IN-GROUND: Inexpensive monitoring of Groundwater pollution in Urban African Districts

Lead Research Organisation: Newcastle University
Department Name: Chemical Engineering & Advanced Material


This study will allow collaboration between researchers in Tanzania and the UK to develop and test an inexpensive biosensor for the on-site, real time, monitoring of urban groundwater quality. The biosensor will be able to detect water pollution emanating from different sources such as pit latrines.

The project will focus on monitoring urban areas, as latrine coverage and the related groundwater pollution affects, proportionally, more people than in rural areas. It is estimated that 70% of urban settlements in Tanzania are unplanned. The problems of urban unplanned areas include lack of centralised sewerage and the inaccessibility of emptying services for onsite technologies. This leads to increased groundwater pollution in areas where shallow wells are used.

According to the World Health Organization, 70% of diseases in Tanzania are water pollution related costing close to US$ 600 million annually. As such, we estimate that proper monitoring of water pollution can trigger increased and appropriate sanitation and water treatment which could lead to Tanzania meeting their Millennium Development Goals.

It is expected that the use of a bio-sensing system will also help collect data on the current state of groundwater as well as increase the awareness of the local population in groundwater contamination.

Planned Impact

This project will help determine the current state of groundwater pollution in Tanzania, Africa as well as to develop a biosensor that will be able to increase the awareness of groundwater pollution and therefore drinking water quality in the region. Results will be communicated to the local population via the tools developed and will aid in the assessment of local sanitation and drinking practices. The project also has the ability to empower the communities to monitor their own groundwater. This initial work will establish collaboration between Newcastle University and ARDHI University as well as produce a set of scientific papers for worldwide dissemination of results.
Description - Evaluation on the application of biosensors in developing countries through community consultation.
- Assessment on the readiness of a new biosensing technology and identification of possible shortfalls in the place of application.
-Analysis on the state of groundwater quality in the area of study. Development of maps detailing the groundwater quality.
Exploitation Route - Further development and improvement of the biosensing technology to obtain an available product.
- Further development of the electronic part of the system.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Chemicals,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Electronics,Energy,Environment,Healthcare

Description This project has shown that the UK is a world leader on providing biotechnological solutions to developing countries. This new technological solution is currently being field tested in a household to demonstrate how it can increase the quality of life through awareness so results on this field will be provided in the future. This technology has also attracted and informed small businesses in Tanzania and the UK (Palintest and Northumbrian Water). Technology development through consultation: The project has engaged the Tanzania society from the beginning, especially the low-income community located in our research area. Two workshops were conducted which allow early consultation with African communities in the development of the proposed biosensing technology. With this we have been able to adapt the technology to provide a user friendly solution. Our workshops have been attended by the general public and feedback on the technology has been provided showing the effective transfer of knowledge, and an increase in public awareness. Technology transfer and increased collaboration: Our collaboration with Ardhi University has been challenging, however we have been able to conduct the work as time progresses, obtaining initial positive results: assembly of experiments in laboratory and on field. The work is still on progress and it is expected to generate more data in the next months. There have been visits of UK researchers and students to Tanzania, and vice versa. This has broaden the knowledge of participants as to how business is conducted in each area and has allowed for technology transfer. The project is currently in its early stages as it has just concluded after a year of intense research so it is expected that impact will increase as time progresses. In the next report we will report in the following areas: Communication of results to local population: Results will be communicated to local population via the tools developed (e.g. biosensor). This will also aid in the assessment of local sanitation and drinking practices. The results depicted by the field data will allow locating further areas of improvement and deployment of the technology. The final examination obtained on the groundwater quality will be made available to local population through the display of poster in schools or community service areas. This will inform poor communities on the state of their groundwater quality and the relationship between the use of pit-latrines and the groundwater quality.
First Year Of Impact 2015
Sector Education,Environment,Healthcare
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Policy & public services

Description Invited guest panellist to discuss the Tools for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene implementation. UN International Zaragoza Conference. Water and Sustainable Development from Vision to Action. 15-17 January, 2015. Zaragoza, Spain
Geographic Reach Europe 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Description GCRF
Amount £477,153 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/P028527/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 05/2017 
End 04/2020
Description Collaboration with STÜWA Company 
Organisation St Woolos Hospital
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Hospitals 
PI Contribution We informed Ing. Martin Sommerweiß from Stuwa (Regional Manager North Africa - Middle East ( about our research and the reasons why we wanted to tests the sensors. We will inform him about our research findings.
Collaborator Contribution We collaborated with Ing. Martin Sommerweiß who is the Regional Manager North Africa - Middle East ( in order to seek advice on how a well is normally constructed and operated. We received a donation from the company of four screening wells that they normally operate to use in our experimental runs.
Impact - Clear understanding of how a well is constructed and the screening set up used at the bottom of the well.
Start Year 2015
Description Joined the Integrated Global Water Cycle Observations Group 
Organisation Group on Earth Observations (GEO)
Country Switzerland 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution During this project I have invited to attend the meetings organized by the group on earth observations that include the monitoring of water.
Collaborator Contribution - Provide guidance on how water quality is being measured, specially on space observations of water quality based on precipitations.
Impact None direct outputs
Start Year 2015
Description Bitesize Uni (also known as BSU) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
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 in 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 Dar es Salaam.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
Description Dedicated project webpage 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A dedicated webpage has been created to inform the general public about our research outcomes. Additionally, information on the project has been uploaded in the dedicated UpGro webpage: This has been done to inform the general public about our research outcomes.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
Description Project summary for School of Chemical Engineering newsletter 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact We produced a summary of the project for the school monthly newsletter. This document was sent to undergraduate and postgraduate students, as well as all staff within the school via e-mail.

Thanks to this early project dissemination, our project showed great interests by students. We have been able to recruit students to work on this project as part of their final MEng investigation and thesis. Students participating in the project have stated the outcome of their involvement. For example, Richard (MEng student) has recently sent an e-mail to all collaborators stating:

"Just wanted to thank you for your time and help, you made my stay [in Tanzania] very enjoyable and productive. I have taken a lot away from the experience and hopefully the data I have gathered and the field sensor we set-up will help further the project and bring future success. Of course I will be in touch about any further findings from my work in the coming months."
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
Description Series of In-Ground workshops: Monitoring and Management of Pollution in Freshwater Resources 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact We have prepared a series of workshops (one pre-workshop and a workshop) in order to disseminate our project and receive feedback from other water professionals and the community. In our workshops, approximately thirty water technology experts (including people from government, society and academia) met for a full day in order to exchange knowledge on the monitoring and management of water and the use of our microbial fuel cell sensor device. During the workshop there were opportunities for presentations by participants and project research groups, we also included site visits and a test of the biosensor. The feedback was positive by participants, participant comment highlights, when asked about how was the workshop:

"Good as it involved participants from different stakeholders which in one way or another are concerned involved on water quality", Martha Kabuzya

"Educative and Innovative" Mathias Mulagwanda

"Successful because many people attended from different sectors. Also presentations from thematic areas were made" Anonymous
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015,2016