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Ex-NASA engineer designs an app to chart water quality

John Feighery created mWater – a cell phone app that instantly records and maps the results of water-quality tests, making monitoring of water quality in developing countries quicker and easier.

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The app, which is available from Google Play Store, also 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, building up an archive of information over time.

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A photograph of the water source can be uploaded and location details are registered automatically using a GPS reading from the mobile device.

UN Habitat funded a study in Tanzania to test mWater's capacity to provide local health officers with a simple way to see the quality of water using a mobile phone with an Android operating system.

“It's a very novel approach to water-quality monitoring,” said Lars Onsager Stordal, who works for UN Habitat's water, sanitation and infrastructure department. “It makes it possible, affordable, and manageable at the local level.”

Health workers can use the data or 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 said. “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.”

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, according to the charity WaterAid.

Next, Feighery will be working with UN Habitat and Rwanda's ministry of health to help equip health workers to use mWater.

Feighery was speaking with AlertNet at the annual Stockholm International Water Institute World Water Week conference where more than 2,500 aid workers, water researchers, and policymakers met to discuss water and food security issues.

This article originally appeared at AlertNet, a humanitarian news site operated by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

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