New water research lab built in Malawi

Construction has been completed on a new water science lab, that will become the home base for our work in Lilongwe, Malawi. The lab has been built near to the headquarters of Conservation Research Africa and we are extremely grateful to its founder/director Dr Emma Stone, and all of her team, for their support and assistance. The lab was designed based on our experiences with lab construction and operation in Kisoro, Uganda in 2019 and will house facilities for chemical and limited microbiological assessment of water quality. Chemical contamination assessment will use a combination of Palintest and the Metalyser HM3000 systems. Microbiological assessment will be conducted using Paqualab and Petrifilm systems, which we have used successfully in Uganda since 2018.

Our work will focus on water quality testing at agreed sites along the pre-urban, urban and post-urban stretches of the Lilongwe and Lingadzi Rivers, as well as investigating local experiences of household water insecurity through application of the HWISE survey. Malawi has levels of centralised water and sanitation provision that are, in national terms, higher than many other African countries, though some areas, particularly informally-settled areas in the southern part of the city, remain underserved. Moreover, urban water quality remains subject to the usual pressures of economic and industrial development. We are also aware that water service affordability is a problem, particularly in some poorer areas of the city, which may mean that some residents rely on the water resources of the city’s two rivers. This means research and knowledge about urban surface water quality is of high importance.

Accommodations for staff and students at the CRA compound are comfortable and the compound itself is located in a quiet area just outside the city. The lab should have been commissioned in the summer of 2020, but due to the coronavirus pandemic, it was not possible for the UWE Global Water Security Programme field research sessions to take place. We hope that staff and students from UWE Bristol will be able to carry out research there next year.