Water Related Diseases

Water is essential for life. Unfortunately, few people in developing countries have access to clean water. This section provides web and book resources on common water-related diseases.


Understanding how infections are transmitted will provide insight to how to protect from water-related diseases Caissons (1) identifies four main transmission routes of water-related diseases: water-borne, water-washed, water-based and water-related insect vector (p5). The table below provides information on four common water-related diseases and the routes of transmission.


Community members must be educated on avoidance practices, or hygiene, after identifying transmission routes and physical aliments of water-related diseases. This step may be the most important part of a project.


Standing water is common throughout the streets of Cite Soleil, Haiti (1999)



Water-Related Diseases: Transmission and Control

adapted from Cairncross and Feachem (Tables 1.1, 1.2)

Transmission Route




Water borne (or washed)

- Cholera

- Typhoid

- Dysenteries

Drinking faecal material

Improve water quality

Water washed

- Skin and eye infections

- Louse borne typhus

Lack of water for proper hygiene

- Increase water, accessibility and reliability

- Improve hygiene practices

Water based

- Schistosomiasis (penetrating skin)

- Guinea worm (ingested)

- Pathogen requires aquatic envt for part of life cycle

- Eating insufficiently cooked aquatic species

- Control snail populations

- Reduce surface water contamination

Water related insect vector

- Sleeping sickness

- Filariasis

- malaria

Insects that bite or breed near water

- Destroy breeding sites

- Use mosquito netting



* Web Links

      Arsenic in drinking water - www.thewaterpage.com/fluoride

       Fluoride in drinking water - www.thewaterpage.com/arsenic

       Water for Health brochure by the World Health Organization

       Water Partners Water Factsheet

       Water supply, Sanitation and Hygiene Links to Health

       WELL Factsheet: Health and Sanitation

      WHO Information Sheets


* Books

Health Resources

  1. Cairncross S, Feachem RG. Environmental Health Engineering:, 2nd edition. John & Wiley Sons, Chichester: 1983. Infectious diseases (3-20), Water chemistry (21-27), Water quality standards (29-43), Environmental Modifications (217-272), Checklist of water-related diseases (285-290)
  2. Saunders RJ, Warford JJ. Village Water Supply: Economics and Policy in the Developing World. The John Hopkins University Press, Maryland: 1976. 31-52, 205-226


Technical Resources for Water Related Diseases

  1. Fernando, Vijita. Energy and Environment Technology Source Books: Water Supply. Intermediate Technologies. London: 1996. One chapter is dedicated to water purification (44-49), but hygiene is theme carried throughout the text.
  2. Schultz CR, Okun DA. Surface Water Treatment for Communities in Developing Countries. John Wiley & Sons. New York: 1984. The authors discuss basic and advanced water treatment. Appendices are useful, including Simplified Procedures for Water Quality Analysis (Appendix E)
  3. Water Engineering and Development Center (WEDC). The Worth of Water: technical briefs on heath, water and sanitation. IT Publications. London, UK: 1991. Health, Water, Sanitation (69-72, 77-80), Drainage for Improved Health (129-132)


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