Facilitating local research
In developing countries, owing to a lack of technical and financial resources, it is often almost impossible for authorities to perform the complex task of producing arsenic or fluoride hazard maps without assistance. Now, with financial support from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), the Eawag team in collaboration with Ernst Basler + Partner and Hydrosolutions has developed an online solution that is available to all interested parties free of charge – the Groundwater Assessment Platform (www.gapmaps.org). Michael Berg comments: “GAP makes it possible for professionals around the world to visualize their own data with relatively little effort and to produce their own hazard maps. This makes it easier to identify the wells that should be investigated as a matter of priority, so that available funds and resources can be deployed in a more targeted manner.”
Rick Johnston, a technical officer at the WHO, also believes the new platform will play a significant role: “For countries with an arsenic or fluoride problem, GAP could become an important instrument for monitoring implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.” GAP, he adds, should also be a useful tool for WHO and UNICEF, which are closely involved in efforts to mitigate arsenic and fluoride contamination in drinking water.
Sharing information on the removal of contaminants
According to Michael Berg, GAP is not merely an online database for the production of hazard maps: “The new platform facilitates more rapid localization of geogenic contamination, and that’s a milestone in the protection of public health. But just as important as early detection is the development of practical methods for removing these toxic substances from water.”
A number of these methods are described in the “Geogenic Contamination Handbook” – also produced by Eawag – which is available on www.gapmaps.org (as a pdf file and in the form of a Wiki to which all users can contribute articles). Michael Berg emphasizes: “In spite of all the progress that’s been made, a lot of research still needs to be done – especially on the development of treatment technologies that are safe and easy to use.” For this reason, GAP was also designed from the outset with a forum for sharing information: “The sooner existing knowledge can be effectively disseminated, the better.” The new online portal will now permit the development of a global network.