In rural communities throughout the developing world, water infrastructure is often broken and groundwater is frequently consumed untreated; potentially contaminated with faecal coliforms. This in turn relates to high incidence of water-related diseases, which kill more than 3.5 million people every year. Statistically, this is greater than that of malaria and HIV/AIDS combined.
To help address this issue over the past 15 years, Leeds Beckett University has led a team of international researchers to undertake complementary multidisciplinary research and development work to evaluate, improve and develop the water quality infrastructure and operational reliability of rural community water points, across developing regions of the global south (i.e. Malawi, Sierra Leone, Gambia and the Amazon region of Brazil). Initially, this work was directed towards meeting target 7c of the 2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs); now it is aimed at addressing a number of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The cluster’s research activities grew out of the University’s participation in an extensive field-monitoring programme that was undertaken throughout southern Malawi and funded by the Water Research Fund for Southern Africa (WARFSA) in conjunction with WaterNet. Over 17,000 rural Malawian’s drinking water was sampled from shallow wells for chemical, microbiological and physical contamination. It was found that about 80% of the wells failed in the dry season, which increased to 95% in the wet season. Work then commenced on ways to immediately address these grossly contaminated shallow wells. Primarily, this involved working directly with water officers, community leaders and village chiefs to try to develop short-term remediation strategies. However, it was soon realised that broader long-term approaches were needed, which led to a three-pronged strategy being implemented.