Lack of clean drinking water is a contributory factor in the proliferation of diarrhoeal diseases which kill 1.8 million people every year, of whom 1.5 million are children under the age of five. In fact, diarrhoea kills more young children than AIDS, malaria and measles combined.
So the need for high-quality water testing – in both developed and developing countries – is critical. But there are problems. In the more remote areas of the developing world, existing water testing systems are proving unsuitable. Lab-based facilities often do not offer a cost-effective service; and a lack of skilled personnel, combined with remote locations, often make the provision of acceptable testing regimes (whether regulatory or operational) unrealistic.
Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people's health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty.
In October 2007 the Global Development Program of the Foundation awarded the University of Bristol a grant to research and develop a user-friendly, low-cost water quality test that can be used on-site in developing country field conditions and to prepare for the future introduction of the test in developing countries. This includes identifying suitable partners to take the product to market.