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Women in Sustaining the Environment Phase 2: Water Quality Monitoring Project

Tanzania, Africa: August 2021 Pilot Study In Wayanad, India: January 2022 

In August of 2021, team members from AMMACHI Labs visited Tanzania to pilot the phase two of the Women in Sustaining the Environment (WISE) project. A collaboration with Tel Aviv University. The goal of the WISE initiative is to equip rural women with the technologies they need to successfully monitor and maintain local drinking water supplies.

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 6 calls for a universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water by 2030. One of the key targets for accomplishing this goal is to improve water quality by reducing pollution and increasing local community participation in water and sanitation management. This goal will be impossible to achieve unless the quality and accessibility of water collected and consumed by the most vulnerable water consumers, the low-income family groups in developing countries, is regularly monitored. Monitoring is essential for operational and regulatory purposes in order to ensure a safe supply and check the reality of service provided against standards. Hundreds of millions of households in LMIC do not have access to a reliable, safe supply of drinking water, and need to navigate complex decisions about where to procure and how to store and treat water daily. These decisions have substantial cost and time consequences, usually fall on women and girls, and are performed with hardly any information about the actual quality of the water. As SDG 5 calls for gender equality, it would be important to include women and girls in the sphere of water monitoring.

To facilitate achieving these goals, Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham in India and Tel Aviv University in Israel have created a protocol (AmriTAU) that allows for household-level water quality monitoring. The protocol is part of the Women in Sustaining the Environment (WISE) project, which provides rural women with the tools they need to monitor and maintain local drinking water supplies. Through women’s empowerment and skill training, the initiative presents an innovative technique for increasing local capacity in water resource management. Women and girls from the villages will be taught in the AmriTAU Protocol, which will allow them to collect data and create a database that will serve as a scientific and trustworthy source for long-term water solutions for these communities. It can help guide women’s water sourcing, storage, and treatment decisions in the households in which water is tested. It can also increase demand for more effective water treatment, expressed through a higher willingness to pay or invest time and effort.

The AmriTAU Methodology is an adaptive household-level 3-tier water monitoring protocol. A basic five-parameter water dip-strip test, Lishtot Test Drop sensor score for potability, and a subjective self-assessment questionnaire of home water quality are currently integrated into the approach. The practice is carried out by “water ambassadors,” who are local women who have been taught and compensated. The Protocol was created to be adaptable, simple, and quick to execute in the field by water ambassadors. It serves as a useful tool for tracking clean water access in a scalable and cost-effective manner across various geographic and socioeconomic contexts, as well as for enhancing present water management practices at the home level. The Protocol not only gives a picture of the current water situation, but it can also be used as a regular monitoring tool to help communities make decisions about how to improve home water management, treatment, maintenance, storage, and knowledge.

Pre-Pilot Project in Tanzania, Africa

The project’s pilot was carried out in Tanzania in August 2021, with students from both Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham and Tel Aviv University participating. Over the course of six weeks, researchers from both the universities visited remote areas in Tanzania’s Moshi province and identified issues related to water quality.

Training Village Girls on Testing their own household drinking water

Twelve young women from four different villages went through two days and a half training, for them to conduct the AmriTAU protocol. The protocol included a survey to monitor the household water treatment and storage practices as well as sensor-based monitoring of their water. Water self-monitoring by the community has inherent value for the project. Women and girls were chosen as ambassadors as they are the ones who carry the high burden of the water management in the households. The research team followed the women ambassadors to each household to test the protocol for its training efficiency. Around 450 household water quality was monitored by the trained ambassadors to understand water quality issues.  

Women Talking About Water  

We conducted focus group discussions with the women in three villages on water and their understanding of the role women play in it. These sessions were designed to enable women in the community to express themselves, and to discuss the role women play in the community in terms of water management at home, within the community and in society in general. The sessions guided us through their experiences, challenges, and their expectations about the future in terms of water. 

The current water issue in their villages was described by women. Water is essential for the majority of domestic and agricultural tasks, and lack of access puts them in a tough situation. When it comes to maintaining a family or getting water, they don’t get much help from the men in the village. Education, business, and agriculture are the three primary areas where women say they are harmed by a shortage of water. Women are burdened more in terms of water management due to a lack of decision-making incorporating women in water decisions. Household water decisions relating to quantity are decided by women, but not in terms of amount spent on water. More often, decisions relating to community water are not even discussed with women who are the primary caretakers of water. Women imagine a better life in terms of business, education for kids, and creating projects for the environment if they have enough access to water.  

Pilot Study In Wayanad, India 

Following a pre pilot study in Tanzania, The pilot study was implemented in Kerala’s Wayanad District in January 2022, where five women from the Nellarachal Village were trained in the water quality monitoring Protocol and are currently evaluating 500 houses in the community. Water practises and water quality are the two sub-categories of data that have been gathered. The responses we obtained could differ significantly not only from village to village, but also across neighbouring houses, depending on the water source and socioeconomic position, which influences water habits. The research team conducted a comparison analysis to assess the efficiency of the water ambassadors who conducted the tests. Overall, water ambassadors were able to match the research team’s findings up to 89% of the time, based on survey and water testing results.  

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