User-friendly water test kit

Published: Friday 31 October 2008

-- A team of international experts is working on a project to develop a low-cost, easy-to-use device for testing water quality. tom kendall talks to stephen gundry of the University of Bristol, the uk, who leads the initiative, Aquatest Project.

What's the Aquatest project?

The project aims to develop the world's first low-cost, easy-to-use device for testing water quality. We hope to deliver it by 2011 and make it available in 80 per cent of developing countries in the next 10 years. It will be user friendly. Technical knowledge will not be required to use or interpret data. We have set a manufacturing cost of 10 US cents for the device.

How will the device work?

The device will be a small, transparent, 100ml volume plastic cylinder, with multiple tubes. Along with the device, the kit will have a pack of reagents, sensitive to detect E coli, disposable gloves and a set of instructions. Water is collected in these tubes and the reagent is added. After 72 hours, the level of contamination can be detected from the number of chambers that change colour.

How is it different from existing tests?

who recognizes E coli as the best indicator of faecal contamination. But current E coli tests in the market are expensive and can only be used by trained professionals. Although there are lower-cost alternatives, such as the hydrogen sulphide test that is commonly used in India, there are doubts about its reliability.

Will local communities benefit from it?

Making the technology available to local communities will serve two purposes. One, it will raise awareness and encourage self-help. For example, communities may realize the need to protect local waterbodies from faecal contamination. Two, it will encourage remedial action through treatment of contaminated water before consumption in households. This will help reduce water-borne diseases.

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