Water quality; not a luxury anymore


Cherinet Zewede is 25 and works as a water supply and sanitation expert at the Dire Dawa Water, Mines and Energy office. Over 250,000 people live in Dire Dawa, a town 520 kilometers east of the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa. His office has the responsibility of providing water supply facilities to the residents of Dire Dawa as well as 38 rural villages surrounding the town from sources such as borehole, springs, hand dug wells and roof catchments.

On his fifth year service as a water supply and sanitation expert, Cherinet has supervised and participated in the construction and rehabilitation of various water points. Chirenet says the past five years have witnessed remarkable increase in the provision of water supply facilities to the community he is serving. But he admits that because of priorities and scarcity of resources the issue of assuring quality of water has always been a challenge.

Recently, I met Cherinet at a refreshment training on water quality management organized by RiPPLE and water board for water quality surveillance experts drawn from relevant offices of Dire Dawa administrative region, Harari Regional State, and East Hararghe zone as well as Hararghe Catholic Secretariat (HCS) in Dire Dawa town. Major packages of the training included basic concepts of micro-biological quality of water, water quality surveillance, physico chemical properties of water, sanitary inspection and disinfection of water supply system as well as interpretation of bacteriological examination of water.

Cherinet and colleagues in class

During the course of the two-day training Cherinet was one of the active trainees always keen to learn from others and master each component of the lessons.

To Cherinet the issue of water is close to his heart. ‘I grew up in a rural village around Kulubi just 50 kilometers from here, where getting enough water is considered a luxury. During my childhood days fetching water from distant places for the household has been a daily routine for me and my brother’ he recounts. During those days he says ‘beyond getting the water itself nobody cared about quality’.

Unlike those days Cherinet now tries to give due attention to the quality of water as much as its availability. According to Cherinet though his office believes in the importance of water quality testing; limited resources and trained human power are hampering its implementation across all water facilities. Trainings such as this one are crucial in filling these gaps.

Beside the theoretical lessons, the trainees were taken to operational water facilities allowing them to do the tests by themselves. One of these facilities happened to be Jelo-Belina Spring which was built by Cherinet‚Äôs supervision a year ago. ‘I am happy that they endorsed my recommendation to come here and do the exercise on the facility I was involved very much’, he indicated.

Cherinet at water point

The findings of the group however proved the existence of Coliform bacteria at Jelo-Belina Spring – the water point where Cherinet had a hand in its construction. Following the report Cherinet responded that the finding inspires him to do more tests on other facilities as well. Reflecting on the possible sources of contamination, Cherinet noted the existence of public toilet close to the facility as well as people doing laundry on the facility itself.

What moved Cherinet more was what happened at the closing of the training. The joint project of RiPPLE and Water Board named “From Single Use to Multiple Use of Rainwater Harvesting Schemes in Eastern Ethiopia’ provided water quality test kits to his office and three other institutions represented in the training.

The portable kits are essential in microbiological water monitoring through detection of indicator organisms for e coli, cholera, salmonella and other faecal water borne pathogens. Their contribution is significant in remote locations to provide information about the safety of water supplies where laboratory facilities do not exist.

Cherinet with package

Carrying the pack housing the kits, Cherinet reiterated ‘From now on I will stop speculating and use the kit for precise results’.

Solomon Kebede is Media and Communications Officer at RiPPLE