Innovations in microbiology generating opportunities in water

Published on by in Technology

Innovations in microbiology generating opportunities in water

Real-time online sensors that can detect microbiological contamination in water and wastewater are “closer than people think”, according an expert speaker invited to address the latest Water Action Platform webinar. Professor Tobias Barnard, a biochemist from the University of Johannesburg in South Africa, gave a rapid overview of innovations that could enhance water treatment.


Barnard said that microbiology “needs to be investigated more” for deployment in a wider range of water and wastewater applications. He shared techniques and approaches that could be deployed, including the use of predatory bacteria in combination solar disinfection to eliminate harmful microbes; and hunting for ‘extremophiles’, bacteria adapted to environments with extreme conditions that may have the characteristics required for specific applications. 


The online event took place on 11 March 2021 and was themed Innovation in Microbiology. It is available on the Water Action Platform and is the 25th webinar since the network’s launch to support water utilities grappling with the emerging pandemic a year ago. Today there are some 1,300 members across 92 countries and content is free at point of use. 


Breakthrough technologies


Two further microbiology related technologies were presented during the webinar, both of them suitable for onsite analysis. 


Canadian technology company Tecta-PDS has developed the world’s first rapid microbial test for E coli, coliforms and enterococcal bacteria and is already supplying hundreds of water utilities and municipal labs globally. 


Chief executive Doug Wilton explained, “It has incredible ease-of-use and can test the entire water system including drinking water, wastewater, raw water and even sludge.”


The system is already in use in Singapore, Kuwait, North America and Australia, where Sydney Water has fitted out an entire fleet of mobile labs to improve their testing turnaround times.


QBiowater, a proprietary technology from the UK, uses autonomous wastewater monitoring to gain insights that reduce the spread of disease during pandemics. Chairman and co-founder Vito D’Ancona said that the enzymatic molecular assay has been developed to passively gather information on a targeted population to monitor and prevent the spread of future pandemics.


“It can be delivered fully configured for easy installation and is telemetry controlled,” he said.


The 25th Water Action Platform webinar can be viewed at The next event takes place on 15 April 2021, with two sessions to accommodate time differences, register here.