Enabling Distributed Water Quality Management by Dry Sample Preservation and Centralized Analysis

Enabling Distributed Water Quality Management by Dry Sample Preservation and Centralized Analysis
Rohit Karnik, Department of Mechanical Engineering
John Hart, Department of Mechanical Engineering
Chintan Vaishnav, Sloan School of Management

Period of performance: 

September 2015 to August 2017
food, water, sustainability, water quality, testing, analysis, India, public health, environment


Analysis of water quality for chemical, physical, and microbial contaminants is integral to identifying safe sources of drinking water, monitoring and understanding disease outbreaks, increasing awareness of water issues, and addressing sources of contamination. Field test kits for water quality analysis suffer from limited accuracy and cannot analyze all relevant parameters such as low levels of arsenic contamination, whereas centralized laboratories require transportation of large volumes of water samples and are more expensive. A similar problem in the analysis of blood has led to ‘dried blood spot’ technique that is widely used to facilitate storage, transport, and rapid analysis of metabolites, drugs, and infectious agents in blood.

The goal of this proposal is to develop a new technology to enable water samples to be preserved in a compact form that is suitable for mailing to centralized laboratories for chemical and microbial analysis. Our first target is to enable sample preservation for chemical analysis, with a focus on detection of low levels of arsenic contamination that is difficult to perform using field test kits. Our second target is to examine whether it is possible to extract, store, and preserve viable bacteria or nucleic acids from water samples to enable identification of specific pathogens in water which is inaccessible to today's field test methods. We envision this approach will enable a widely deployable, cost-effective, and easy-to-use method for implementing water quality management and thereby improving safety of municipal water supplies in rural areas, and proactively addressing major public health and environmental concerns.