Drinking Water Sources and Water Quality in West Sumatra, Indonesia

Sara Hashmi
Start Date: 
January, 2016

As of 2015, while Indonesia has achieved the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of halving the percentage of the population without access to safe drinking water, tens of millions of people remain without said access.  Given the advent of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) era, more quantitative goals now require that specific water-quality benchmarks be met by 2030.  In order to bridge the remaining gaps in access and service, data- and evidence-driven research must be done to inform policy changes and appropriate interventions for implementation on every scale.  Residents of Padang, the capital city of West Sumatra, Indonesia, obtain drinking water from both municipal piped water and/or water-refill stations.  Beyond the city center, villages with less access to piped water or refill stations must obtain drinking water from wells, rainwater, and surface water, and some of these sources may be contaminated with bacteria, minerals, or even heavy metals. Chlorine tablets are available for disinfection, and in most cases there is awareness of the need to boil water before drinking.  Still, preventable diseases linked to water-borne pathogens, including diarrhea and dysentery, remain prevalent.

In this study, we aim to survey households from locations

  1. within the city of Padang,
  2. in the outskirts of the city, and
  3. in rural villages in various coastal and inland regencies. 

We will assess current household drinking water sources, water quality, ease of access, current purification methods, and awareness of drinking water interventions such as boiling and chlorination.  We intend to work closely with local agencies already collecting household-level surveys on water, sanitation, and health.  By aggregating data from various sources, we will seek correlations between water quality, sanitation, health, and other factors including land cover, land use, geography, and topography.  Field-tests of drinking water will reveal bacterial contaminants, turbidity, pH, and residual chlorine.  Selected samples may undergo additional laboratory testing, such as ICPMS testing, to assess and identify and mineral or heavy metal contaminants.  Finally, we will work with the local community to disseminate the results of the study.  In future extensions of this study, appropriate, cost-effective purification methods will be identified to target the specific contaminants found in the drinking water.  Subsequent follow-up surveys will assess implementation of drinking water interventions and the effectiveness of community educational events.

As part of our pre-trip preparation we will examine landcover classifications, elevation datasets, and other satellite imagery.  It is anticipated that this will provide insight about how the people and water sources fit into the broader landscape.