UPGro reflections: Saskia Nowicki

Early Career Researchers from UPGro Gro for GooD reflect on their time with the programme

What was your research focus in the Gro for Good project?

During my MSc studies I joined the Gro for Good team to investigate health risk from faecal contamination of drinking water. In particular, I was interested in trying out different ways of testing water quality to assess contamination risk. My goal was to assess the advantages and disadvantages of the different testing methods, and also to understand how faecal contamination of water changes from one day to the next.

What fieldwork did you do in Kwale County and what data did you collect?

In order to evaluate different ways of testing water quality and to investigate daily variability of drinking water faecal contamination, I focused my work on a few drinking water sources around the Bomani area and tested them daily in June 2016 and March 2017. I was able to do some of the testing directly at the water sources using sensors that measure different chemical and biological aspects of water quality. I also collected small volumes of water and brought them back to my field-lab for additional testing. In the lab I filtered the water to collect bacteria out of it, and then used an incubator to multiply the bacteria into colonies that are large enough to see and be counted. Using these testing methods at the source and in the lab, I was able to learn more about the quality of the water and observed how it changed from one day to the next.

How have you shared your work in Kenya?

The results of the water quality sampling were shared with users of the water sources, with stakeholders at the annual project workshops in Kwale, and with local water services maintenance company FundiFix. Additionally, I shared my work with student water clubs at Kingwede, Shimba Hills and Mivumoni Secondary Schools. The students learned how contamination can move through groundwater and they used one of the water quality methods to test for E. coli in different sources of water.

What will you do next?

I am continuing my research on drinking water quality as a PhD (DPhil) student at Oxford University and working with FundiFix at their location in Kitui County to start an ongoing programme to do water quality monitoring and sanitary inspections for all of the hand-pumps and piped schemes that are registered with FundiFix for maintenance services. If the trial period in Kitui is successful, we hope to be able to extend this programme to the FundiFix registered water points in Kwale as well.

Publications:

Interview by Nancy Gladstone, SSEE, University of Oxford

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