IMAGINE: INNOVATIVE TECHNOLOGIES FOR RAPIDLY SURVEYING, MAPPING AND COMMUNICATING WATERBORNE HAZARDS

Lead Research Organisation: Newcastle University
Department Name: Sch of Engineering

Abstract

The United Nation's Sustainable Development Goal 6.1 seeks to achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all. While global access to improved drinking water sources has been expanding over the past decades, it is still lacking in many places, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. Furthermore, not all improved drinking water sources are safe. Water quality monitoring at the point of use is quintessential for the provision of safe water.
This project will develop innovative technologies for rapidly surveying, mapping and communicating waterborne hazards. Newcastle University in the UK will team up with Ardhi University in Tanzania, for the method development with subsequent field testing in Dar es Salaam, with the aim of establishing all methods and skills in the partner country Tanzania by the end of the project. The project will develop portable gene sequencing equipment as a versatile technology to comprehensively assess microbial water quality within a matter of hours. It will embed this molecular microbiological method with other field deployable methods for assessing water quality, including inexpensive screening methods, to derive cost effective and reliable surveying strategies.
The water quality assessment methods will be integrated with digital technologies for data storage in a remote database, and immediate data curation, interpretation and visualization, firstly to assist surveyors with their field work, and secondly to make surveying data accessible to the public. A hazard communication tool will be developed with location aware, multi-platform hazard maps, augmented by in-app links to a repository of contextual information, including health impacts, practical advice, observational metadata and WHO information. The development will be "mobile-first" such that designs fit a variety of mobiles and tablets. The use of CSS and modern browser technology will ensure that the same applications can be deployed automatically to multiple devices with the content being dynamically selected (or reduced) depending on the device capabilities.
The water quality surveying equipment and methods, together with the associated digital technologies, will be field-tested in four surveys of increasing complexity of different water sources in unplanned settlements in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. According to UNICEF, 46% of Tanzanians still lack access to improved drinking water sources. Waterborne diseases are endemic in Tanzania and a major disease burden, as evidenced by the major cholera outbreak in Dar es Salaam and other Tanzanian regions in the summer and autumn of 2015, which affected thousands of people. In this project, local stakeholders like the Dar es Salaam Water & Sewerage Authority, school teachers and community representatives will be engaged in the technology development and testing, helping in particular with the identification of context-appropriate, useful hazard communication methods. Multiple visual waterborne hazard display options will for example be scrutinized by these stakeholders to explore their social acceptability as well as easy interpretability and usefulness. Ardhi University researchers will assist with the translation of key contextual information into local languages.
The methods and technologies developed in this project will not only facilitate water quality monitoring and communication in low income countries like Tanzania, where waterborne diseases are a significant health burden, but they will also facilitate the emergency response to natural or human-made disasters such as major earthquakes, the displacement of people by conflicts, or terrorist attacks affecting water supplies.

Planned Impact

This proposal will develop new water quality monitoring methods and strategies and establish these tools and skills at Ardhi University in Tanzania. It will augment existing water, sanitation and hygiene research skills and capabilities at Ardhi University through the training of research staff in modern, molecular microbiology and the use of digital technologies for the automatic curation and interpretation and mapping of data, and through the testing of these innovative water quality surveying methods and strategies in four field surveys of increasing sophistication in unplanned settlements in Dar es Salaam. By the end of this project, seven young Tanzanian researchers, and two UK researchers will have been trained in waterborne hazard assessment, mapping and communication.
Building on the trust and links established with local stakeholders through previous research in Dar es Salaam, a waterborne hazard communication application will be developed to make water quality survey findings readily accessible and useful to the public. With three stakeholder workshops, representatives of the local water and sewerage authority, community representatives, and school teachers will be engaged in the appraisal of different formats and visual display options for making water quality data understandable to the public. The social acceptability and relative usefulness of different communication options will be scrutinized with the help of these stakeholders from early on in the project. The digital waterborne hazard maps developed in this project will include embedded links to repositories of contextual information such as practical advice and links to WHO guidance documents. Key messages will be translated into local languages by the Ardhi University researchers, and also be recorded as audio messages.
Downloadable open source applications and open access scientific publications will facilitate the take-up of our research outcomes by other users. With the help of digital technologies we will provide public access to our waterborne hazard maps and underpinning data. Publicly available waterborne hazard maps will help local authorities target their investments in improved water infrastructures, where these are the most urgently needed, and the data can be scrutinized and used by many others such as the health authorities, school teachers, epidemiologists, NGOs and by scientists for interdisciplinary research, thus multiplying the opportunities for discoveries and advancements. Our ultimate aim for impact is to assist deprived communities living in unplanned settlements in Dar es Salaam, and elsewhere, with making life-saving decisions in their daily life about which water source to use for which purpose (i.e. drinking and food preparation versus household cleaning). Mobile device usage is rapidly expanding in low income countries, and Dar es Salaam as well as other East African cities have the ambition to provide free wireless internet access in busy public places such as hospitals and shopping malls, thus providing access points for waterborne hazard communication to potentially millions of people. An informed public will also be empowered to demand change and social justice where governments fail to deliver affordable access to safe water for all.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description A survey of ground water quality in shallow wells, boreholes and piezometers in an unplanned neighbourhood in Dar es Salaam demonstrated that none of these water sources reliably meets drinking water quality standards as defined by the World Health Organization. Faecal bacteria and nitrate are the main pollutants which especially in shallow wells by far exceed standards. Screening of metals and fluoride did not detect levels of significant concern, but both, shallow and deep groundwater has high sodium chloride content. Initial molecular microbiology work confirms the findings of the conventional water quality assessment methods with the detection of faecal indicators in both shallow well and deep borehole water. The exact water pollution pathways between shallow and deep aquifers at the case study site are yet to be established, but preliminary results point towards detrimental effects of unplanned and increased deep groundwater abstraction on groundwater quality. So far, all bottled water from three Tanzanian brands purchased in informal settlements met WHO drinking water standards. However, DNA based molecular microbiology results reveal that some of the bottled water brands are sourced from faecal contaminated waters, and then rendered safe through disinfection. The disinfection needs to be robust in these instances to assure water safety. In terms of method development, the characterization of up to 100,000 bacteria in water samples has been shown to be routinely achievable with the portable next generation sequencing device MinION at a cost of about £100 per sample. However, bacterial identities can only be established reliably at genus level using sequencing methods. In comparison with the current "gold standard" for sequencing, the non-portable Illumina method, the MinION had a much better resolution at genus and species level than the Illumina method, and hence a lower risk of false negative results when looking for putative pathogens. However, the MinION has a higher risk of false positive detections at species level. To avoid such false positive putative pathogen detections, the complementary use of qPCR methods is strongly recommended for validation, and this combined approach has now been developed and demonstrated for E. coli, including marker genes for Human E. coli, and Vibrio cholera.
Exploitation Route Findings have been shared with the Dar es Salaam Water and Sewerage Authority and will help them better plan water supply infrastructure needs. For example, the authority has relied on establishing boreholes as an interim measure to improve access to safe water in unplanned settlements, but while deep boreholes tend to have much better water quality than shallow wells, the water from deep boreholes does not always meet drinking water quality standards. The use of a wide range of water quality measurements has provided a comprehensive picture of groundwater quality at the case study site and has established relationships between different water quality parameters which can be used to identify apparent outliers in water quality surveying data. The hands-on practical training of Tanzanian students, technicians, academics and government scientists in practical workshops at Ardhi University, and with internships at Newcastle University, has established the skills needed for molecular microbiology applications in Tanzania. These skills will be further developed in the remaining 14 months to firmly establish all the skills and tools needed for reliable water quality assessment at Ardhi University in Tanzania. The portable molecular microbiology tools, and waterborne hazard mapping applications have also already been shared with other researchers in ODA countries (Nepal, India, Thailand) and have been applied to the investigation of drinking water quality in unplanned settlements in the Kathmandu Valley, water resource and treated water quality in India, and water quality in aquaculture in Thailand.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Environment

URL http://www.cleanwaterresearch.org/in-ground/
 
Description The initial findings about waterborne hazards in both shallow wells and deep boreholes in unplanned settlements have been shared in a public lecture with Dar es Salaam Water and Sewerage Authority representatives. This started a dialogue about how to best work towards providing access to safe water to Dar city residents. Through the field work in unplanned settlements, and subsequent laboratory work, skills in water sampling and analysis, quality assurance and data management and data interpretation were exchanged between Newcastle University and Ardhi University researchers and students. 6 Tanzanian students and researchers from Ardhi University and 2 microbiologists from the Tanzania Mikocheni Agricultural Research Institute (one of the research institutes under the Division of Research and Training of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security) have been trained in the principles and practical application of conventional and molecular microbiology methods. In 3 field surveys in Dar es Salaam, the methods have been applied to water quality analysis in unplanned settlements. This includes the innovative application of Oxford Nanopore's portable MinION gene sequencing platform for waterborne hazard detection, and cross-validation of MinION results with real time PCR, external gene sequencing using the Illumina platform, and traditional culture based techniques to detect E.coli and other faecal indicator bacteria. For 2 Tanzanian researchers, complementary training was provided in bioinformatics applications and waterborne hazard mapping applications. The aim was to strengthen Tanzanian expertise in assessing microbial and chemical water quality at the point of use with both conventional and state-of-the-art methods. These innovative methods facilitate an evidence based approach towards assuring water safety. The methods developed in this project are broadly applicable to the investigation of water and food safety and water/wastewater treatment processes, and are now also being used to survey water quality in unplanned settlements in Nepal (in a new collaboration with local researchers from Pokhara University, Kathmandu), to assess the microbial water quality of harvested rainwater, river water, treated potable water and reclaimed wastewater in India (in a new collaboration with IIT Gandhinagar, India), and to assess microbial water quality in surface waters and aquacultures in Thailand, (in a new collaboration with local researchers from KMUTT, Bangkok, Thailand). These follow-on projects funded by the British Council and Newton Fund with other partners in ODA countries demonstrate the broad applicability of the methods developed in the IMAGINE project to the UN Sustainability goals 6 (Clean water and sanitation) and 2 (zero hunger).
First Year Of Impact 2019
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Education,Environment
Impact Types Policy & public services

 
Description DST-UKIERI
Amount £50,000 (GBP)
Funding ID IND/CONT/G/17-18/48 
Organisation British Council 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2018 
End 03/2020
 
Description Newton Fund Institutional Links Grants
Amount £100,000 (GBP)
Funding ID 414469402 
Organisation Newton Fund 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2019 
End 12/2019
 
Title Water quality database for unplanned settlements in Dar es Salaam 
Description The database comprises a comprehensive characterisation of the quality of groundwater resources in unplanned settlements in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Currently, the database comprises 20 sampling locations, 1-2 sampling events, and up to 40 water quality parameters per sample. Automatic data submission protocols via email have been developed for future extensions of the database. Automatic data curation, visualisation and interpretation protocols are being developed to enhance quality assurance. The data will eventually feed into a waterborne hazard communication tool which embeds water quality data with contextual information (health effects, point of use water treatment options), and after stakeholder scrutiny, data will eventually be made publically accessible by the end of the project. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The database clearly identifies faecal contamination as the main hazard in shallow groundwater at the case study site, with both nitrate and faecal coliforms in shallow wells exceeding by far and consistently WHO drinking water quality standards. Deep boreholes have better water quality, but are also occasionally affected by faecal coliforms and nitrate, which raises questions about inter linkages between the shallow and deep aquifers in the case study area in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and potential negative effects of increasing and unplanned deep groundwater abstraction via private and public boreholes on groundwater quality and public health. Water contamination during storage needs to be further investigated. On the other hand, screening of metals has not identified any significant public health hazards, alleviating potential concerns about trade-offs between microbial and chemical water quality. Relative high sodium chloride content of both shallow and deep groundwater was also observed. The main outcome so far is that none of the local groundwater resources can be considered to be reliably safe for drinking water supply in this neigbourhood, and while point of use water disinfection is in principle feasible to address microbial contamination, point of use treatment of nitrate pollution will be much more difficult to implement. Hence these data highlight the need for a piped water supply from a less affected water source into the case study neighbourhood. 
URL http://www.cleanwaterresearch.org/in-ground/
 
Description Collaboration with Ardhi University on innovative water quality surveying and waterborne hazard communication methods for unplanned settlements 
Organisation Ardhi University
Country Tanzania, United Republic of 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We are developing new methods for water quality surveying at the point of use, including portable gene sequencing methods, and for mapping and communicating waterborne hazards with digital technologies. These methods will be field tested with field work in unplanned settlements in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in collaboration with Ardhi University researchers. By the end of the project, all methods, tools and skills developed in the project will be established at Ardhi University. To date, three field campaigns in Dar es Salaam have been conducted by the joint UK-Tanzanian team, and the data gathered have elucidated waterborne hazards in both shallow and deep groundwater below unplanned settlements, sampled via shallow wells, boreholes and piezometers.
Collaborator Contribution Ardhi University researchers facilitate the field work through their engagement with local communities, primary schools, and representatives from the Dar es Salaam Water and Sewerage Authority. They have established a series of piezometers for shallow groundwater sampling in unplanned settlements. They provide transport, sampling equipment and field work assistance. They contribute to the water quality analysis and help with sample preservation in their laboratories. They provide venues and contacts for stakeholder engagement workshops. They conduct research and contribute to the data compilation, curation, interpretation and to the design of waterborne hazard communication strategies.
Impact New, comprehensive database describing chemical and microbial water quality for shallow wells, boreholes and piezometers in unplanned settlements in Dar es Salaam. New relationships between water quality parameters which can be used for automatic data curation and interpretation. Engagement of external stakeholders, including the local water and sewerage authority, local community representatives and heads of local primary schools. Training of Ardhi University students and researchers in field sampling methodologies and water quality analysis methodologies.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Water quality surveying in unplanned settlements in the Kathmandu Valley 
Organisation Pokhara University
PI Contribution Innovative technologies to rapidly survey water quality, which have been developed at Newcastle University, were applied in partnership with Nepalese researchers from Pakhara University to survey water quality for drinking water sources in unplanned settlements in the Kathmandu Valley, Nepal. The Newcastle University research team contributed staff time, skills, and molecular microbiology analysis/advanced chemical analysis to the project.
Collaborator Contribution Nepalese researchers from Pakhara University assisted the field work to collect samples for surveying water quality for drinking water sources in unplanned settlements in the Kathmandu Valley, Nepal. The Pakhara University research team contributed staff time, on-site chemical analysis, and conventional microbiology analysis to the project. The Department of Medical Microbiology, Nobel College, Pokhara University, provided access to its laboratory facilities.
Impact Results of the survey are currently being written up as a scientific manuscript. A joint be for funding further collaborative research has been submitted to the Gates Foundation.
Start Year 2018
 
Description Lecture on water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) in Tanzania 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Dr Shaaban Mrisho Mgana from Ardhi University, Tanzania, presented a lecture on Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) in Tanzania at Newcastle University. The lecture was attended by academics, researchers, postgraduate and undergraduate students from Newcastle University. Contacts established during Dr Mgana's visit led to new research collaborations and an award from the Northern Accelerator, Connecting Capability Fund, managed by Durham University, for research on solar water disinfection (with Dr Paul Sallis from Newcastle University).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.ncl.ac.uk/press/articles/latest/2018/05/portablewatertestingtanzania/
 
Description Molecular Microbiology Practical Training Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Newcastle University researchers provided practical training in water sampling and DNA extraction for molecular microbiology. Workshop participants were 4 undergraduate and postgraduate students, 1 laboratory technicians and 1 academic from Ardhi University, and 2 microbiologists from the Mikocheni Agricultural Research Institute (MARI), which is one of the research institutes under the Division of Research and Training (DRT) of the Tanzanian Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security. The training comprised good microbiology practice and quality assurance, field sampling and sample storage methods, microbial water quality assessment by plate count methods, and DNA extraction for molecular microbiology. In addition to the practical training, lectures on molecular microbiology were provided.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://blogs.ncl.ac.uk/davidwerner/imagine-project/
 
Description Molecular microbiology and waterborne hazard mapping training and lectures 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Two postgraduate students from Ardhi University visited Newcastle University for one month. During their stay at Newcastle University they received practical training in molecular microbiology, including next generation sequencing with the portable MinION device of Oxford Nanopore Technologies. In addition, they were trained in data management and the mapping of water quality and waterborne hazards using open source tools developed through Newcastle University's Urban Observatory. They gave lectures on their previous work experience establishing on-site sanitation facilities at Schools in rural Tanzania, and with river basin water quality assessment and management. They engaged with researchers and academics at Glasgow University, which results in an invitation to attend a training workshop in flow cytometry at Glasgow University this coming May.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://blogs.ncl.ac.uk/davidwerner/imagine-project/
 
Description Summer School at Newcastle University gives Year 12 and First Year College students hands-on experience in water quality analysis 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Bitesize Uni (also known as BSU) provides Year 12 and First Year College students with the information and opportunities to help them make an informed decision about whether or not they want to go to University. As part of the 2017 Summer School at Newcastle University, Dr David Werner taught 17 students interested in Engineering about the global challenge of providing access to safe water and adequate sanitation to everyone living on this planet. He presented case studies from his work on this issue with partners in Brazil, India, Thailand and Tanzania. Following the short lecture, the students were able to gain some hands-on experience in water quality analysis using portable photospectrometers. They compared the occurrence of ammonium, nitrite and nitrate in surface water samples collected in different locations around Newcastle upon Tyne. Luckily, the water quality was found to be fairly good in comparison with, for example, heavily contaminated shallow groundwater below unplanned suburban settlements in low and middle income countries.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Water Quality Lecture at Ardhi University 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact Over 50 Tanzanian environmental engineering/environmental science undergraduate students, researchers, academics and representatives from water and sewerage authorities attended a presentation by the UK investigator about water quality in unplanned settlements, the project and its initial findings. The presentation sparked questions and a discussion about fieldwork in unplanned settlements, water quality analysis and quality assurance, water pollution sources in unplanned settlements, and ways of communicating waterborne hazards to local residents. About six students also participated in subsequent fieldwork, gaining hands-on experience with appropriate water sampling procedures. The presentation raised broad interest and helped with the recruitment of two Tanzanian research assistants for the project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www.cleanwaterresearch.org/in-ground/