Water quality measurement in regions of poor sanitation

Lead Research Organisation: University of Birmingham
Department Name: Sch of Geography, Earth & Env Sciences

Abstract

Microbiological waterborne disease remains a significant concern for the world wide water community, as pathogens (from human and animal wastes) in drinking water sources (streams, wells) cause ill health. These issues disproportionately affect the poor in developing countries. For example, 1.1 billion people do not have access to safe drinking water supplies and 2.6 billion are without access to improved sanitation services. Conditions are most severe in sub-Saharan Africa where 42% of the population is without improved water and 64% are without improved sanitation. The UN Millennium Development Goals aim to halve the number of people without access to safe drinking water by 2015, as the global disease burden of water, sanitation and hygiene related diseases is approximately 82 million disability-adjusted life years (DALYs). This critical public health issue would benefit from improved detection methods. Obtaining standard counts of faecal coliforms takes in excess of 30 hours and needs skilled training and laboratory conditions for the preparation of samples. Consequently, their use is problematic and infrequent, even though rapid drinking water quality checks are essential to prevent rapid disease spread and death. Also, these techniques are beyond the reach of the poorest communities that are in urgent need of drinking water and sanitation improvements. We propose a novel and innovative solution to this problem by measuring drinking water fluorescence. All water fluoresces, although the insensitivity of the human eye to the appropriate wavelengths renders fluorescence invisible to us. However, off-the-shelf equipment can detect this fluorescence, and a large body of research has demonstrated that water fluorescence is particularly good at identifying faecal contamination (both human and animal). The focus of this proposal is derived from the widespread observation of intrinsic fluorescence emitted at 340-370 nm under excitation at either 220-240 nm or 270-280 nm in all types of faecal derived waters; commonly referred to as fluorescence peak T, or tryptophan-like fluorescence. We will develop a fluorescence sensor that will permit the real-time, hand held sensing of the microbiological quality of drinking water, particularly in areas of poor or no sanitation as widely found in developing countries and during disaster relief scenarios. Advantages of fluorescence screening of drinking water include rapid analysis time. Results are available in less than 1 minute, significantly improving on existing coliform count technology. The technique uses cheap, off-the-shelf equipment (fluorescence spectrophotometers) that is portable (from the back of 4x4 vehicles or temporary field labs). Finally, there is the ability to have both expert interpretation of results as well as simplified pictorial interpretation by non-experts in individual communities and therefore have capacity to involve poor water users themselves in the application of the technology. Stakeholder participation at all levels will be possible.
 
Description This study has built on previous research that used fluorescence to detect contamination water. Fluorescence data provided in this project reinforce the importance of this technique in detecting contamination. However, in the work reported here, by comparing the performance of two spectrophotometers in the assessment of bacterial contamination of water it has been shown that low levels of coliform and E. coli bacteria, (less than 100 per 100 mL), can be detected by simple led-based fluorimeters working at excitation / emission wavelength pair of 280 / 360 nm. Thus, the technique has the potential to provide a robust signal of bacterial contamination without the need for either expensive and time-consuming culture independent measurements (e.g. qPCR) or culture-dependent assay methods (e.g. MF). As a result, the technique is simple enough to be used by expert and non-expert stakeholders alike. Further work is now required to apply the relationships found in the field in regions of poor sanitation and, in particular, to demonstrate the robustness of the relationships shown here, the ruggedness of the equipment in extreme conditions, and the reliability of the technique in predicting the safety of drinking water.

The application of an LED-based portable fluorescence device has the potential to achieve instantaneous results for the microbial load of potable water at modest cost and using minimal equipment and consumables, without waiting for results from sample culturing, thus potentially meeting the WHOs' requirements for more frequent, less sophisticated testing in the field rather than irregular and infrequent but more comprehensive tests.
Exploitation Route The potential take-up for this technology is vast, as is the impact to be derived. e.g. 10,100 cholera-related deaths are forecast in Haiti as a result of drinking contaminated water following 2010's volcano event. Had fluorescence been available to provide immediate water quality analyses, ingestion of contaminated water could, to a degree, have been avoided, and so could a proportion of those deaths. The vast long-term potential impact of this technology is manifestly clear.

The work has generated huge interest amongst stakeholders and the press. The project has been covered by The Engineer magazine (readership 211,000) and CIWEM Business Briefing (readership 60,000). It has also been covered in The Birmingham Alumni magazine (readership 150,000). A presentation of the work was well-received at the Developments in Water Treatment & Supply conference and the IWEX 2011 trade show (the UK's leading event for water technology). Discussions are ongoing with NGOs and STS Instruments, and indications are that there will be significant, high impact dissemination activities and technology take-up as a result. The research team is making strenuous efforts to ensure maximum exposure and impact of the technology and results to all stakeholders.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Environment

 
Description The work has led to the refinement and further development of LED-based fluorescence technology.
First Year Of Impact 2011
Sector Environment
Impact Types Economic

 
Description Developments in water quality analysis for disaster relief and enhanced community prosperity
Amount £47,815 (GBP)
Organisation Diageo 
Sector Private
Country United Kingdom
Start 05/2016 
End 12/2016
 
Description Impact Acceleration Account
Amount £130,949 (GBP)
Organisation University of Birmingham 
Department University of Birmingham EPSRC Follow On Fund
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 06/2014 
End 09/2015
 
Description International deployment of rapid water quality analysis for enhanced community prosperity
Amount £28,301 (GBP)
Organisation University of Birmingham 
Department University of Birmingham EPSRC Follow On Fund
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 12/2016 
End 03/2017
 
Description STS 
Organisation Safe Training Systems Ltd
PI Contribution Research team provided validation and testing of STS instrument, SMF-4.
Collaborator Contribution Provision of instrument and technical support.
Impact Cumberland, S., Bridgeman, J., Baker, A., Sterling, M. and Ward, D., 2012, "Fluorescence spectroscopy as a tool for determining microbial quality in potable water applications", Environmental Technology, 33, 6, 687-693; doi 10.1080/09593330.2011.588401.
Start Year 2009
 
Description A new discovery in the fight against cholera 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Briefing article.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010
URL http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/news/thebirminghambrief/items/Cholera.aspx
 
Description Australian Companies Presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presentation to representatives from five Australian water companies.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Diageo Foundation 25 Year Impact Report Lauch Event 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Presentation of latest prototype of water quality analyser at the Diageo Foundation's launch of its 25 year report. This project was the only one selected for showcasing throughout the evening. Attendees included Diageo staff, NGOs and charities, including Wateraid and Care.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www.diageo.com/en-row/newsmedia/pages/resource.aspx?resourceid=3049
 
Description Filtration and Separation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Result of press release by University of Birmingham.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.filtsep.com/view/44267/birmingham-water-experts-develop-device-to-save-lives/
 
Description Finesse Control Systems ltd opportunities scoping 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Presentation and initial discussions around commercialisation of water quality device, possibly with production based in Malawi to stimulate local economy.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Fishermans Rest Presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact Presentation to Fisherman's Rest / FROM Wales. FROM Wales monitors borehole activity in more than 10,000 boreholes in Malawi and hopes to increase this to 40,000 over the next few years. The charity is interested in using the water quality device to monitor quality at those borehole sites.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Interview with Voice of America 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Interview given to Voice of America on need for rapid water quality analysis and how EPSRC funding has helped in the development of a novel device.

Voice of America (VOA) is the largest U.S. international broadcaster, providing news and information in more than 40 languages to an estimated weekly audience of 236.6 million people. VOA produces content for digital, television, and radio platforms. It is easily accessed via your mobile phone and on social media. It is also distributed by satellite, cable, FM and MW, and is carried on a network of more than 2300 affiliate stations. Thus, its reach is vast.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.voanews.com/a/new-device-tests-water-safety-in-seconds/3345158.html
 
Description Pioneer Article 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Article published in EPSRC Pioneer magazine.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://www.epsrc.ac.uk/newsevents/pubs/pioneer16/
 
Description Technology quenches thirst for safe water solution 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Magazine article - http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/Documents/alumni/6054BMag2011amended.pdf.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011
URL http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/Documents/alumni/6054BMag2011amended.pdf
 
Description University of Birmingham Press Release 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Press release from University of Birmingham Press Office generated significant interest and requests for further information. Story picked up and reported across at least 34 separate websites across the world, including the UK, United States of America, China, India, Canada, South Africa, Australia, Indonesia, Turkey, Cambodia.

http://wwtonline.co.uk/features/rapid-low-cost-water-quality-assessment-for-all
http://www.wateractive.co.uk/news/birmingham_water_experts_develop_device_to_save_lives
http://www.huaxunnsw.com/health/huanbao/146605450317634.html
http://www.eenaduindia.com/News/International/2016/05/17173545/UK-water-experts-develop-device-to-help-save-lives.vpf
http://www.noodls.com/view/733D317668E5681B386FB7302429AFFC876B2BF6
http://www.financialexpress.com/article/india-news/water-experts-develop-device-to-help-save-lives-in-india/257876/
http://www.publicnow.com/view/733D317668E5681B386FB7302429AFFC876B2BF6
http://www.indiablooms.com/ibns_new/health-details/S/1752/birmingham-water-experts-develop-device-to-help-save-lives-in-india.html
http://www.newkerala.com/news/2016/fullnews-64896.html
http://www.asianage.com/technomics/uk-water-experts-develop-device-save-lives-india-384
http://huntnews.in/p/detail/4253145791164409?uc_param_str=dnfrpfbivesscpgimibtbmntnijblauputoggdnw&pos=1463519022333&channel=tag_headlines&chncat=tags_english
http://www.business-standard.com/article/pti-stories/uk-water-experts-develop-device-to-help-save-lives-in-india-116051700838_1.html
http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/science/uk-water-experts-develop-device-to-help-save-lives-in-india/articleshow/52309997.cms
http://www.newindianexpress.com/world/UK-water-experts-develop-device-to-help-save-lives-in-India/2016/05/17/article3437664.ece
http://www.deccanherald.com/content/547001/uk-water-experts-develop-device.html
http://www.dailyexcelsior.com/uk-water-experts-develop-device-to-help-save-lives-in-india/
http://drdo.gov.in/drdo/pub/npc/2016/may/19May2016.pdf
http://www.gdepi.com/bencandy.php?fid=139&id=21753
http://northcoastcourier.co.za/60606/birmingham-water-experts-develop-life-saving-device/
http://www.voanews.com/content/new-device-tests-water-safety-in-seconds/3345158.html
http://www.filtsep.com/view/44267/birmingham-water-experts-develop-device-to-save-lives/
http://canmua.net/washington/new-device-tests-water-safety-in-seconds-841431.html
http://whatissaid.com/news_stories/health/2016/05/new-device-tests-water-safety-in-seconds_264545.html
http://www.internationaltravelnews.com/index.php/sid/244375237
http://www.torontotelegraph.com/index.php/sid/244375237
http://www.southsouthnews.com/all-news/voa/198-2015-05-27-15-49-38/health-voa/100806-new-device-tests-water-safety-in-seconds
http://www.worldandi.com/subscribers/searchdetail_headlines.asp?num=15643
http://workingwithwater.filtsep.com/view/44267/birmingham-water-experts-develop-device-to-save-lives/
http://www.newdelhitimes.com/new-device-tests-water-safety-in-seconds123/
http://www.cnnindonesia.com/gaya-hidup/20160526122334-255-133569/kualitas-air-kini-dapat-diuji-dalam-hitungan-detik/
http://www.sizehaber.com/haber/256664/ictiginiz-su-temiz-mi
http://www.risalehaber.com/ictiginiz-su-temiz-mi-272142h.htm
http://kampucheathmey.com/kpt/?p=288624
http://www.haberturk.com/saglik/haber/1246837-ictiginiz-su-temiz-mi
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/news/latest/2016/05/Birmingham-water-experts-develop-device-to-save-live...
 
Description Water quality measurement using fluorescence spectroscopy 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presentation to IWEX Trade Exhibition.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011