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Although Europe's drinking water is the safest in the world, according to the World Health Organization, about 300,000 Europeans fall ill every year with infections caused by bacteria and viruses in tap water, with E. coli and norovirus the most frequent culprits. In a bid to improve water quality across Europe, a group of 39 research organizations from 13 European countries have joined forces in a new project, funded by the EU, aiming to develop a high-speed test that could dramatically reduce the time needed to detect viruses and bacteria in drinking water.
The five-year Aquavalens project aims to allow water companies and regulators to respond quickly to potential water contamination. A typical water quality test may take days to be completed, and over that time contamination may spread and cause an outbreak. But researchers working for the Aquavalens project are developing methods to have results within a day, so that proper measures could be taken in a timely manner.
One of the institutions involved in the research is the University of East Anglia, with Prof Paul Hunter, of the university's Norwich Medical School, leading the project. Hunter explained that despite the fact that overall, Europeans have access to high-quality water, there are still small supplies that are hard to monitor and may pose a risk to public health. The Aquavalens project will try to provide a quick solution to testing issues and ensure water supplies are safe, he added.