Global Challenges Academy

Technologies for waterborne diseases

Technologies for Surveying, Mapping and Communicating Waterborne Diseases

  • Goal 3: Good Health and Wellbeing
  • Goal 6: Clean Water and Sanitation
  • Partnered with: Oxford Nanopore Technologies, UK; Ardhi University, Tanzania
  • Region: Tanzania

Global access to water is improving throughout the world but is still lacking in many places, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. According to UNICEF, 46% of people in Tanzania lack access to improved drinking water sources. Even improved sources are not always safe, making water quality monitoring at the point of use essential. Innovative technologies are needed to help mitigate waterborne diseases.

How we are meeting this challenge

  • Developing portable sequencing equipment as a versatile technology to comprehensively assess microbial water quality within a matter of hours.
  • Embed molecular microbiological methods with other field deployable methods for assessing water quality, including inexpensive screening methods, to derive cost-effective and reliable surveying strategies.
  • Integrate the water quality assessment methods with digital technologies for data storage in a remote database.
  • Provide near real-time data curation, interpretation and visualisation to assist surveyors and make water quality data readily accessible to public stakeholders.

Who will benefit

Research led by Dr David Werner is developing a hazard communication tool 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 tool will be 'mobile-first' allowing designs to fit a variety of mobiles and tablets. The use of CSS and modern browser technology will ensure that the same applications are deployed automatically to multiple devices with the content 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.

Researchers at Newcastle University will engage the Dar es Salaam Water and Sewerage Authority, school teachers and community representatives with the technology development and testing, and help with context specific and useful hazard communication methods. This includes multiple visual waterborne hazard display options to explore their social acceptability as well as easy interpretability and usefulness.

The project aims to make water quality survey findings readily accessible and useful to public stakeholders. Outputs from the research will assist deprived communities living in unplanned settlements in Dar es Salaam, and elsewhere, with making life-saving decisions about which water source to use for which purpose (i.e. drinking and food preparation versus crop irrigation and household cleaning).

Project team

  • Dr David Werner, Newcastle University
  • Oxford Nanopore Technologies, United Kingdom
  • Ardhi University, Tanzania

Let's work together

If you're interested in working with us on a future research project, or would like to collaborate, email us today:

Further information

Learn more about the project's activities and outcomes: