Benefits for Humanity: Know Your Water


[ Music ]>>Most of the children,
they come here with waterborne diseases.>>So many children under
five suffer from diarrhea.>>They’re complaining about their abdominal
pain, their skin rashes.>>They get waterborne
illness through drinking water. [ Music ]>>Most of the community members
had little knowledge regarding the use of safe water
and what safe water is.>>Because most of the water,
we use it without knowing if it is infected
with disease or not.>>So we needed to test it
and so that we make sure that the water is
safe or not safe. [ Music ]>>A lot of people have the idea
that water quality is too hard to do in the field and
it’s too complicated.>>Having to transport samples, having to have reliable
electricity, having to heat samples or keep
samples at certain temperatures or put them in refrigerators.>>But probably the biggest
challenge is actually the cost.>>The price was really
high, up to $300 a test.>>So all those things
come together to make it really difficult to use a traditional
laboratory approach when you’re testing water. What’s been missing is the
really simple, cheap test kit, and that solution
came from above. [ Music ] On the Space Station, we
recycle almost all of the water that the astronauts drink,
and that constitutes a risk because if that water
became contaminated, the astronauts would have
to abandon the Space Station in the worst case scenario. What we needed on the
Space Station was something that was small, easy
to transport, and didn’t require a lot of
training for the astronauts. We developed a water test kit
that was really easy to use and used off the shelf
components, and we called that the Microbial Water
Analysis Kit, or MWAK. It’s basically a bag
that changes color in it, and the astronauts just had to
hook it up to the water system, take the sample,
store it overnight, and read it the next day. It worked great, and
it’s still in use today. This was when we realized we had
a chance to make a difference in the world using the same
technology that was used by NASA but applied in a remote area
of a developing country. [ Music ]>>We started mWater for
the biggest health crisis on the planet, which is
a lack of safe water. The test kit is revolutionary
because of its cost. It lowers the cost of testing
water points from hundreds of dollars to about
five to seven dollars. It can be done on site
in the remote region, and it can give you a
result within 24 hours.>>I take a sample today. Tomorrow I have results. To use a mWater kit
is very easy.>>But we learned that testing
water by itself wasn’t enough. With the mobile app, people could map water
sources and record the data.>>So that way, we’re building
sort of a global database of water information that
everybody can contribute to and share with others.>>So what that meant was people who before didn’t have a
feasible and affordable way to test water suddenly
had the means to know which water sources
around them were safe.>>It’s made people
much more aware of the issues of water quality. That’s a very powerful thing.>>And that’s all due to
technology that we’ve borrowed from the International
Space Station. [ Music ] So now we’re able to assemble
a really low cost water quality test kit to ship
all over the world.>>We’ve been working with
the local health ministry and the water utility in
Mwanza, Tanzania since 2013.>>Through that technology,
most of the cities in Mwanza have an increased
awareness regarding the kind of water they use and whether
it causes them any waterborne illnesses or not.>>People are not treating
their water and avoiding sources of water which could
be contaminated. I’ve seen a growing awareness.>>It is very unusual for
technology that is used in International Space
Stations to be used in developing countries like
Tanzania, but it can be used and it should be used because
this technology is not limited to only developed countries
but for all humankind. [ Music ]

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