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Low cost water test for developing countries - a preparatory study

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New, cheap and easy water quality testing in a kit

Water quality testing has, until now, required sophisticated laboratory facilities but work by a European project stands to change this. Development of a low-cost test kit is underway which can be operated without electricity and by members of the community.

Industrial Technologies

Water-borne disease is the cause of some 1.8 million deaths per year. Poor water quality can arise in developing countries through unsanitary conditions or after natural disasters. Normally, water samples must be sent to well equipped laboratories over some distance – an expensive and often lengthy procedure. There is therefore a pressing need for low-cost, portable, water quality testing equipment for areas low in resources and disaster-stricken areas. The EU-funded project 'Low cost water test for developing countries - a preparatory study' (Aquatest) conducted research to develop a water testing system with software that can be operated in emergency situations. Operation of the kit relies on a selective growth medium for the bacterium Escherichia coli (E. Coli) which must be incubated for only 24 hours with a sample of the water. Depending on the level of contamination, a number of chambers in the small plastic device light up. An ultraviolet (UV) battery-powered torch supplied with the kit measures the number of positive chambers. The life of the AA batteries is estimated to be up to five years. The Water Quality Reporter is an application that can be used with most mobile phones. This transmits the information to a central database for recording and storage purposes. Importantly for remote areas, the contaminated water warning can be transmitted to neighbouring villages that are also dependent on this water supply. Aquatest anticipate that the kit will be ready for commercial use in the near future after further testing. Further information can be obtained from the Aquatest website where interested parties can sign up for the newsletter and be informed of further progress on development of the testing kit.

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