Water Scarcity and Challenges for Access to Safe Water: A Case of Bangladesh's Coastal Area Vulnerable to Climate Change

Mohammad Radwanur Rahman Talukder, Shannon Rutherford, Khairul Islam, Cordia Chu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Existing efforts to ensure safe water access in coastal Bangladesh are challenged by increasing freshwater salinity. This research explored/explores safe water consumption choices in coastal Bangladesh, which data are scarce to date, using a mixed-methods approach. In 2014, a cross-sectional survey was conducted in southwestern coastal Bangladesh (n=261) and data was generated on water supply and consumption. Data collection also involved 29 in-depth interviews of household care givers and focus group discussions were performed with three community groups. Descriptive statistics were applied to analyse quantitative data and thematic analysis was used for qualitative data. The survey showed that 60% of the study population used tube well water while 40% used pond water for drinking. It was observed that for cooking purposes, the use of pond water was slightly higher than the tube well water. Only 13% of the respondents mentioned that their drinking water tasted salty whereas 6% of the respondents reported health problem (diarrhoea, dysentery, gastric issues and skin problems) after using these water sources. The qualitative data reveals that water available for drinking and cooking is causing a serious threat to this coastal community, particularly during the dry season. In-depth assessments indicated that drinking water choices were less driven by concerns for health than practical issues such as travel distance and time taken and taste. The palatability of water was an important determinant of choice for drinking and other domestic uses. Furthermore, the utility of alternative options for safe drinking water is driven by beliefs and traditions and source maintenance. Given the increasing salinisation of freshwaters in many low-lying countries and likely exacerbation related to climate change-induced sea level rise, therefore, promotion of low saline drinking water along with salt reducing interventions consider that community beliefs and practices must be a made priority.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalAsian Journal of Water, Environment and Pollution
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020
Externally publishedYes


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