Towards a water-wise world Annual report 2014

3 systems tested, more to come 

Testing Household Water Treatment Technologies for WHO

8 February 2014Research
Household Water Treatment applications: 1. The tap’s activated carbon filter removes organic material from the water. The membrane removes the micro-organisms. 2. The sun’s UV radiation kills the micro-organisms in the water. 3. The porous (clay) pot – through which the water gradually percolates – is a form of filtration that removes micro-organisms from the water.

Household Water Treatment applications: 1. The tap’s activated carbon filter removes organic material from the water. The membrane removes the micro-organisms. 2. The sun’s UV radiation kills the micro-organisms in the water. 3. The porous (clay) pot – through which the water gradually percolates – is a form of filtration that removes micro-organisms from the water.

Since the end of 2013, KWR has acted as a test laboratory for the World Health Organization (WHO) for Household Water Treatment (HWT) Technologies. The goal of these technologies is to reduce infant mortality caused by diarrhoea in developing countries. In 2014, KWR has established the necessary protocols, the experience in the implementation of specialist methods have been extended, and researchers have reported their test results on 3 technologies to WHO.

KWR’s work for WHO is a product of its status as a WHO Collaborating Centre which it acquired at the end of 2013. KWR has conducted research into water quality and health for more than 40 years – in collaboration with the Dutch water companies, among others – and has extensive in-house expertise in the field. Besides KWR, the NSF (National Sanitation Foundation) from Michigan, USA, is also acting as a test laboratory for WHO. Before the testing work began, the protocols were improved and harmonised. KWR visited Michigan State University and the NSF staff to learn about the crypto infectivity assay: a cell culture method for Cryptosporidium which is new to KWR.

“With our results, WHO can help national governments make the right choice”

Inactivation and removal of micro-organisms

In the research 2 types of water – clean water and “challenging” water – are artificially infected with carefully selected micro-organisms (bacteria, viruses and protozoa). The lab researchers, using a variety of analytical methods, then determine the extent to which the HWT technologies inactivate or remove the added micro-organisms from the 2 water types. “With our results, WHO can help national governments make the right choice,” says Ronald Italiaander, team leader of KWR’s microbiology laboratory.

International quality requirements

Suppliers who apply to have their water treatment technologies tested by WHO have marketing reasons for doing so, according to Italiaander. “The results of our research are fed back to the suppliers. A favourable result strengthens the supplier’s market position. You could say that the product acquires a quality mark that assures buyers about what they’re putting in their homes. The initials KWR and NSF are a guarantee that international quality requirements are met.”

Imitating sunlight

The reports on the 3 tested HWT technologies are currently before the International Advisory Committee put together by WHO. “We’re now in the concluding phase of the first test year,” says Italiaander. “WHO appreciates the effort, knowledge and networks we have applied to successfully complete the first test round. For instance, we closely examined a technologies that cannot be tested everywhere: it’s a water treatment technologies based on sunlight. Thanks to our collaboration with TU Delft, we were able to use an apparatus that imitates the sunlight of the region near the equator. We’ll do some fine tuning after evaluating the first round, and then get down to testing more technologies in 2015.”

© 2017 KWR Watercycle Research Institute

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