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Together with project partners from Brazil, Colombia and Mexico, researchers from Ulster University are developing low cost technologies for safe drinking water in developing regions.

Launched today, the SAFEWATER project seeks to tackle a global challenge by looking at clean water solutions and the development of smart devices to quickly tell if water is safe to drink.

1.8 billion people regularly drink water that is not safe putting them at risk of water borne disease. The problem of access to safe drinking water is a complex one, with cost being one of the key barriers.

SAFEWATER is a multidisciplinary research project which will focus on developing low cost, clean water solutions and work directly with local communities in Latin America to tackle this global issue.

The centre is a partnership between Ulster University, the University of Medellin Colombia and the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil and two NGOs working with rural communities in Colombia and Mexico.

CTA, an NGO based in Medellin Colombia will facilitate field trials in remote areas of Colombia which are emerging from conflict. Fundacion Cantaro Azul is already working with the rural communities in southern Mexico and will facilitate the testing of new technologies.

One of the keys to success is gaining the trust of the local communities so that the solutions developed are co-created with their participation, meet their needs and are easy to adopt.

Fermin Reygadas, CEO, Fundacion Cantaro Azul, said:

“A lack of access to safe drinking water is having devastating effects on rural communities in Mexico and many other countries in the developing world. Many children born in rural communities have no choice but to drink from contaminated water sources leading to constant diarrhea, malnutrition and developmental problems. Access to clean, safe water can transform a child’s life; improving nutrition, hygiene and give them the opportunity to thrive.

We are so excited to be a part of the SAFEWATER research project which is taking a new, transdisciplinary approach to this issue. While other projects have focused solely on creating new technologies, this project is combining scientific research and innovative technologies with culture, education and prevention strategies.”

Professor Tony Byrne, the principal investigator and coordinator of the Safewater research centre, said:

“Thanks to this significant funding from GCRF we are able to bring together our expertise across a range of disciplines to address the global challenge of safe drinking water. Dirty water is responsible for death and disease in many developing regions.  Access to safe drinking water means a better quality of life for everyone.

We are delighted that Ulster University is leading this pioneering project with our partners from Latin America. SAFEWATER will produce research with the potential to transform the lives of those living in rural communities.”

£4.7 million of the funding for SAFEWATER is provided by the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) Research Councils UK Collective Fund.