A comparative review of water disinfection methods appropriate for developing countries and their efficacy, cost-efficiency, and usability

Gary W Fuqua, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Developing countries are heavily burdened by limited access to safe drinking water and subsequent water-related diseases. Numerous water treatment interventions combat this public health crisis, encompassing both traditional and less-common methods. Of these, water disinfection serves as an important means to provide safe drinking water. Existing literature discusses a wide range of traditional treatment options and encourages the use of multi-barrier approaches including coagulation-flocculation, filtration, and disinfection. Most sources do not delve into approaches specifically appropriate for developing countries, nor do they exclusively examine water disinfection methods. The objective of this review is to focus on an extensive range of chemical, physio-chemical, and physical water disinfection techniques to provide a compilation, description and evaluation of options available. Such an objective provides further understanding and knowledge to better inform water treatment interventions and explores alternate means of water disinfection appropriate for developing countries. Appropriateness for developing countries corresponds to the effectiveness of an available, easy to use disinfection technique at providing safe drinking water at a low cost. Among chemical disinfectants, SWS sodium hypochlorite solution is preferred over sodium hypochlorite bleach due to consistent concentrations. Tablet forms are highly recommended chemical disinfectants because they are effective and very easy to use, but also because they are stable. Examples include sodium dichloroisocyanurate, calcium hypochlorite, and chlorine dioxide, which vary in cost depending on location and availability. Among physio-chemical disinfection options, electrolysis which produces mixed oxidants (MIOX) provides a highly effective disinfection option with a higher upfront cost but very low cost over the long term. Among physical disinfection options, solar disinfection (SODIS) applications are effective, but they treat only a fixed volume of water at a time. They come with higher initial costs but very low on-going costs. Additional effective disinfection techniques may be suitable depending on the location, availability and cost.

Subject Area

Environmental Health|Public health

Recommended Citation

Fuqua, Gary W, "A comparative review of water disinfection methods appropriate for developing countries and their efficacy, cost-efficiency, and usability" (2010). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI1479579.