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Water 2019, 11(4), 800; (registering DOI)

Informally Vended Sachet Water: Handling Practices and Microbial Water Quality

College of Medicine, University of Malawi, Private Bag 360, Chichiri, Blantyre 3, Malawi
Department of Environmental Health, University of Malawi, The Polytechnic, Private Bag 303, Chichiri, Blantyre 3, Malawi
Department of Sanitation, Water, and Solid Waste for Development, Eawag: Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, Ueberlandstrasse 133, 8600 Duebendorf, Switzerland
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 4 March 2019 / Revised: 6 April 2019 / Accepted: 7 April 2019 / Published: 17 April 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene in Humanitarian Contexts)
PDF [424 KB, uploaded 17 April 2019]


Informally vended water is an important source of water for marginalized people who do not have access to formal or public sources. In Malawi, hand-tied sachets of water are common but not regulated, and the quality of the water and hygienic practices during packaging are unclear. We analyzed microbial concentrations in the source water (origin), internal water (packaged) and on the external surface (plastic bag) of sachets from 76 vendors operating in the busy Mwanza crossing into Malawi from Mozambique. The results indicated that the majority (75%) of the water sources met the WHO guidelines (<1 CFU/100 mL) for potable water, while only 38% of the water inside packages met this guideline, indicating a sharp increase in contamination due to packaging and handling practices. The external surface was highly contaminated and is the point of contact between the consumer’s mouth and the liquid within; furthermore, external contamination was a strong and significant predictor of internal contamination. We advise against strict enforcement that would limit access to this important drinking water source, but recommend hygiene education for vendors that focuses on filling and storage, refrigeration and especially ensuring sanitary coolers from which the bags are sold in order to limit re-contamination during handling.
Keywords: drinking water; informal business; sustainable development goals; Malawi; Africa; access; hygiene drinking water; informal business; sustainable development goals; Malawi; Africa; access; hygiene
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Manjaya, D.; Tilley, E.; Marks, S.J. Informally Vended Sachet Water: Handling Practices and Microbial Water Quality. Water 2019, 11, 800.

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