Assessment of Physico-chemical and Bacteriological Quality of Drinking Water Sources in Kakamega County, Kenya

Ernest Othieno Odwori *

Department of Water, Environment and Natural Resources, Kakamega County, Kenya.

Jacob Wanambacha Wakhungu

Department of Disaster Management and Sustainable Development, Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology, Kakamega, Kenya.

*Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.


Water-borne diseases still present a major health burden in Africa. Large segments of the rural population here have no access to potable water. This study has been designed to assess the physico-chemical and bacteriological quality of drinking water sources in the study area. The study was conducted in Kakamega county covering the twelve sub-counties of Likuyani, Lugari, Malava, Navakholo, Lurambi, Ikolomani, Shinyalu, Mumias East, Mumias West, Matungu, Butere and Khwisero. Socio-demographic characteristics of the study populations were captured using a structured pre-tested questionnaire. The Most Probable Number (MPN) method was used to determine the abundance of Total coliforms and Escherichia coli (E. coli) in the water samples collected. Physico-chemical analyses (Temperature, pH, Electrical conductivity, Total dissolved solids and Dissolved oxygen) were carried out. Free residual chlorine was determined by colorimetric method with DPD chlorine tablets. The analyses were conducted following guidelines of American Public Health Association and WHO. Only 17% (68/400) of the study population had access to piped water in the study area. Waste management practices of the localities was found poor as more than 62 % (248/400) of the respondents dispose waste materials in open fields. All drinking water sources investigated were contaminated with Total coliforms. There was a wide variation in Total coliforms and E. coli. Total coliform counts ranged from 0.0 - 3652.5 cfu/100 ml whereas E. coli ranged from 0.0 - 33.0 cfu/100 ml. Both Rivers/streams and unprotected dug wells recorded the highest number of Total coliforms and E. coli. Piped water, Rainwater collection and Boreholes recorded the lowest number of Total coliforms and E. coli. E. coli counts in most drinking water sources investigated exceeded the maximum permissible limits set by WHO/KEBS, implying that they are not safe for household applications without prior treatment. The results indicate that protected drinking water sources (piped water, boreholes, protected dug wells and protected springs) are subjected to a high level of fecal contamination in the study area. Construction flaws on casing, concrete covers, fences, diversion ditches, and protection of springs' eyes and other plumbing accessories could be one of the causes. Protected water sources may become contaminated for other reasons, such as a lack of frequent surveillance, disinfection, and correct maintenance. Poor sanitation practices, a lack of hygiene education, poor supervision and maintenance, and inconsistent water point disinfection can all be blamed for the high levels of E. coli. The recorded temperature and pH ranged between 19.9–27.2°C and 4.8 - 9.1, respectively. Turbidity and Electric conductivity of the water samples ranged, respectively, between 0.43–467.02 NTU and 18.7–510.7 μS/cm. Residual chlorine in piped water showed a range of 0.06-1.2 ppm. In addition, Total dissolved solids were found to be between 20.1 and 639.2 mg/l; whereas Dissolved oxygen ranged from 2.2- 15.4 mg/l. The results of the current investigation showed that some bacteriological and physico-chemical parameters of the various water sources had values above the maximum permissible limits advised by WHO/KEBS. The Water sector stakeholders in the area should put in place proper intervention measures which include raising public awareness on the water quality of drinking water sources and enhancing the current infrastructure in order to reduce any potential health hazards.

Keywords: Kakamega county, physico-chemical and bacteriological analysis, drinking water sources

How to Cite

Othieno Odwori , E., & Wanambacha Wakhungu , J. (2023). Assessment of Physico-chemical and Bacteriological Quality of Drinking Water Sources in Kakamega County, Kenya. Asian Journal of Environment & Ecology, 20(1), 45–63.


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