Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Civil and Environmental Engineering

Major Professor

Qiong Zhang


community perception, life cycle assessment, Millennium Development Goals, sustainable development


Over the last twenty years or more, Uganda has benefitted from significant strides in water and sanitation initiated by the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals. While the rapid progress towards development has been vastly beneficial, it is also important that it does not occur at the expense of the environment. The environmental impacts of these water sources must be evaluated and understood. However, to develop a robust understanding of the impact requires inclusion of the community members who use these sources and their perceptions of them. Consequently, the goal of this research is to investigate the interrelationships between socioeconomic factors, water source features, and household water source and treatment choices, along with the associated environmental impacts of those choices.

This research focuses on two villages in Wakiso District, Uganda--Nalugala and Kitala and includes: (1) development and implementation of a country-specific survey of 200 households to gain qualitative and quantitative accounts of socioeconomic factors (e.g., education, gender of the head of household, number of household members), water source features (cost, convenience, quality, quantity of water) and community members' water supply choices; (2) statistical analysis to investigate any correlation between socioeconomic factors, water source features and household source choice; and (3) a life cycle assessment of each water source and treatment method used in the surveyed communities to highlight their associated environmental impacts.

Based on statistical findings, the water source features which are considered most significant to impacting household choice are convenience, visual water quality (turbidity), and cost. When inspecting socioeconomic factors using the Progress out of Poverty Index (PPI), no significant correlation was determined between the PPI levels and source choice. Consequently, the PPI was disaggregated to further analyze any significant correlations between socioeconomic indicators in the survey (social, economic, and educational) and water source choice. Three factors (i.e. gender of head of household, number of household members, and construction material of the house's external walls) were significantly correlated with the household's choice for their water source.

The combination of qualitative and quantitative survey data underscores the disconnection between community members' perceptions of water quality and the actual, laboratory-tested data. This notion (perception vs. reality) asserts itself because the treatment techniques that respondents use for local sources are based on their perceived ideas of water quality. The techniques sometimes contradict the theoretical treatment methods (based on water quality tests) needed to raise a source's water to potable standards.

A life cycle assessment (LCA) was conducted on each source and (1) the treatment methods community members most frequently used in comparison to (2) the theoretical treatment methods which would be necessary to raise each source to potable standards. Tap water was found to have the highest environmental impact based on actual community practices. Although it was tested to meet drinking water standards, community members boiled it, increasing its impacts in the categories of land use and global warming. On the other hand, rainwater and surface water had the highest impacts in the same categories (global warming and land use) based on the theoretical treatment which is required for the source water to be potable. The impact of the various fuel sources used to treat water by boiling was also evaluated. The greatest impact was for the use of propane gas followed by charcoal.