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Partnerships for enhanced engagement in research (PEER) SCIENCE
Cycle 1 (2011 Deadline)

Addressing drinking water quality challenges in developing countries: case study of Lake Victoria Basin 

PI: Shem Wandiga (University of Nairobi)
U.S. Partner:  Benito Mariñas (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign), formerly Mark Shannon (deceased, October 2012)
Project Dates: May 2012 - August 2014

Project Overview 

The goal of this project is to develop point of use water treatment technology that will be used to improve the quality of drinking water for the people living around the Kenya’s shore of Lake Victoria. The project will be carried out by University of Nairobi and Bondo University College academic staff and students in collaboration with the Center of Advanced Materials for the Purification of Water with Systems (WaterCAMPWS), science and technology center supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation. The project will offer transdisciplinary cooperative knowledge development to postgraduate students of the institutions involved, improve the knowledge base of communities regarding water quality processes, develop prototype water purification platforms, and bring the successful platform to market scale. This project will provide synergistic research activities between biologists, chemists, environmental engineers, geneticists, material scientists, mechanical engineers, virologists, social scientists, and local stakeholder communities. The expertise from WaterCAMPWS will be used to help utilize locally available materials and regional expertise to develop novel and sustainable point of use water purification systems.
Kenya has large deposits of titanium oxide (TiO2) that are now being mined for export. Small particle semiconducting TiO2 photocatalysts have been extensively studied due to their relatively high reactivity and stability, and this study will build upon the photocatalytic advances made by WaterCAMPWS to extend the use of TiO2 to address regionally specific waterborne chemical and microbial contaminants. Expected outcomes of the project are: 1) improved regional access to safe water; 2) new materials and markets for point of use water purification systems that leverage regionally abundant and underutilized deposits of TiO2 ore in Kenya; 3) improved research capacity in water disinfection and purification; and 5) increased coordination in addressing drinking water problems at scientific, policy and local communities.
Summary of Recent Activities
During October-December 2013, Dr. Wandiga and his team continued their data analysis removing chemical and microbial contaminants using the ceramic filters and the Moringa oleifera powder. M. Oleifera seeds were found to be effective in removing microbial contaminants with E.Coli removal efficiency of up to to around 89%, while that of other Coliforms was around 78%. However, the powder was not effective in the removal of ions such as nitrates, nitrites, and phosphates and alkalinity.  With the ceramic filters, the efficiency of the E.Coli reduction was around 99% while that of other Coliforms was around 89 %. In addition, the filters were effective in reducing heavy metals from water. As observed with the M.Oleifera powder, the filters did not have the ability to remove dissolved ions from the water. Synthesis of tiles is continuing. The produced tile will be tested for porosity and filtration efficiency. Other tests on microorganisms and metals degradation will be carried out and incorporation of nanoparticles into ceramic tiles is ongoing. Spare parts for Varian GC ECD will be purchased. One participant from the research group is expected to attend a conference to present the results. Compilation of the final report has begun. Outreach efforts have been ongoing, and presentations on critical water quality issues and challenges in Africa were made at a number of workshops and conferences. The preparation of the paper is at its final editorial stage and will be finalized and submitted to a journal for publication. A final workshop with the community to analyze the results and chart future project is being planned in the coming months as well.