Value of good health: priceless

Story type
Case story

Thirty-eight-year-old Sarlamma of Kuchinnapallu village in Andhra Pradesh’s Guntur district was shocked when a water quality test of the bore well water that the entire village consumes showed a high level of contamination. “The test showed a high level of fluoride which, we were told, was detrimental to health,” she said. Later, when an RO plant was installed in the village by WaterAid India as part of its intervention to make safe drinking water accessible to all, Sarlamma—and the others—were relieved to see the water quality test passing it off as fit for consumption. “We now know that we are drinking safe water,” she said.

That the water they had been drinking was unsafe for consumption was not something that Sarlamma or the others in Kuchinnapallu village were aware of until a team of volunteers aided by WaterAid conducted the water quality test. But once the results were revealed, Sarlamma, who is also an SHG (self-help group) leader, said that things began to make sense. “For instance, people here would often suffer from health problems, like body aches, bone problems, and skin rashes. It was after the test that we understood that the contaminated bore well water was the reason behind this,” she said.

Control Panel

As the community was made aware of the importance of drinking safe quality water, an RO filter plant was installed in the village to make potable water accessible to all. “The RO water was first tested and we saw that unlike the bore well water, this was not contaminated, hence safe to drink,” Sarlamma said.

The RO plant has a capacity of filtering 1000 litres per hour, enough to suffice the village of 252 households. The responsibility for its maintenance and operation has been given to Sarlamma’s SHG. “The RO filter is a pay-and-use service and we charge INR 5 to fill a 20-litre can,” she said, “People now know that it is safe to drink the RO water, hence they come several times a day to fill water. The community is benefiting (from the filter) because it ensures their health and the Self Help Group is benefitting too. On average, we earn INR 300 a day.” People who use the RO filter have an electronic card that has to be swiped for payment on each usage.


Not all of the 252 households are however using the RO water service. “As of now, 126 households are using the RO water and the rest are still drinking the bore well water,” Sarlamma said, “Therefore we conduct door-to-door visits to make them aware of the harmful impact of consuming poor quality water—immediately and in the long-term.” This, she said, is making a difference as people are responding in a positive manner. The Self Help Group also conducts monthly meetings to discuss issues related to water.


“In addition to this, there is a “manager appointed to maintain the RO plant; he cleans it every day,” Sarlamma said, “Each day we take a stock of how many cards were used, how many cards recharged, what was the total earning. The RO plant is helping us earn as well as ensuring that we consume safe drinking water.”