Mobile water lab improves the health of remote communities.

Access to good quality water, sanitation and domestic hygiene is a cornerstone of public health. Without it, people run the risk of contracting a variety of dangerous waterborne diseases, some of which can be fatal.
In remote areas where access to water is problematic, or in the wake of natural disasters that cause water supplies to become contaminated, it is necessary to test water before it can be used. But the laboratories that undertake this sort of analysis are usually located in big cities, often far from areas in need of help. And while field labs are an option, they can be time consuming to set up, and are often hindered by difficult conditions on site.


That’s why Professor Tobias Barnard, Director of the Water and Health Research Centre at UJ, research coordinator Dr Kousar Hoorzook and industrial designer Robin Robertson designed and built a mobile water lab.

The lab can operate off-grid, has high road clearance and can be towed by a 4×4. It runs its sample fridge, incubator, analysis equipment and air-conditioning on solar panels, a generator and batteries, and carries its own safe water supply. It also has a side tent to accommodate more testing equipment and, if necessary, provide shelter for staff.

“The space inside was set up so you can bring in different types of equipment to do different types of analysis,” says Professor Barnard.“If you find that you’ve got to test for typhoid, dysentery or cholera, you can easily adapt your setup on site and test for it.


The lab is a cost-effective way of monitoring water treatment plants, community water supplies, schools, clinics, and hospitals for potential water, sanitation and health problems. Regular monitoring helps to ensure that fewer children miss school due to diarrhoea, fewer employees take sick leave, and fewer people arrive at hospitals and clinics with preventable problems.

The team at the Water and Health Research Centre has also established BlUJoy, which uses social media  to share, educate and inspire the public to use water responsibly and to respect it. In early 2020, as the world came to grip with Covid-19, BlUJoy’s YouTube  channel shared important information on making water dispensers for handwashing, which is critical in helping to stem the spread of the virus.

Between the mobile lab and BlUJoy, UJ’s Water and Health Research Centre is helping to ensure that clean and safe water is a priority and a reality for everyone.

BlUJoy YouTube channel.

BlUJoy is a brand of the Water and Health Research Centre at the University of Johannesburg.
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