WWF's Conservation Innovation Awards

Submitted
Gathering votes
Support
Gathering votes
Originality
Refine
Eligible
WINNER

SWIMMING with E-COLI

Is the water in our Rivers safe for swimming? How much E .coli are in the water that you swim and play in? When is the water safe to swim? These are the questions we have to ask before we go down to our favorite swimming hole with the kids this summer.  Contact with E-Coli 0157:H7 can kill or leave you with life-long kidney dialysis treatment.

WaiNZ the developers of RiverWatch have been working on a real time E .coli sensor that will test the water every 2 hours and transmit the data to their website. You will be able to download their swimming app on your smartphone and receive real-time notifications about your favorite swimming hole. WaiNZ with support partner ESR have been researching the development of a real-time E .coli sensor over the last 12 months. Using Lab on a Chip systems, Nano Flowers, Nano optics and ultra sound photogrammerty technology to develop a prototype device, for real-time monitoring.

What conservation problem are you trying to solve?

Swimming in our Rivers is now an endangerment to human health. We do not know if it's safe until someone gets sick. The delay with lab testing exposes the public to extreme risk. An E. coli water monitor transmitting real-time data, greatly reduces the risk of human contact with polluted water. E. coli 0157:H7 can kill. Children are at greatest risk when contracting this pathogen as it can leave them with a lifetime of dialysis treatment.  Lab testing water samples takes 24-48 hrs for results, with many people continuing to be exposed before warnings can be given. 

The current government guidelines for allowable E. coli levels in rivers, mean that 1 in 20 people will get sick when swimming this summer. The risk will be greater or lessor in different areas. Without real-time data, or an army of scientists in lab-coats, are YOU willing to take the risk? It's now essential that our rivers, lakes and streams can be tested for E. coli outbreaks with real-time monitoring.

 

How are you going to solve this conservation problem?

Real-time water quality data is vital for management of our freshwater in Aotearoa. WaiNZ a not for profit, has already developed and commercialized RiverWatch, which tests water 24/7 and is now ready to develop an E.coli tester for real time monitoring. 

The risk to human health can be substantially reduced with deployment of real-time E.coli water testers. Testing 24/7 it sends GPS tagged data to the WaiNZ website or regional council sites. The WaiNZ phone app will provide warning notices GPS tagged and swimming holes can be searched on line to determine if they are safe to swim. Public health warnings will be issued in real-time, potentially saving lives or outbreaks of sickness that accompany E. coli outbreaks. The real-time E. coli tester has the potential to save millions of lives world wide, with current estimates put at half a million lives lost each year to water borne pathogens.

What makes your idea new and unique?

The real-time E.coli tester is unique because it does not need to be removed from the water or a sample taken to be cultured in a lab, to obtain a result.  The results are instant. Instead of wondering how many days to wait to swim after a heavy rain event, you can get an answer on the spot.  The technology also allows for an indication of how much E. coli is actually present. Rivers, lakes and streams can be searched on the WaiNZ website to see if there are warnings or monitors present.

There is no other device like this in the world, making it highly innovative and unique. In Aotearoa we have some of the highest levels of water borne E.coli in the world and many of our drinking water supplies use untreated water. Its vital that we engage in real time E.coli testing.

Who will use your idea, and how will they benefit?

All New Zealanders use fresh water. Safe drinking water, available to everyone, is a fundamental requirement for public health. People of Aotearoa enjoy recreating in rivers, lakes and streams.  Maori have specific connections to freshwater in terms of spirituality, ceremony, food gathering and kaitiakitanga.  We all need it to survive.  All people will benefit by using the real-time E. coli tester by being able to guarantee that their use of water will not make them sick of kill them. 

Regional and City councils have an urgent need for the tester to ensue they meet their public health obligations.

E.coli pathways can be monitored enabling management to reduce contamination.

The NZ tourist industry is the countries largest income earner. Visitors will be able to ensure that the places they are swimming in and water that they are drinking is safe and the industry can be confident that it is protecting our visitors and residents alike.

What tasks or activities do you need investment for? How would you spend a $25,000 grant?

The grant will be used to develop the specialized technology required. With the help of ESR and their team of experts in this field we will be able to make a real-time E.coli tester  that is scientifically accurate and affordable. WaiNZ is a not for profit organisation that has been developing technology for water quality monitoring since 2012. It has joint venture relationships with a number of research organisations such as ESR, University of Canterbury and Victoria University. WaiNZ work with many service providers such as Regional councils, water care providers and Iwi and are able to draw on extensive knowledge around water quality issues and the dissemination of usable water quality data.

The grant will enable WaiNZ to optimize its current IP and build on its proof of concept to make a working prototype for real time E.coli testing, that can then be taken to commercial release.

Are you a New Zealand citizen or resident?

YES

I have read and agree to the Crowdicity Terms of Use, the Conservation Innovation Awards 2017 Supplemental Terms and Conditions, and the Crowdicity Privacy Policy

YES

List five other ideas posted in the challenge that excite you. Why?

Real Time DNA Testing: This is interesting because of its possible application in identifying water borne pathogens.  Proof of concept trials undertaken at northern hemisphere universities have used this type of sampling for their lab-on-a-chip prototyping.  

The Bayleen Filter:  This is interesting because it has the potential to stop the microfibre from entering waterways and engages the public in contributing to a positive environmental outcome.

Restoring the Ocean's Abundance:  This has the potential to speed up the regeneration of reefs and aquatic ecosystems.  

Restoration Drone for Polluted Waterways:  The drone concept could be developed to harvest algae as well as other contaminants that have the potential to be re-processed into bio-fuel and fertiliser.

Hihi Hihi Feeders:  The feeder has the ability to support the recovery of endangered bird species whilst collecting invaluable data about them.  It will also help engage the public and optimise volunteer efforts.  

How could you improve your idea?

Detection of numerous types of water borne pathogens in real-time is extremely difficult to do with any accuracy.  Also, many of these pathogens do not live very long when exposed to UV light.  By combining real-time DNA analysis with our E. coli tester we would be able to provide an accurate strain analysis and collect data on pathogen survival rates. 

edited on Oct 12, 2017 by Joanne Jackson

Grant Muir Sep 28, 2017

what a great idea and good old kiwi inovation

Reply

Grant Muir Oct 3, 2017

E,Coli monitoring in real time is a world first and puts NZ on the world map for research and development.

Reply

Tanya Didham Sep 30, 2017

Our rivers are in a desperate situation - this kind of real-time monitoring leaves no room for excuses, and will allow more efficient application of fixes.

Reply

Grant Muir Oct 3, 2017

Hi Tanya, yes one of the out comes from real time monitoring is that efficient application of fixes can be applied. At the moment a lot of decisions are made by good guess work which is often inaccurate.

Reply

Leigh Nicholson Oct 3, 2017

Anything to help clean up our water is great!

Reply

Grant Muir Oct 3, 2017

Thanks Leigh, E.Coli detection is vital if we want to protect human health and enjoy swimming in our rivers.

Reply

Bronwyn D Oct 4, 2017

Awesome idea, our water is so valuable to life and needs to be looked after!

Reply

Grant Muir Oct 5, 2017

we totally agree, being able to monitor E.Coli contamination in fresh water will potentially save many lives and sickness that water borne contamination brings.

Reply

Andre Pinkert Oct 6, 2017

This is a commendable initiative, proudly supported by our team of scientists here at ESR (http://www.esr.cri.nz). The team at WaiNZ and ESR have been collaborating for about one year to further refine the existing water testing device. Our aim is to develop an accurate water quality sensor that works in New Zealand conditions, with the ability to detect waterborne pathogens in real-time.

Reply

Grant Muir Oct 6, 2017

Thank you Andre & ESR for your support. Our E.Coli sensor is supported by leading forensic scientist & experts on water borne pathogens. Through ESR we have contact with Universities and researchers in NZ and world wide who are contributing to our sensor development. It is critical that we are able to maintain these collaborations and the WWF award would enable us to optimize our collaborative process.

Reply

martini5 Oct 6, 2017

Great idea! Needs to be implemented ASAP!

Reply

Grant Muir Oct 6, 2017

yes I agree Martin the sooner the better for all of us

Reply

Fiona Edwards Oct 9, 2017

Kai ora Grant
Congratulations on another awesome idea. E Coli monitoring in real time, on site and at low cost would be hugely beneficial to improving the quality of New Zealand's freshwater.
Good luck with your project.

Reply

Joanne Jackson Oct 10, 2017

Thanks very much for your comments. This is certainly going to be a great help for those concerned about their family's and community's health. We look forward to being able to find out what is really going on in our freshwater.

Reply

Joanne Jackson Oct 10, 2017

Thanks very much for your comments. This is certainly going to be a great help for those concerned about their family's and community's health. We look forward to being able to find out what is really going on in our freshwater.

Reply

View all replies (2)

Jimmy Muir Oct 9, 2017

There are many different types of E-coli. How will the device test for the ones that are harmful to humans? and will it also be able to test for other potentially harmful E-coli bacteria?

Reply

Joanne Jackson Oct 11, 2017

Thanks for you question James. The device is able to differentiate between pathogen types, enabling us to test for harmful E. coli 0157H. Basically it puts them into groups and counts them. How this is achieved is ground breaking science that we have developed through our partnership with Callaghan Innovation and ESR.

Reply

Andrew Lee Oct 10, 2017

Great idea, we have been looking for a e coli sensor to integrate on to our drone boat for some years but have been frustrated by a lack of real time data. If you are interested in a mobile sensor that could track contamination we would be very interested in a collaboration.

Reply

Joanne Jackson Oct 11, 2017

Yes, because this is a real time sensor, it could be potentially used to track E. coli. However, waterborne E. coli pathways are complex and not well understood. There is a lot of research yet to be undertaken on E .coli pathways and your suggestion could aid this.

Reply

Andrew Lee Oct 10, 2017

Great idea, we have been looking for a e coli sensor to integrate on to our drone boat for some years but have been frustrated by a lack of real time data. If you are interested in a mobile sensor that could track contamination we would be very interested in a collaboration.

Reply

Joanne Jackson Oct 11, 2017

Yes, because this is a real time sensor, it could be potentially used to track E. coli. However, waterborne E. coli pathways are complex and not well understood. There is a lot of research yet to be undertaken on E .coli pathways and your suggestion could aid this.

Reply

Jennifer Mcguire Oct 10, 2017

Very good innovative thinking. Like this a lot as we do a lot of cooling off in rivers during the summer months! Nice one.

Reply

Joanne Jackson Oct 11, 2017

Thanks Jennifer. That is how this project started. We wanted to be able to enjoy our river (Pahaoa - east of Martinborough). We believe that the E. coli tester is going to be important because every person will have the ability and the opportunity to check the condition of their local waterway before they go swimming. Power to the people!

Reply

Jennifer Mcguire Oct 12, 2017

Totally! On ya!

Reply

View all replies (2)

Becky Wilson Oct 12, 2017

The idea has been progressed to the next milestone

Reply

Becky Wilson Dec 3, 2017

Status label added: WINNER

Reply

Share