New tools to monitor water quality, measure water insecurity

Washington D.C. [USA]: In breakthrough research, scientists have come up with new tools that present high-tech and low-tech solutions for improving water security.

Northwestern University’s Sera Young and Julius Lucks come from different ends of the science spectrum but meet in the middle to provide critical new information to approach this global issue. The tools were presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) 2020 annual meeting.

Lucks, associate professor of chemical and biological engineering in Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering and an internationally recognized leader in synthetic biology, is developing a new technology platform to allow individuals across the globe to monitor the quality of their water cheaply, quickly and easily. Lucks discussed how advances made at Northwestern’s Center for Synthetic Biology are making these discoveries possible in his presentation “Rapid and Low-cost Technologies for Monitoring Water Quality in the Field.”

MS Education Academy

In “A Simple Indicator of Global Household Water Experiences,” Young, associate professor of anthropology at Northwestern’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, discussed the Household Water Insecurity Experiences Scale (, the first globally equivalent scale to measure experiences of household-level water access and use.

Young led a large consortium of scholars in the development of the HWISE Scale, which permits comparisons across settings to quantify the social, political, health and economic consequences of household water insecurity. The HWISE Scale is already being used by scientists and governmental- and non-governmental organizations around the world, including the Gallup World Poll.

Both presentations will be presented with representatives from the World Bank and UNESCO as part of the session “Managing Water: New Tools for Sustainable Development.”

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