The Role of Drainage Systems in Sanitation-Related Outbreaks


For a safe and productive life, adequate sanitation is imperative. Poor sanitation has recorded exceedingly high rates of infections leading to death. Research reveals that when sanitation is improved in areas with malfunctioning sanitation, diarrheal mortality reduces by 36%. Notably, safety guidelines have been set up to manage wastewater and sewage sludges to reduce the risk of exposure to infections.

Such measures include the introduction of curative drugs like antibiotics that cure water-borne infections, reducing the rate of mortality. This has however proved insufficient as bacteria and other disease-causing organisms develop resistance. This resistance is attributed to the misuse of antibiotics by the agricultural and health industries. As such, sanitation-related outbreaks are yet to be fully managed.

One of the neglected aspects of sanitation-related outbreaks is the need to investigate and address sanitation systems after they have been installed. Inadequate sanitation and maintenance cause sanitation-related outbreaks even when a sewer system exists, but, most of these go unnoticed. That said, this article seeks to explore various risks associated with drainage systems, therefore exposing the risk that faces the community when sewer systems are not maintained.

The Relationship Between Drainage, Water Management, and Community Health

Wastewater contains harmful microorganisms and even when treated, may form breeding grounds for other harmful pests. That said, proper subsurface and surface drainage are vital in controlling waterborne outbreaks. It should be timely, and efficient to remove all traces of stagnated water. This eliminates the chances of harboring harmful organisms. This is referred to as water management and it is critical in maintaining community health.

To understand the health implications of poor drainage and water management, here are 3 broad categories of associated issues:

  • Water-Related Vector-Borne Diseases

They are caused by transmitting organisms known as vectors, which include parasites, viruses, and bacteria. These organisms live either in the water or near the aquatic zone where the drainage system is located. Different drainage systems harbor different kinds of organisms depending on the quality and quantity of water, the number of intermediate hosts, and the type and frequency of human-water contacts.

This means that though you may have unsanitary drainage systems around your premises, it does not necessarily imply that all parasites and vectors will be found there. Some other factors like the presence of permanent open water surfaces and accessibility to the population determine the risk of infection, therefore informing the design of water treatment systems. Diseases that are caused by vectors include malaria and lymphatic filariasis caused by mosquitoes, which breed in stagnated water, and schistosomiasis caused by aquatic and semi-aquatic snails.

  • Fecal/ Orally Transmitted Diseases

These are diseases that are transmitted from one person to another through water, particularly surface and subsurface water because of insufficient drainage systems. Most of these are found in areas where people have access to water for swimming, fishing, bathing, washing, and even drinking in extremely unsanitary zones. When people meet contaminated water, therefore, they fall ill. Some of these diseases include non-bacterial diseases like hepatitis A, bacterial ones like typhoid and cholera, soil-transmitted organisms like hookworms, and even tapeworms from animals.

  • Chronic Health Issues Related to Exposure to Residues of Agrochemicals.

This health risk continues to gain precedence in our society, yet few are talking about it. As intensive agriculture grows popular, more farmers are employing the use of agrochemicals. Furthermore, the reuse of drainage water that has surface runoff containing a lot of chemicals such as insecticides and herbicides contaminates water. This water is consumed by our farm animals, fish, and sometimes may infill our piped domestic water. As such, heavy metals, phosphorous, and salts accumulate in our systems. It is therefore not shocking that the rate of cancer and toxin-related diseases is on the rise.

Winding Up

Although the installation of pipes and intricate sewer systems improves sanitation by a wide margin and reduces the risk of infection, more needs to be done. Drainage systems need regular inspection and maintenance, to reduce the risk of disease outbreaks in the community. Failure to do this poses a threat to the community as well as healthcare as multi-resistance organisms continue to cause unpredictable infections.

Apart from lack of maintenance, the issue of misuse of drainage systems resulting in their damage must stop. From drainage canals in irrigation systems, road drainage ditches, culverts, and many more, people must be cognizant of the need to use the systems properly. Poor disposal of trash for example, in the urban environment, has far-reaching effects than simply clogging a drainage channel.

If we want to start a revolution and kick out all water-related issues, not only does the government need to employ better drainage system strategies, but the public needs to tag along. It needs to be a joint effort between the masses, the policymakers, and contractors. That way, we can curb water-borne diseases which are proving to be a growing health problem.




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