Deficiencies in drinking water distribution systems in developing countries

Ellen J. Lee, Kellogg J. Schwab

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

170 Scopus citations


Rapidly growing populations and migration to urban areas in developing countries has resulted in a vital need for the establishment of centralized water systems to disseminate potable water to residents. Protected source water and modern, well-maintained drinking water treatment plants can provide water adequate for human consumption. However, ageing, stressed or poorly maintained distribution systems can cause the quality of piped drinking water to deteriorate below acceptable levels and pose serious health risks. This review will outline distribution system deficiencies in developing countries caused by: the failure to disinfect water or maintain a proper disinfection residual; low pipeline water pressure; intermittent service; excessive network leakages; corrosion of parts; inadequate sewage disposal; and inequitable pricing and usage of water. Through improved research, monitoring and surveillance, increased understanding of distribution system deficiencies may focus limited resources on key areas in an effort to improve public health and decrease global disease burden.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)109-127
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Water and Health
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2005


  • Developing countries
  • Diarrhoeal disease
  • Distribution system
  • Potable water

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases


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