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How to test water quality? Low-cost, low-tech options for microbial testing

Pratibha Mistry's picture
A multi-compartment bag with a colorimetric reagent for E. coli testing
using a most probable number approach.

Photo credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center

Water quality is central to the challenge of ensuring safe water for all. Here we present the third entry in a three-part blog series on low-cost, low-tech water quality testing. In previous posts, we discussed options for measuring physical and chemical aspects of water quality. In this final post, we explore low-cost, low-tech options for microbial testing.

Becoming part of a mainstream movement – blended finance in water and sanitation

Ivaylo Kolev's picture
Persuasion does not always involve an epiphany. Often, attitudes are formed and opinions are shaped by the steady accumulation of evidence and examples. And so, it has been for me when it comes to blended finance.
 
While anecdotes of transformation may be catchier, the gradual absorption of the work of experts and practitioners is frequently how one’s thinking evolves. I left the recent 2018 Global Water Summit not feeling transformed or possessed by the idea that blended finance is THE solution for bridging the humongous financial gap required to meet SDG6, but more convinced than ever it has a key role to play. I was also positively surprised that this financial solution is no longer an exotic stranger to our sector and that a significant number of water supply and sanitation (WSS) practitioners are implementing blended finance schemes.
Credit: World Economic Forum

Blended Finance: a key to achieve universal access to water supply and sanitation by 2030

Aileen Castro's picture



What does it take to finance sustainable water supply and sanitation? The World Bank Group takes this question very seriously indeed. That’s why during the recent Global Water Summit, the World Bank Group partnered with the organizer, Global Water Intelligence, to present the key concepts of Blended Finance to participants from all over the world.
 
But what is blended finance and why is the World Bank talking about it?

Solar Pumping 101: the what, why, and the how

Kristoffer Welsien's picture

Interested in learning about Solar Pumping in French? Let us know in the comments if you'd like to see the toolkit translated!

Solar water pumping system.
Image credit: Energy & Development Group.

Access to a safe, sustainable water supply is a growing concern in every region of the world. In many communities, groundwater is being pumped by diesel fueled systems, which are both expensive and can be difficult to maintain. In communities where electricity is scarce, solar can be a part of the solution.
 
The highest demand for solar pumps is among rural off-grid areas, currently underserved, or served by costly fuel-driven pumps. Solar pumping is most competitive in regions with high solar insolation, which include most of Africa, South America, South Asia, and Southeast Asia; but the technology can operate successfully in almost any region of the world.

Stronger together? Reflections on an 11-year journey through water reform

David Michaud's picture
The year is 2006, the scene is Honduras. As an enthusiastic new team member of a World Bank water sector reform project, I am trying to participate in the high-level discussions around decentralization and local government empowerment in the provision of water and sanitation services in my (then) broken Spanish. Coming from Switzerland, a small country with thousands of local service providers, I am convinced a bottom-up approach to service delivery is THE solution. Hasn’t the hugely influential 2004 World Development Report argued for exactly that – shortening the accountability route between customers and service providers? We are the champions of local, elected mayors, who want nothing more than to prove they could deliver better than the central government’s utility.

It’s now 2010 and I’m still in Honduras, now amid the reform implementation when reality kicks in. Three new municipal utilities have been established, with catchy logos and new staff and management. Operating costs, salaries in particular, have been slashed, and there’s a sense of opportunity – but also challenges. Those elected mayors are thinking about the next election and not very keen on adjusting tariffs to where they need to be. Installing water meters, a cornerstone of the modernization strategy, is facing a huge backlash from those very customers who are making direct use of the shorter accountability route to make their concerns heard. And services aren’t really getting better as fast as we would want…

Forward to 2014 – I’m now in Croatia. I’m sitting in a non-descript conference hall in Zagreb, Croatia, trying to inform a diverse set of local and central government stakeholders about the pros and cons of merging municipal water utilities into regional operators, as everyone else seems to be doing in the region. In fact, since my transition to Europe & Central Asia the year before, I observe what appears to be a serious case of reformitis: consultants and policy advisors are dutifully preaching the regionalization of just recently decentralized service providers to help implement the European Union’s stringent and costly environmental regulations.

S.O.S. from La Paz: send water, please!

Mauricio Ríos's picture
If you wonder what climate change means in real time, and how it impacts people’s lives on a daily basis, just read the news about the on-going water crisis in Bolivia.

Over the past six weeks, hundreds of thousands of people living in El Alto and La Paz -the world’s highest capital- have been subjected to constant water shortages and cuts, which are now reaching dangerous limits:  more than 90 neighborhoods are getting water only every three days, and for three hours only. Others don’t see a drop for more than a week. And the luckier ones are getting water for two hours daily.  (I know this because my extended family lives there).

The administration of President Evo Morales recently declared a state of emergency to cope with one of the worst droughts in the last 25 years. But the water situation has been deteriorating for a long time given that around 25 per cent of the water supply for La Paz and El Alto comes from the rapidly shrinking glaciers in the surrounding Andean Cordillera. Other cities around the country are also being affected by water shortages due to the climate-induced drought.

Add to that the fact that three main dams that supply water to almost two million people in the highlands are almost dry, and no longer depend on the glaciers’ runoff. 

Can you crowdsource water quality data?

Pratibha Mistry's picture
Photo: Adapted from Archana Jarajapu
on Flickr under
Creative Commons 2.0.
The recently released Contextual Framework for Crowdsourcing Water Quality Data lays out a strategy for citizen engagement in decentralized water quality monitoring, enabled by the “mobile revolution.”

According to the WHO, 1.8 billion people lack access to safe drinking water worldwide. Poor source water quality, non-existent or insufficient treatment, and defects in water distribution systems and storage mean these consumers use water that often doesn’t meet the WHO’s Guidelines for Drinking Water Quality.

The crowdsourcing framework develops a strategy to engage citizens in measuring and learning about the quality of their own drinking water. Through their participation, citizens provide utilities and water supply agencies with cost-effective water quality data in near-real time. Following a typical crowdsourcing model: consumers use their mobile phones to report water quality information to a central service. That service receives the information, then repackages and shares it via mobile phone messages, websites, dashboards, and social media. Individual citizens can thus be educated about their water quality, and water management agencies and other stakeholders can use the data to improve water management; it’s a win-win.

New directions in the economics of agricultural water conservation

Susanne M. Scheierling's picture

A challenging area in agricultural water management is the assessment of policy and investment options in irrigated agriculture for conserving water and adapting to increasing water scarcity, in particular when the linkages to groundwater resources and their management are to be considered and incorporated. 

However, this is an increasingly important area of research for a number of reasons.  First, irrigated agriculture accounts for about 70% of global freshwater withdrawals, and is a major contributing factor to the water scarcity situation in many countries.  Second, with almost a quarter of freshwater withdrawals for irrigated agriculture being made up of groundwater supplies—corresponding to 70% of total groundwater withdrawals—, agricultural water use is also a major contributing factor to aquifer overexploitation.  And, third, surface water and groundwater are closely linked in most parts of the world, with groundwater discharge contributing to the base flow of streams and surface water contributing to groundwater recharge, and these interactions are intensified by human action, in particular water withdrawals for irrigated agriculture.  Even in cases where irrigated agriculture depends mostly on surface water, groundwater impacts therefore need to be accounted for when assessing water conservation efforts (and vice versa).

Delivering water and sanitation services in Niger: challenges and results

Taibou Adamou Maiga's picture

Niger is one of the world’s poorest countries (44.5% of poverty incidence in 2014). The country faces a number of challenges in meeting the national (PROSEHA, the National Program for sustainable development) and global targets to increase access to sanitation and potable water, particularly in rural areas where the access to water is 44.2% and 7% for sanitation (2015 Ministry of Water and Sanitation data).

Overcoming these challenges while satisfying increasing demands for better or expanded service, the government began investigating options that bring in the know-how of the private sector. This has led to a growing domestic private sector provision of services in Niger.


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