In the 2017/2018 rainy season, Zambia suffered another major outbreak of Cholera. In response to this, the German Federal Institute for Geosciences (BGR) under the Groundwater Resource Support Programme (GReSP) were asked to work in collaboration with the Zambian Water Resource Management Agency (WARMA) to investigate the Cholera outbreak with a greater emphasis on understanding the groundwater pathways.
“The Chelsea BACTI-Wader Tryptophan- like-fluorescence sensor was used to carry out rapid analysis of a variety of water sources from the Cholera hotspots in Lusaka,” reports Max Karen, Senior Hydrogeologist with the GReSP project.
The project has now identified multiple pathways and water sources within the informal settlements where faecal contamination is present in water supplies and is being used to develop and validate methods to reduce the risk of future epidemics.
The BACTI-Wader sensor will now be transferred to WARMA where is will be used to screen water quality from the thousands of boreholes which have recently been registered. "The great advantage of the BACTI-Wader is that it does not need consumables or time to incubate and analyse results," concluded Max Karen.
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The BACTI-Wader Tryptophan- like-fluorescence sensor is quick, reagentless, and cheap, so it can enable rapid surveys of dozens of wells and boreholes across the area.
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The advantages of using the tryptophan sensor
The advantage of the tryptophan sensor is that it is quick, reagentless and cheap, so it can enable rapid surveys of dozens of wells and boreholes across the town which is impractical to achieve with traditional thermo-tolerant coliforms testing. Furthermore, the generally low turbidity and constant temperature of groundwater ensures that the uncertainty in the sensors values is greatly reduced when compared to applications in surface waters.
In Africa where data scarcity and institutional capacity is a massive issue, this technique could provide a step-change in the ability to gather water quality data at a much higher spatial and temporal resolution. It has the potential to be used as a tool alongside conventional counting techniques to monitor interventions and water point failures and interventions to improve source protection.