70% of Indonesia's Drinking Water Contaminated with Faeces, according to UNICEF

70% of Drinking Water Sources Tainted with Fecal Waste, Fueling Deadly Diseases in Children

Written by Rika Andini

Shocking facts in Indonesia that often go unnoticed. A recent study has uncovered that a staggering 70% of the 20,000 household drinking water sources tested in Indonesia have been found to be contaminated with faecal waste.1 This pollution not only poses a significant health risk to the population, but also facilitates the spread of diarrheal diseases, which have become the leading cause of death in children under the age of 5.

An estimated 829,000 people die every year due to unsafe drinking water, poor sanitation, and inadequate hand hygiene practices. This preventable disease causes an excessive loss of life, especially among children under 5 years old, as it is estimated that 297,000 of these deaths could be avoided through proper hygiene and sanitation measures. Access to clean water is crucial for handwashing and preventing the spread of diseases such as diarrhea, as without it, people may prioritize other necessities over this important health practice. The World Health Organization (WHO) emphasizes the importance of addressing these risk factors to save lives and improve public health globally.2

According to a report by UNICEF, a staggering 25 million people in Indonesia do not have access to proper sanitation facilities and resort to open defecation.3 This practice of defecating in open spaces like fields, bushes, forests, ditches, roads, rivers, and other open spaces is not only an infringement on human dignity but also a major health hazard. The lack of proper sanitation facilities puts the health of children and the entire society at risk, making it imperative to address this issue with urgency.

When people practice open defecation, human feces can contaminate water sources, such as rivers and groundwater, spreading harmful pathogens and increasing the risk of waterborne diseases. Similarly, untreated wastewater, which often contains disease-causing bacteria and viruses, can also contaminate water supplies, leading to the spread of illnesses like cholera and other diarrheal diseases. These diseases can cause severe dehydration and even death, particularly in vulnerable populations such as children and the elderly.

It is important to note that feces, also known as waste products, are the materials that are eliminated from the digestive tract and excreted outside of the body. These materials consist of undigested food, bacteria, and metabolic waste, and play a significant role in maintaining the health of the digestive system. However, when feces are present in drinking water, it becomes a major health concern as it can lead to the spread of various waterborne diseases and infections. The presence of feces in drinking water can be a result of poor sanitation systems, open defecation, and contaminated sources of water. It is crucial to ensure that proper sanitation measures are in place to prevent the contamination of drinking water with feces.

Bacterial viruses are highly contagious and can spread easily if proper sanitation measures are not in place. The WHO has shown that the path of these diseases can enter the human body through various means, such as contaminated fingers, flies landing on food or soil, liquids, and food. This highlights the importance of managing sanitation properly to prevent the spread of these viruses. When proper sanitation is not maintained, pollution can occur anywhere, putting communities at risk for waterborne diseases. Maraita Listyasari emphasizes the importance of managing sanitation to prevent the spread of these diseases and to protect public health. Proper hygiene practices and clean water sources can help to prevent the spread of these viruses and protect communities from the harmful effects of water pollution.4

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Identifying the Tell-Tale Signs of Fecal Polluted Drinking Water

Consumption of water contaminated with feces can have serious health consequences, particularly the onset of diarrhea. While it may seem like a minor illness, diarrhea can be a leading cause of death for young children. To protect the health of you and your loved ones, it is crucial to be able to identify the characteristics of water contaminated with feces or other contaminants.5

Water has an odor

Gathering information from various sources, it is widely recognized that water contaminated with feces usually has an odor similar to that of sulfur. This odor is a tell-tale sign of the presence of fecal matter and other contaminants in the water, and should be taken as a warning that the water is not safe for consumption. In addition to the odor of sulfur, it is also important to be cautious if the water has a strong chlorine odor. While chlorine is used to kill germs and disinfect water, a strong chlorine odor may indicate that the level of chlorine in the water is too high, making it unsuitable for consumption. High levels of chlorine can cause health problems and have an unpleasant taste, so it is important to seek alternative sources of drinking water if you detect a strong chlorine odor.

Murky water

Drinking water should be clear and without color. If the water appears cloudy or is colored, this is a sign that the water contains contaminants. Contaminants can enter the water when it washes away dirt, mud, or rust, and they can also enter the water as a result of a septic tank that is too close to a water source. When contaminants enter the water, they can include harmful substances, such as bacteria and viruses, as well as chemicals and pollutants. Feces contamination can occur when the septic tank is too close to a water source, allowing the contents of the septic tank to enter the water. Fecal matter can contain harmful bacteria and viruses that can cause serious health problems, such as gastrointestinal illness, if ingested.


Sediments are a common occurrence in water sources, especially those that are sourced from underground wells. These particles are often carried along with the water and can settle at the bottom of reservoirs or containers, causing them to become visible. However, if groundwater is properly managed and treated, it is possible to eliminate the presence of sediment in drinking water. Proper treatment methods include filtering and settling, which removes any particles that might be present in the water. Drinking water should always be free of sediment, as it can affect the taste, appearance, and overall quality of the water. In addition, the presence of sediment in drinking water can also indicate other issues with the water source or treatment process, making it important to address them promptly.

Water has taste

The water should be neutral in flavor and not have any unusual tastes or odors. If you find that the water you are drinking has an unusual taste, such as a metallic, oily, bitter, or fishy taste, it is a clear indication that the water is contaminated. Contaminants such as feces, chemicals, minerals, or pollutants can cause the water to have a different taste, making it unsafe to drink. It is important to address any changes in the taste of your drinking water as soon as possible by contacting your local water authority or consulting a water specialist. Drinking contaminated water can lead to serious health problems and should be avoided.

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6 Efforts to Tackle Fecal Contaminated Water

Improved Sanitation Systems

The installation of proper and effective sanitation systems is a critical step in reducing fecal contamination of water sources. This can take many forms, including the construction of new sewage treatment plants, as well as the improvement and upgrading of existing systems. The goal of these efforts is to ensure that all wastewater is properly treated and disposed of, reducing the risk of fecal contamination and the spread of waterborne diseases. In addition to constructing new facilities, the maintenance and upkeep of existing systems is also essential. 


This includes regular monitoring and testing to ensure that systems are functioning effectively and to identify any areas for improvement. The implementation of effective sanitation systems is crucial for improving public health and ensuring access to clean and safe drinking water for all.

Awareness Campaigns

Raising awareness about the dangers of fecal contaminated water and the importance of proper hygiene and sanitation practices is a crucial aspect of reducing the spread of waterborne diseases. This can be achieved through a variety of means, including educational campaigns, community outreach, and media initiatives.


 By educating communities about the health risks associated with fecal contaminated water, and the steps that can be taken to prevent its spread, individuals can become more conscious of the importance of good hygiene and sanitation practices. This includes handwashing, proper disposal of human waste, and the use of safe and clean drinking water. In addition, by raising awareness about the issue of fecal contaminated water, communities can become more involved in efforts to address this problem, and take an active role in improving public health.

Proper Septic Tank Management

The placement of septic tanks is particularly important, as they can be a significant source of fecal contamination if not properly managed. To minimize the risk of contamination, septic tanks should be positioned away from residential areas and sensitive water sources. In addition, proper maintenance of septic tanks is essential in ensuring that they are functioning effectively and reducing the risk of contamination. This can include regular inspections and cleaning, as well as the replacement of outdated or damaged tanks.

Access to Clean Water

The construction of water treatment facilities is essential in removing harmful contaminants, including fecal matter, from water sources, making it safe for drinking and other uses. In addition, the improvement of water distribution systems can help to ensure that clean water is accessible to all members of a community, reducing the risk of waterborne diseases. This can include the upgrading of existing systems, as well as the construction of new infrastructure, such as pipelines and water storage tanks.

Education and Training

Educating communities on the importance of handwashing, which is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of germs and bacteria. In addition, educational programs can provide communities with information on other hygiene practices, such as the proper disposal of human waste and the use of safe and clean drinking water.


These educational programs can be delivered through a variety of channels, including schools, community centers, and media initiatives. By providing communities with the knowledge and skills they need to maintain good hygiene practices, they can help to prevent the spread of fecal contamination and waterborne diseases. 

Monitoring and Testing

By detecting the presence of fecal contamination early, it is possible to take prompt and effective action to prevent its spread and minimize health risks to communities. In addition, regular monitoring and testing can help to identify trends in water quality over time, allowing authorities to track changes and make adjustments as needed to maintain safe and clean water sources. 

Regular monitoring and testing of water sources is also essential in detecting and preventing potential health risks to communities, as well as ensuring that water treatment facilities are functioning effectively.

In conclusion, addressing fecally contaminated water is an essential component of improving public health and reducing the spread of waterborne diseases. By taking a comprehensive approach that includes measures such as improving sanitation systems, raising awareness about hygiene practices, providing clean and safe drinking water, and regular monitoring and testing of water sources, communities can help to protect themselves and future generations from the dangers of waterborne diseases. It is important that everyone, from individuals to government authorities, plays their part in making an effort to address fecal contamination and improve water quality. By working together, communities can create a safer and healthier future for all.

Tirta Murni Nusantara

Jalan Penestanan, Sayan,

Kecamatan Ubud, Kabupaten Gianyar, 80571

+ 62 821 4645 0217


AHU-0020799.AH.01.04 Tahun 2022

Berita Negara No 080 Tahun 2022

Akta Notaris
no 09, 30 September 2022

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