Everyone has the right to safe and affordable water for personal and domestic use. However, there are still over 1.8 billion people globally who are exposed to unsafe drinking water sources. Drinking contaminated water with faecal bacteria can lead to preventable deaths.

In response to this situation, world leaders adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in September 2015 to improve the lives of people everywhere. Included as part of the SDGs is to improve water quality monitoring, ensure safe and affordable drinking water, and improve community-led management of water resources. To achieve this goal, organizations and governments require more reliable data to enable them to make evidence-based decisions in real time.

Monitoring water quality

Clean water test. Schoolgirl doing a strip test to check water quality - this requires multiple, complicated steps.
Clean water test. Schoolgirl doing a strip test to check water quality – this requires multiple, complicated steps. ©UNICEF/India/2009/Purushotham

E. coli is the World Health Organization (WHO) preferred indicator to measure fecal contamination of water and is used by UNICEF and its partners to monitor water quality at the community and household levels. Unfortunately, current methods used to quantify E. coli contamination require overnight incubation and specialized training for staff who perform the test. These methods limit the ability to test drinking water on-site and hinder implementing behavioral change programmes within the community.

As a result, UNICEF is challenging product developers to design a detection method that can rapidly but accurately identify fecal contamination, while also meeting UNICEF and its partners’ needs and requirements. For more information on UNICEF’s needs and desired requirements, please refer to UNICEF’s Target Product Profile.

Forum of problem solvers

On 22 November 2016, UNICEF and the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation will host a Stakeholder Consultation at UNICEF HQ in Copenhagen, Denmark. This open forum will bring together practitioners, subject matter experts, and product developers to exchange knowledge and share experiences to identify and prototype innovations for water quality monitoring

Through these open discussions, UNICEF aims to accelerate its R&D efforts to help achieve the SDGs and create affordable and scalable solutions that positively impact the lives of children.


Read more about UNICEF’s E. coli project and the product innovations that UNICEF is interested in.

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