Primary school children in the developing world often lack potable water, which may result in a high burden of water-related diseases and poor school performance. The present study aimed to characterize the drinking water quality in primary schools of Pakistan. We used a multistage random-sampling method to select 425 primary schools from selected districts of Sindh province. Standard methods were used to characterize water quality. The results were compared with maximum acceptable values recommended by the Pakistani National Environmental Quality Standards (Pak NEQS) and the World Health Organization (WHO) drinking water quality standards. Groundwater (62%) and surface water (38%) were identified as two major drinking water sources in the selected schools with varying levels of water quality. Among all parameters, dissolved oxygen (DO), pH, and nitrate remained within WHO and Pak NEQS water quality standard limit, while total dissolved solids (TDS) (33%), electrical conductivity (EC) (46%), chloride (34%), turbidity (27%), and hardness (11%) samples exceeded standard limits. All dissolved salts had moderate to strong positive correlations with TDS and EC values. Based on a water quality index (WQI), 74% of primary schools had access to excellent or good quality drinking water compared to 26% of schools that had access to either poor, very poor or unsuitable drinking water. Among all three regions, more schools from South Sindh had either poor, very poor or unsuitable drinking water (33%) compared to the Central (25%) and North zones (15%). Hence, water from these locations is unfit for human consumption and these schools need better water quality management plans to stop the spread of water-related diseases in primary school children.
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