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LOw-cost innovative Technology for water quality monitoring and water resources management for Urban and rural water Systems in India

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A high-tech, low-cost way to monitor water contaminants

The LOTUS project uses carbon nanotube technology to offer real-time monitoring of water supplies, helping to prevent deadly outbreaks of waterborne disease.

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There are 746 million people living in India without adequate sanitation facilities. As a result, 37.7 million people are affected by waterborne diseases annually, and 500 children under five die from diarrheal diseases daily. “While clearly a health crisis, problems of water scarcity and quality also jeopardise the livelihoods of millions of people,” says Svetlana Klessova, G.A.C. Group, France, coordinator of the LOTUS research and innovation project, co-funded by the EU and India’s Department of Science and Technology. Rapid and accurate water quality monitoring has been identified as key to ensuring safe, high-quality drinking water for all in India. LOTUS has developed advanced sensor technology that allows potential contamination problems such as the presence of faecal bacteria to be detected quickly, cutting resolution time and any negative impacts that could affect people. “Our solution detects harmful substances in the water, giving authorities and communities the information needed to improve water quality and optimise its use,” explains Bérengère Lebental, lead researcher at Gustave Eiffel University in France. LOTUS’s device is currently being tested in drinking water pipes in India, and its installation in tankers is also planned.

Co-designed with communities

The project team first worked with citizens, suppliers and authorities to map the needs and challenges of local communities. The groups then worked together to co-design and implement bespoke solutions. “This collaboration helped us identify development of a low-cost portable water quality monitoring device as a priority. After community feedback, we iterated its design, ensuring its suitability for the local context and likelihood of adoption,” adds Senthilmurugan Subbiah, from the Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati (IITG). The resulting compact, portable and low-cost LOTUS sensor uses technology based on carbon nanotubes. It is able to sense a wide range of chemicals relevant to water quality, including common pollutants and treatment chemicals such as chlorine. When exposed to water, chemical compounds adsorb on the nanotubes, which can be tuned to react to specific chemical compounds. This changes their electrical resistance, allowing the concentration of the compound to be measured. The LOTUS system converts the sensors’ analogue signals into digital ones, which are processed and transmitted to the cloud-based data management. A user interface translates the measurements into actionable intelligence with user-friendly visualisation tools. Real-time monitoring allows immediate action to be taken when contamination is detected, whilst the storage of historical data facilitates trends analyses. “To facilitate its deployment throughout India, our solution provides wireless communication and, thanks to solar panels, autonomously powered sensors,” notes Lebental.

Sensor testing and pilot installations

The sensor was tested in a 40-metre-long water distribution network demonstrator in France, containing mains water with varying pH levels and chlorine concentrations. “The results have been encouraging, with the sensor demonstrating high accuracy in detecting active chlorine and pH level in a drinking water pipeline,” says Lebental. In partnership with communities, authorities and NGOs, the LOTUS sensors will undergo further trials in a test bench at the IITG. Afterwards, devices will be installed in the Guwahati city water distribution network to further demonstrate and validate the technology. The project also developed several software solutions around the LOTUS sensor for monitoring drinking water systems, managing fleets of tankers and water-saving in irrigation. In the tankers, LOTUS sensors will be at the heart of a chlorine-based water quality management system developed by project partner AUTARCON in Germany.

Ripples of global collaboration

Building global partnerships is an effective means to achieve some of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. This is reflected in the LOTUS project’s focus on technology transfer between Indian and European partners. The project has already shared the system’s technology with (Hydroscope Technology), an Indian start-up that will commercialise the technology, supported by project partners. “Thanks to its user-friendly interface and versatility across various water conditions, we are confident that our device, based on the LOTUS results, will not only benefit public health and safety but set a benchmark in water quality monitoring, of interest to other regions facing similar challenges,” remarks Sudhanshu Mishra, CEO at Hydroscope Technology, India. With regulatory approval, the technology will not only reach the market, but also contribute to Indian Government objectives, such as the Jal Jeevan Mission and the AMRUT programmes designed to improve rural and urban water and waste water infrastructures. Towards its end, the project team will engage with policymakers, alongside conducting educational and outreach activities. “Earning community trust by improving public water quality will help reduce the use of individual home purifiers, cutting overall costs, saving energy and reducing waste,” concludes Subbiah.


LOTUS, India, water quality, disease, pipe, tanker, monitoring, sensor, pollutants, irrigation, waste water

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