What is it about?

In developing countries, a lot of people (especially the poorest) only have access to drinking water that is frequently contaminated with faeces and causes disease and even death. For communities in rural areas or informal settlements, their drinking water sources are not tested by governments or other organisations, mainly due to the cost and complexity of commercial water quality tests. In this research we show that a simple water quality test kit can be produced for only $US1.37. The hydrogen sulphide (H2S) detecting test can be used at home and turns black when potentially pathogenic bacteria are present. We demonstrated the test to nearly 3500 people in rural Tanzania. After a survey of 294 people, nearly everyone (94 %) wanted to buy the test to use at home.

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Why is it important?

These results show that community members want to buy home water quality test kits. If the test turns positive then people will know their drinking water is not safe and they can follow the instructions on how to treat it. This type of knowledge empowers community members and motivates behaviour change. We are advocating that water testing guidelines in developing countries need to be adapted to include household H2S water quality tests. If policies are changed, then the tests can be more widely promoted and accepted and ultimately help people make informed choices on the safety of their drinking water.


While undertaking this research, I was struck by how empowering these H2S test kits were. People 'believed' in the test results as they conducted the test themselves in their own homes. After 24 hours at normal room temperature if the test turned black it was a clear indication that their drinking water was 'dirty' and not safe to drink. Then people took action to make their water safe; they changed to a safe source, or conducted treatment (boiling, filtration and/or chlorination). Water-borne diseases lead to so much illness and loss (both economic and personal) and people want to change it. These tests directly assisted with that goal.

Dr Jacqueline Marie Thomas
The University of Sydney

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Locally produced hydrogen sulphide detecting water quality test kits increase household level monitoring in rural Tanzania, Journal of Water and Health, February 2018, IWA Publishing,
DOI: 10.2166/wh.2018.220.
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