Safe water for local communities in Colombia

The growing mining industry in Colombia is causing heavy metal pollution in lakes and rivers. Illegal mining is estimated to account for 63 per cent of the total mining activities and has led to the pollution of 19 rivers. This threatens local communities who are living along the river banks and whose livelihood and health depend on fishing and agriculture.

Researchers from the University of Bath and the Universidad de los Andes, supported by a British Council and Newton Fund grant, have developed a portable, cost-effective and user-friendly device that allows the effective monitoring of water.

The device measures parameters such as pH and temperature and can detect heavy metals including mercury, which is often used in gold mining. The data is sent to a web-based platform and made available to the public worldwide. Local communities can use the device to instantly check if their water is safe to use. It allows them to measure pollution effectively and raise concerns with Colombian authorities and policy-makers to ensure that vulnerable ecosystems are protected.

The new technology will not only benefit Colombia. People around the world will be able to use it to minimise environmental impacts and protect public health.

"The newton fund helped us build a network of researchers and institutions ensuring that academics have a prominent place in the discussions of drug policy and rural development in Colombia."
Dr Mirella di Lorenzo, University of Bath

This success story was produced by British Council and originally appeared on the British Council website. Image copyright: Dr Mirella Di Lorenzo.

The British Council runs Institutional Links grants under the Newton Fund. These grants facilitate research that tackles local development challenges such as extreme weather conditions, access to affordable health care, food and energy security.

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