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Passive In-Line Chlorination for Drinking Water Disinfection: A Critical Review

The world is not on track to meet Sustainable Development Goal 6.1 to provide universal access to safely managed drinking water by 2030. Removal of priority microbial contaminants by disinfection is one aspect of ensuring water is safely managed. Passive chlorination (also called in-line chlorination) represents one approach to disinfecting drinking water before or at the point of collection (POC), without requiring daily user input or electricity. In contrast to manual household chlorination methods typically implemented at the point of use (POU), passive chlorinators can reduce the user burden for chlorine dosing and enable treatment at scales ranging from communities to small municipalities. In this review, we synthesized evidence from 27 evaluations of passive chlorinators (in 19 articles, 3 NGO reports, and 5 theses) conducted across 16 countries in communities, schools, health care facilities, and refugee camps. Of the 27 passive chlorinators we identified, the majority (22/27) were solid tablet or granular chlorine dosers, and the remaining devices were liquid chlorine dosers. We identified the following research priorities to address existing barriers to scaled deployment of passive chlorinators: (i) strengthening local chlorine supply chains through decentralized liquid chlorine production, (ii) validating context-specific business models and financial sustainability, (iii) leveraging remote monitoring and sensing tools to monitor real-time chlorine levels and potential system failures, and (iv) designing handpump-compatible passive chlorinators to serve the many communities reliant on handpumps as a primary drinking water source. We also propose a set of reporting indicators for future studies to facilitate standardized evaluations of the technical performance and financial sustainability of passive chlorinators. In addition, we discuss the limitations of chlorine-based disinfection and recognize the importance of addressing chemical contamination in drinking water supplies. Passive chlorinators deployed and managed at-scale have the potential to elevate the quality of existing accessible and available water services to meet “safely managed” requirements.

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