Year/Course: 2014-2015, Easter 2015

Contact: Hajime Shinohara, Mike Coto, Winton Programme for the Physics of Sustainability
Mentor: Keith Virgo, VillageWays

Access to clean drinking water even in the 21st century is still an urgent requirement in many parts of the world, with approximately 2,000 people dying everyday due to water related diseases. The UN’s new set of Sustainable Development Goals will spotlight this issue by including the goal; “Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all”.

Companies and NGOs are working to provide clean water through numerous methods that are being adopting around the world. In some places these have proved successful but in others they have not; failures are often due to regional variations in water contamination demanding different disinfection technologies and the inability to maintain water quality. One of the major issues is the lack of suitable cost-effective methods for testing water quality. Although many commercial tests are available for different water contaminants, the lack of funding and local expertise limits adoption and reliability of the results.

The research team is working on evaluating various commercial water testing products in combination with water purification methods. These are being tested in Cambridge before field trials in rural off-grid communities in India and Nepal, which are funded by an award from the Smart Villages Initiative. They bring expertise in water purification materials from the department of Materials Science and Metallurgy and in new materials from the Physics department.

The challenge for the i-Team is to investigate current commercial systems for testing water quality and their suitability for providing a solution for rural communities. The team will explore the economics of water testing and the issues with adoption and obtaining reliable data, with the aim to develop a sustainable business model for provision of water testing for rural communities. Potential solutions could be evaluated in the field trips, which are scheduled for later this year.