Purpose: The purposes of this study were to train the first class of food technology undergraduate students at Herat University (Herat City, Afghanistan) in basic water quality and safety laboratory techniques, while concurrently conducting a regional water assessment study.
Methods: A total of 236 water samples from private wells (n=128) and taps from the municipal water system (n=108) were collected from Herat Province, Afghanistan. Samples were aseptically collected, transferred, and analyzed at the Herat University Food Technology Laboratory. Nitrate, nitrite, lead, phosphate, and arsenic concentrations were determined by spectrophotometry and water hardness by titration. Coliform and generic Escherichia coli concentration were determined by filtration.
Results: We did not detect arsenic (0 of 236) in any of the samples. All samples tested for lead (n=28) were below EPA maximum contaminant levels (MCL) (ave. 3.2 µg/liter). In contrast, 28 of 233 samples had nitrate levels greater than the MCL (10mg/liter) and 15 of 235 samples had nitrite levels >300µg/liter. On average, well water was harder than tap water; there were no differences in phosphate levels. Further, 92 of 213 (43.2%) had detectable coliforms (ave. 19.3 CFU/100 ml) and 52 of 215 (24.2%) had detectable E. coli (ave. 28.6 CFU/100 ml). Escherichia coli was detected in 21.2% and 26.7% of tap and well water, respectively.
Significance: This study indicated clear needs for systematic analyses of Herat City water to develop plans for water quality improvement and management. Engaging the students in research projects teaches basic research and analytical skills needed in the economy to address endemic water and foodborne diseases.