Safe drinking water for rural Malawi

  • Taylor, Huw (PI)
  • Ebdon, James (CoI)
  • Chavula, Geoffrey (PI)
  • Kapudzama, Owen (CoI)
  • Tauzie, Blessius (CoI)
  • Pinfold, John (PI)

Project Details


In 2009-11 in Malawi, 1,000 children under five years of age were dying from water-related illnesses every month, but by improving drinking water and sanitation, it was known that these diseases could be reduced by nearly 90 per cent. Scientists from the University of Brighton, in collaboration with the University of Malawi, were commissioned by UNICEF to investigate options for the provision of safe water in rural Malawi.

The project combined Malawian geotechnical expertise and local knowledge, with UK water quality expertise to train Malawian team members and embed technical knowledge at a local level. The project offers a valuable ‘blueprint’ for new ways to reduce excreta-related disease associated with water supply and sanitation.

This project aimed to assess the influence water-point design, proximity to sanitary sources, and rainfall on the provision of ‘safe drinking water’ in rural Malawi and identified the conditions that could achieve this.

Key findings

The research prompted the launch of a National Water Safety Strategy for Malawi in November 2012 and led the UK-based NGOs Pump Aid and WaterAid to improve the quality of drinking water supplied to rural Malawians.

In December 2012, the UK-based NGO Pump Aid made significant changes to its provision of water-supply technology in Malawi as a direct result of the team’s report. The research led the NGO to improve standards, implement more rigorous quality management, and to employ additional staff to raise community awareness of the issues raised by the our research. This has already resulted in the improved design and siting of 300 new shallow wells in Malawi during 2013 (with 1,500 to be commissioned by the end of 2015, serving a population of 180,000 people).

The research in Malawi also led the NGO WaterAid to review its approach to water-quality testing in the country using the model developed by Professor Huw Taylor.


Influencing the international scientific community through citation in a high impact global review paper in journal PLOS Medicine (Bain et al., 2014).

Taylor H, Ebdon J, Phillips R, Chavula G, Kapudzama O (2012) Assessment of drinking water quality for low-cost water options in rural Malawi. Brighton, UK: University of Brighton. UNICEF Report.

Ebdon, J.E.,Taylor, H.D., Phillips, R., Chavula, G., Kapudzama, O., Pinfold, J., Tauzie, B. (2013). A microbiological assessment of low-cost water supply options in rural Malawi. IWA Water Micro 2013, Florianopolis, Brazil.
Effective start/end date1/01/1231/12/14


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