Potatest+ Emergency Water Testing

The simplest and most widely-used kit within our Wagtech range is the Potatest+. This kit is designed for use in emergency situations, such as natural disasters or developing refugee situations. The Potatest+ is used to assess available water sources, such as boreholes, rivers or tankered water, and decide on their suitability for provision as drinking water.

Health risks from drinking water sources can be grouped into microbiological, chemical and physical categories. In emergency situations, often the biological quality of the water is the most important to establish, as microbial pathogens (such as cholera) can have rapid adverse effects on the health of the population exposed to them. The most common source of these microbial pathogens is contamination with either human or animal faeces.

Indicator bacteria

Coliforms are the most commonly used indicator bacteria for faecal contamination of drinking water. The principle of testingfor indicator bacteria is well established. It is not practical (especially in challenging conditions) to test for each potential biological contaminant, as there are too many possible species to test, and they can also be present and cause illness in very low concentrations. Coliforms, especially thermotolerant coliforms, have been selected as markers of biological contamination. They are relatively simple to test for with a high degree of accuracy and confirm the presence of generic faecal contamination within a water source.

The Potatest+, and all Wagtech kits, are based around the membrane filtration method for measuring coliforms. This is a laboratory method which has been adapted for field use in which the coliforms are isolated from a water sample by filtration then cultured in to visible-to-the-eye colonies by incubating them with specific culture media at 37◦C (total coliforms) or 44◦C (thermotolerant coliforms). After incubation the user can visually count the colonies and obtain a quantitative result detailing the level of contamination of the water source. This is important as it aids decision making in selecting between alternative potential drinking water sources and deciding treatment strategies for contaminated water.

Water Safety Plans

The other components of the Potatest+ allow for simple on-site testing of free and total chlorine, pH and turbidity. These are used for testing treated water, checking that addition of disinfectant chlorine and pH modification has given the required results, and that the water is safe to store and consume.

Furthermore, monitoring of chlorine, pH and turbidity assists the implementation of Water Safety Plans (WSPs). WSPs are risk-based assessments of water provision systems which focus on identifying and eliminating hazards.

Once a robust WSP has been implemented which minimises the risk of faecal contamination of drinking water by close management of infrastructure and processes, it is permissible to reduce the frequency of testing for microbial indicators, on the basis that frequent checks of the physical and chemical parameters demonstrate that the system is within control.

The Potatest+ is a lightweight and portable kit, which contains all the equipment required for testing. The digital incubator is battery-powered and can test 5 full cycles (up to 100 samples) between charges, making it suitable for remote and challenging situations where uninterrupted mains power is not available. The kit is accompanied with graphical instructions in multiple languages which allow users to undertake the testing without the requirement for specialist training. The Potatest has been deployed emergency situations across the world by UN agencies, International NGOs and local partners.

To find out more about the Wagtech Potatest, visit the product page or contact our team.

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