UNSW students test water sterilisation prototype in Uganda
Drought Resistance Uganda (DRU) is a UNSW Humanitarian Engineering project that collaborates with local organisations to create sustainable solutions for water scarcity in northern Uganda.
Dedicated to empowering Ugandan people through innovative engineering solutions, one of the project's primary focuses is to improve water quality in remote communities of Uganda. Recognising the need for affordable and non-intrusive methods, UNSW students developed a unique device that utilises UV-C light wavelengths to eliminate harmful bacteria and viruses from local water sources.
Eight students from the DRU team travelled to Uganda in May 2023 to conduct field tests of the water sterilisation prototype. They were able to witness firsthand how water is utilised by remote communities, refugees and schools—while also learning more about their water sources. Water samples for testing were collected from various locations, including a local boarding school, an open well and a rainwater tank.
The DRU device combined with the in-country partner's filtration system achieved a remarkable reduction of over 99.99% in E. coli, a prevalent bacterium in local water sources. This outcome surpassed the DRU team's expectations, motivating them to further improve the prototype to become even more cost-effective and efficient than its predecessor.
Student Hans William commented on his incredible experience in Uganda, saying, "What we have learned from university to being able to apply these engineering knowledges into exciting and rewarding activities is nothing short of spectacular. We gained technical and engineering perspective from class but to immediately practice these innovations and solutions into the designated environment provides unique insights that we would have never experienced. May the explorations and the results we have conducted be a fruition for the better of people in safe water usage."
The DRU project began in 2019 during the UNSW Engineering course Humanitarian Engineering Project (ENGG4102), and has now evolved into its own Social Impact project.
Humanitarian Engineering Academic Lead Dr Andrew Dansie said, "It is tremendous to see the in-person activities happen after such a long time of virtual interaction due to the pandemic. The amount of activities that were undertaken over two weeks was truly impressive and the result of ongoing collaboration on both water and food security issues between UNSW, Gulu University, African STEM Education Initiative (ASEI) and the Love Mercy Foundation.”
ASEI Co-founder and Water Program Manager Moses Alicwamu agreed, saying, "The visit by DRU - UNSW to Uganda was a huge learning experience for everyone involved, especially in understanding the Ugandan WASH context, and its opportunities. The collaboration between Gulu University, UNSW and ASEI provides research, teaching and local industry expertise key to achieving equitable access to safe water and sanitation in Uganda"
A short video on the recent Uganda visit is available on the UNSW Community YouTube channel.