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Intermittent Water Supply: Prevalence, Practice, and Microbial Water Quality

TitleIntermittent Water Supply: Prevalence, Practice, and Microbial Water Quality
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsKumpel E, Nelson KL
JournalEnvironmental Science & Technology
Start Page542

Intermittent water supplies (IWS), in which water is provided through pipes for only limited durations, serve at least 300 million people around the world. However, providing water intermittently can compromise water quality in the distribution system. In IWS systems, the pipes do not supply water for periods of time, supply periods are shortened, and pipes experience regular flow restarting and draining. These unique behaviors affect distribution system water quality in ways that are different than during normal operations in continuous water supplies (CWS). A better understanding of the influence of IWS on mechanisms causing contamination can help lead to incremental steps that protect water quality and minimize health risks. This review examines the status and nature of IWS practices throughout the world, the evidence of the effect of IWS on water quality, and how the typical contexts in which IWS systems often exist—low-income countries with under-resourced utilities and inadequate sanitation infrastructure—can exacerbate mechanisms causing contamination. We then highlight knowledge gaps for further research to improve our understanding of water quality in IWS.