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A Low-Cost Hydration Indicator for Urinals in Developing Countries

IWRA World Water Congress 2017 - Cancun Mexico
1. Water, sanitation and health
Author(s): Jake Larsson
Leon Williams

Jake Larsson
Leon Williams

Keyword(s): Dehydration, Developing Countries, Innovation


Cranfield University has developed a low-cost hydration indicator for use in urinals in order to motivate individuals to drink more water. Previous literature alongside an ethnographic inquiry of low-income individuals in Kumasi, Ghana, has shown that people in working conditions in low-income countries will avoid drinking water to limit the need to visit the toilet because of the poor state of the toilets. Not only does this prove problematic for the maintenance of sanitation, but also the general health of the people. Dehydration is a key indicator of diarrhoea where rehydration therapy is essential. Dehydration of course causes headaches and loss in concentration, but in the most severe cases, particularly children, the loss of body fluid and salts can lead to death.

In order to combat dehydration and bring new value to visiting the toilet, an electronic unit that infers the specific gravity of urine, and thus levels of hydration, from the urine’s colour. The technology has been developed using readily available, low-cost components for the purpose of reaching the bottom of the pyramid market. The results show that the devise accurately and repeatedly measures the specific gravity of urine and therefore indicates the level of hydration. The device is now being tested on users to assess whether their rates of water consumption changes.

The implications of such a low cost device may change the way people in low-income contexts perceive toilets and the need for hydration. In the continuing development of this technology, other health indicators from urine are being examined to keep users of this technology informed of their general wellbeing. 

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