Shaping the future: Our strategy for research and innovation in humanitarian response.

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WaterScope is developing a fast, low-cost bacterial test utilising our small, inexpensive microscope that can detect single bacteria and produce quantitative results in less than two hours.


Globally there are 663 million people without access to safe drinking water. Waterborne diseases from bacterial pathogens result in over 2.2 million deaths every year. The vast majority of those affected are in rural communities, which rely on infrequent visits from water testing companies. Kits currently available to test for bacteria are time-consuming, require power, and cannot be used by scientifically unskilled workers. There is currently no integrated way to share test results meaning that we frequently lack the information required to bring clean water where it is most needed.


WaterScope is developing a rapid, simple, digital, bacterial testing kit to enable anyone to conduct a test independent of resource availability. Our innovative device not only provides a faster, low cost, reliable and connected test result but also allows for testing to be completed in any location.

The WaterScope kit consists of two core components: a disposable cartridge to enable easy sample collection and preparation in the field (eliminating complex sterilisation and processing steps); and a testing system which includes a microscope and machine learning to identify bacterial presence.This innovative design enables rapid results that can be immediately, and automatically, disseminated for mapping and reporting of contaminated water sources, allowing almost real-time intervention where necessary. The system is battery powered and does not require external internet or power source enabling it to be used in even the most remote locations.

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What are the expected outcomes?

Moving forward, the WaterScope system must meet a number of technical and nontechnical criteria to show its commercial applicability. In this project we will collect evidence on:

  1. How does the WaterScope technology perform in the field compared to reference standards with respect to: Sensitivity (false negatives) and specificity (false positives); Level of detection; Time to results; Applicability to a range of water compositions.
  2. To what extent is the WaterScope system easy to use by non-engineers working in emergency settings?
  3. Is the WaterScope technology cost-effective compared to existing water quality diagnostics?
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The Imaging System
The Filtration System

Latest Updates

Vote for Waterscope!

Jun 2021

Waterscope are through to the final of the Cisco Award!


Waterscope receives Evidence Funding

25 Jan 2021

The project has received funding from our WASH Evidence challenge funding


Final report: developing an improved test for bacterial water contamination

19 Mar 2018

The final project report provides information on the methodology, activities, outputs, impact and dissemination of learning.


Waterscope: a rapid, hand-held bacterial contamination test for drinking water

5 Jun 2017

Over 660 million people lack access to clean drinking water, with over 80% living in rural communities; these communities solely rely on external aid. Existing tests are slow, expensive and require significant training, resulting in infrequent testing, and poor dissemination to key stakeholders within the community.


Read the Humanitarian WASH Innovation Catalogue

Learn more about this WASH project, and many others, in our Humanitarian WASH Innovation Catalogue.

Read now

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