trained to monitor rural drinking water quality and SMS reporting.

Deputy chief laboratory office with the National Water Reference Laboratory (NWRL), Chimmi Dorji, said that with the changing climate and developmental activities, quality of water is changing.

“The need to understand the importance of having safe drinking waters has been crucial in the recent times,” said Chimmi Dorji. “We need to understand water quality and then take necessary measures to improve the quality that is safe for consumption.”

He said that diarrhoea, a preventable disease, is one of the most common diseases that many Bhutanese suffer from every year. “The number of diarrhoeal cases in our country never goes down. Although there are other factors causing diarrhoea, one key factor is not having access to safe drinking water. We want to bring this trend down.”

During the training, participants collect sample water from the nearby areas and perform contamination tests. Apart from the physical parameters (odour, appearance, pH, taste, turbidity and conductivity), participants also look at the microbiological parameters that include the presence of E.Coli bacteria in the water sample.

Training conducted in Kanglung, Trashigang concluded on October 18. A total of 32 health assistants from BHUs and CHUs from Trashigang and Trashiyangtse attended the training.

According to the BDWQS 2016, pH level of a safe drinking water must be between 6.5-8.5 and the turbidity of the water should be below five. Water with zero E.Coli bacteria is considered safe to drink.

“Clean water is not always safe water that is fit for drinking. The presence of E.Coli bacteria is a direct indication of faeces contamination in the water,” said Chimmi Dorji.

During the training, participants learnt how to enter data from the tests on the RCDC online system (water quality and monitoring information system).

BHUs and CHUs without Internet access can punch data via SMS, said Chimmi Dorji.

Once NWRL completes providing training across the country, a national drinking water report will be compiled.

Younten Tshedup |  Trashigang