Interdisciplinary blog

MDR Week: Blog no 10- World Water Day- Water quality

March 20, 2013
by James Wright

Join Dr Jim Wright for the opening seminar ‘Water quality: addressing global problems at source’ in celebration of World Water Day: Water Cooperation on Friday 22nd March (9-11am The Science Learning Centre Building 29). An insight into the multifaceted field of water cooperation can be found below.


Water quality: addressing global problems at source


 By Dr Jim Wright



My research involves safe drinking-water access as an international issue, both in terms of its measurement and also in terms of potential solutions.  I began working on drinking-water issues in the year 2000, when I was involved in a project in Zimbabwe, Kenya and South Africa, looking at water contamination between collection from standpipes and wells and subsequent storage in the home.  We also investigated home use of ceramic filters as a possible way of reducing this contamination.  During this time, I was struck by the way that even the remotest bottle store seems well stocked with fizzy drinks, yet providing drinking water to these same locations remained a huge logistical challenge.  More recently, I became involved in the Aquatest initiative, working from my disciplinary background in geography alongside engineers, microbiologists, and public health specialists.  This project aimed to develop a field test for microbiological contamination of drinking-water, suitable for use in remote areas of developing countries.

Last year, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced that the Millennium Development Goal on safe drinking-water access had been met, five years ahead of target.  Whilst this was a major milestone in the drive to extend safe drinking-water access, does this mean that we can ease off on efforts to provide safe drinking-water?  This talk looks at some water quality-related issues in measuring safe drinking water access and how this affects estimates of the population without safe water access.  The talk will also explore technological options for microbiological testing of drinking-water in remote settings where conventional laboratory infra-structure is unavailable.  A demonstration of the Aquatest water testing method is planned alongside the presentation.

Safe drinking-water access has many dimensions.  Some are social, such as ensuring that the poorest sectors of society benefit from programmes to provide safe water as well as the wealthier. Others are environmental, such as balancing the need to provide safe drinking-water to millions without unsustainably drawing on ever deeper ground waters or piping water over longer and longer distances to expanding urban centres.  Others yet concern economics, public health, engineering, microbiology, and indeed geography.  Given that drinking-water is such a multi-faceted problem, a multi-disciplinary approach seems the most obvious way to tackle the problem, bringing all these disciplines together.

This event is in association with the Sustainability Science at Southampton USRG. For full details, please visit: or follow us on Twitter @Sustainscience


Further details about the UN World Water Day, including a water infographic and news of the very first annual Water Usage Survey, can be found at UK bathroom retailer



Aquatest Project websites:

University of Southampton-

University of Bristol-


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Categories: #MDRWeek, multidisciplinary research, and Multidisciplinary Research Week. Tags: #MDRWeek, Dr Jim Wright, Sustainability Science at Southampton, UN World Water Day, and Water Quality.