An assessment of boiling as a method of household water treatment in South India

An assessment of boiling as a method of household water treatment in South India

Publication Year:
Juran, Luke; MacDonald, Morgan C.
Affiliated Orgs.:
Virginia Water Resources Research Center
Resource Type:
Journal Article
Boiling can be an effective method of household water treatment, but it may not always be practical or feasible for households due to cost and time constraints.
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Resource Information


This article scrutinizes the boiling of water in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, India. Boiling, as it is commonly practiced, improves water quality, but its full potential is not being realized. Thus, the objective is to refine the method in practice, promote acceptability, and foster the scalability of boiling and household water treatment (HWT) writ large. The study is based on bacteriological samples from 300 households and 80 public standposts, 14 focus group discussions (FGDs), and 74 household interviews. Collectively, the data fashion both an empirical and ethnographic understanding of boiling. The rate and efficacy of boiling, barriers to and caveats of its adoption, and recommendations for augmenting its practice are detailed. While boiling is scientifically proven to eliminate bacteria, data demonstrate that pragmatics inhibit their total destruction. Furthermore, data and the literature indicate that a range of cultural, economic, and ancillary health factors challenge the uptake of boiling. Fieldwork and resultant knowledge arrive at strategies for overcoming these impediments. The article concludes with recommendations for selecting, introducing, and scaling up HWT mechanisms. A place-based approach that can be sustained over the long-term is espoused, and prolonged exposure by the interveners coupled with meaningful participation of the target population is essential.

Resource Type

Journal Article

Publication Year



Juran, Luke; MacDonald, Morgan C.



Organizational Affiliation

Virginia Water Resources Research Center

Relevant Country


Specific Contaminants

Bacteria, Fecal coliform

University Affiliation

Griffith University Australia

Business Connect Takeaways

Boiling is a common method of household water treatment in low- and middle-income countries, but it is not always effective at reducing microbial contamination.
Factors such as water source, boiling time, and storage practices can affect the effectiveness of boiling as a water treatment method.
While boiling can be an effective method of water treatment when done correctly, it is not always feasible or sustainable in low-resource settings. Alternative methods, such as chlorination or filtration, may be more appropriate for some communities.

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