IMAGINE: Innovative technologies to rapidly survey, map and communicate waterborne hazards


The United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal 6.1 seeks to achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all. While global access to improved drinking water sources has been expanding over the past decades, not all improved drinking water sources are safe. Water quality monitoring at the point of use is quintessential for the provision of safe water.

This project will develop innovative technologies for rapidly surveying, mapping and communicating waterborne hazards. Newcastle University in the UK will team up with Ardhi University in Tanzania, for the method development with subsequent field testing in Dar es Salaam, with the aim of establishing all methods and skills in the partner country Tanzania by the end of the project. The project will develop portable gene sequencing equipment as a versatile technology to comprehensively assess microbial water quality within a matter of hours. It will embed this molecular microbiological method with other field deployable methods for assessing water quality, including inexpensive screening methods, to derive cost effective and reliable surveying strategies.

The water quality assessment methods will be integrated with digital technologies for data storage in a remote database, and immediate data curation, interpretation and visualization, firstly to assist surveyors with their field work, and secondly to make surveying data accessible to the public. A hazard communication tool will be developed with location aware, multi-platform hazard maps, augmented by in-app links to a repository of contextual information, including health impacts, practical advice, observational metadata and WHO information. The development will be “mobile-first” such that designs fit a variety of mobiles and tablets. The use of CSS and modern browser technology will ensure that the same applications can be deployed automatically to multiple devices with the content being dynamically selected (or reduced) depending on the device capabilities.


Molecular Microbiology Workshop

Newcastle University staff and students were working with colleagues at Ardhi University in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania to deliver in-country practical training in the use of molecular microbiology as a way to detect hazards present in poor quality water. Read more about the IMAGINE activities in the related Newcastle University news release.



Field Work Pictures

Sampling of piezometers, shallow groundwater wells and deep boreholes to assess water quality in unplanned settlements in Dar es Salaam.




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Newcastle University

Dr David Werner (Principal Investigator)

Dr Russell James Davenport (Co-Investigator)

Dr Philip Michael James (Co-Investigator)


Ardhi University

Dr Shaaban Mrisho Mgana (Co-Investigator)



IN-GROUND: Inexpensive monitoring of Groundwater pollution in Urban African Districts



This NERC sponsored international collaboration between researchers in Tanzania and the United Kingdom will develop and test an inexpensive biosensor for the on-site, real time, monitoring of urban groundwater quality. The biosensor will be able to detect water pollution emanating from different sources such as pit latrines. The project will focus on monitoring urban areas, as latrine coverage and the related groundwater pollution affects, proportionally, more people than in rural areas. It is estimated that 70% of urban settlements in Tanzania are unplanned. The problems of urban unplanned areas include lack of centralised sewerage and the inaccessibility of emptying services for onsite technologies.

This leads to increased groundwater pollution in areas where shallow wells are used. According to the World Health Organization, 70% of diseases in Tanzania are water pollution related costing close to US$ 600 million annually. As such, we estimate that proper monitoring of water pollution can trigger increased and appropriate sanitation and water treatment which could lead to Tanzania meeting their Millennium Development Goals. It is expected that the use of a bio-sensing system will also help collect data on the current state of groundwater as well as increase the awareness of the local population in groundwater contamination.

More information about the project is available at:


Workshop Pictures

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Field Work Pictures

Sampling of shallow groundwater wells and deep boreholes to assess water quality in unplanned settlements in Dar es Salaam.





Velasquez-Orta SB, Werner D, Varia J, Mgana S. Microbial fuel cells for inexpensive continuous in-situ monitoring of groundwater quality. Water Research 2017, 117, 9-17.



  • NERC


Newcastle University
Dr Sharon Velasquez Orta (Principal Investigator), Chemical Engineering & Advanced Material
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Dr David Werner, Civil Engineering & Geosciences
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