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Around 2 billion people in the World commonly drink water that is not safe due to faecal contamination putting them at high risk of waterborne diseases such as cholera, typhoid and other diarrhoeal diseases. Diarrhoea is one of the main causes of under 5 mortality, with 58% of diarrhoea-related diseases attributed to inadequate access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene. There is a real and urgent need to develop and deploy technologies that can easily and rapidly determine if water sources are safe to drink.

In the GCRF SAFEWATER project, Ulster University has been working with partners in Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico to develop IoT devices that can be used to determine the microbiological quality of water in rural communities, without access to microbiology labs or skilled staff. The SAFEWATER Translate team includes the SAFEWATER partners in Latin America and new partners in Nepal, Malawi and Ethiopia. It is a multidisciplinary team with expertise across engineering, microbiology, environmental science, chemistry, data science, business, social sciences. The team is led by experts in water quality assessment and measurement at Ulster and partner organizations.

The SAFEWATER Water Quality Monitoring device is being developed to address the need for field analysis of microbiological quality of potable water, specifically the detection of E.coli as an indicator of faecal contamination. The strategic aim for Translate is the exploration and development of pathways for the commercialization of a robust water quality analysis device currently in development under the GCRF SAFEWATER project: www.safewater-research.com. SAFEWATER Translate is funded by the Global Translational Research Awards (GTRAs) Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) UKRI.

Planned Impact

This project aims to develop and test robust IoT devices that can be used in remote regions without access to labs or skilled technicians to determine faecal contamination of water. The deployment of these devices has significant potential to reduce the risk of contraction of water-borne diseases thereby improving the health of communities who do not have access to reliable safe water sources.

The project team will explore routes to implementation of the technology, including for profit and social economy models, respecting equitable partnerships. Successful implementation will provide opportunities for NGOs working to deliver safe drinking water in developing regions to benefit through having robust IoT devices that are simple to use. UNICEF recognized the need for such technology in their Target Product Profile for Rapid Detection of E. coli in 2019. The SAFEWATER Translate project is all about impact through technology development and implementation at scale.


Partner – Kantipur Dental College Hospital

Kantipur Dental College Hospital (KDCH) is one of the partners from Nepal in SAFEWATER Translate Project. KDCH supports the proposed project and the development of robust devices for remote monitoring of faecal contamination of drinking water sources in the fight against the waterborne disease. Under the proposed project we will test devices provided in communities of Chapakot Municipality and correlate to standard field tests for E. Coli. Chapakot Municipality lies in the southeastern part of Syangja District, in Gandaki Province of Nepal. It covers 120.6 km.sqr of the area and is on a plain surrounded by hills. We will work with Ulster University and the other partners to assist with the development of the prototypes, including user interspecific use in Nepal. We will also work to identify the best pathways for implementation of this technology at scale, considering socio-economic boundaries and IP issues.