What if you were traveling and needed to know (or were just plain curious!) about the water quality of the region you were in? What if you became ill and wanted to explain to your doctor that you think it’s “something in the water”?
Well, as the cliche goes: There’s an app for that!
Environmental engineer John Feighery has designed an application, called mWater, that records the data results of water quality tests and maps them.
According to Reuters, Feighery is a former NASA employee — who helped monitor crew health, which included testing water and air quality. But after the deadly Columbia accident in 2003, the Space Shuttle program was suspended and further work on the International Space Station was delayed.
That’s when Feighery reportedly turned his focus from managing water, sanitation and health problems in space to those on Earth.
“I’d been working on supplying clean water to three or four people in space, and meanwhile there are a billion here on earth that don’t have it,” Feighery said in an interview with AlertNet, the global humanitarian news service. “The world that my kids are going to grow up in has this huge problem that I felt like I could work on.”
After he left NASA, Feighery tested well water in Bangladesh for a job funded by the National Institutes of Health, part of the U.S. Health and Human Services department.
According to Reuters, he felt the work, which involved using heavy equipment, charting notes and locations by hand and transporting samples in incubators to a distant laboratory could be simpler and less expensive.
That’s how he came up with the idea to use inexpensive testing equipment available online and mWater together. mWater is an Android app that records the data results of water quality tests and maps them.
The application allows people to track water quality tests at any given water source over time, providing instant results which are put in context with other tests.
The app is currently available in the Google Play Store. It allows users to leave notes for other users about the appearance of the water, its scent, and how the water is flowing from the source. This process helps to build up an archive of information over time.
A photograph of the water source can be uploaded and location details are registered automatically using a GPS reading from the mobile device.
Reuters quotes Lars Onsager Stordal, who works for U.N. Habitat’s water, sanitation and infrastructure department: “It’s a very novel approach to water quality monitoring. It makes it possible, affordable and manageable at the local level.”
Health workers can use the data or even go with a sick patient and easily test the water where they live.
“Anybody can look at it and see what’s going on to see if anyone else might get infected,” Feighery told the news agency. “When fecal contamination occurs somewhere it is the first precursor of disease in water systems. Before cholera spreads there’s usually some failure in the sanitation system.”
According to the charity WaterAid, giving poor people proper access to safe water and sanitation would save 2.5 million people a year from dying from diarrhea and other diseases spread by a lack of hygiene.