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Safeguarding water supplies in disaster zones

Globally, over 750 million people do not have access to safe drinking water supplies, and more than 2.5Bn people are without access to improved sanitation services. Current methods of analysing water quality can take more than 12 hours and require the use of expensive equipment. Time and money is a luxury that most do not have in disaster zones and poor communities around the world.

An EPSRC-supported research team led by the University of Birmingham developed Duo Fluor, a unique device that could save lives around the globe by quickly and simply testing whether water supplies are safe to drink.

Developed using portable and inexpensive off-the-shelf equipment, Duo Fluor uses water’s natural fluorescence to ‘scan’ the water and highlight pollutants that are present in the sample - almost instantly revealing whether supplies are safe to drink.

Lead researcher Professor John Bridgeman, University of Birmingham, said: “Microbiological waterborne disease remains a significant concern for the global water community. Pathogens in drinking water sources cause ill health, and disaster relief scenarios in particular require rapid drinking water quality checks to prevent the spread of disease and death.”

The researchers are now working with Oxfam and the Diageo Foundation to refine the design of the instrument and make it ideally suited to disaster relief and areas of poor sanitation.

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