Various approaches have been to explored to improve access to clean water in the developing world, but with little success. Multi-million-dollar public infrastructure projects and distribution of water filters have yielded negligible results. The Oasis Test offers a novel way of approaching this problem: allowing community members to test their own water!
In January 2017, in partnership with the Indian Institute of Technology at Kanpur, researchers from Georgia Tech, Johns Hopkins, Duke, UNICEF and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine deployed 3000 Oasis tests in Kanpur, India. In a region where poverty is rampant and resources are limited, they were keen to see if access to these tests would result in improved water quality. They provided no intervention support except for these three suggestions to community members: 1) boil water if it is contaminated 2) store it in a safe storage container 3) wash hands regularly.
In a single month, mean E. coli counts fell by a staggering 40%. Behavioral outcomes were positive too. In households that used Oasis Tests and received a positive signal, the percent of households using covered water storage containers increased from 93% to 100%, and soap availability for hand-washing increased from 89% to 99%.
This trial clearly demonstrates that even where poverty and illiteracy are rampant, people are able to use the test and interpret its result. Moreover, it offers an inclusive approach to broadening access to clean drinking water in the developing world.