Contaminated drinking water is one of the largest health challenges we face today on a global scale. Every day, thousands of people become sick or die due to consumption of contaminated drinking water.

A significant source of contamination in drinking water is the use of pesticides. Pesticides, broadly speaking, refer to poisonous substances applied to control organisms perceived as harmful, including species of plants, insects, fungi, rodents and others. The term is largely used to refer to substances used to protect against harmful plants, but applies also to the other named areas.

In Europe, there are currently around 1.6 million measurement points established to monitor and control water quality, and a similar amount exist in the USA. In order to measure the concentration of pesticides in drinking water using existing methods, one must take manual grab samples and send them to a laboratory for analysis. This is both a time-consuming and costly process, which fails to provide real-time information on the quality of the supplied drinking water.

The development project “Continuous pesticide sensing in the environment” (CoPs) is seeking to develop a sensor and measurement system capable of automatically and continuously identifying a wide range of pesticides, measuring their concentrations in the water supply, and reporting the data in real time. The system is to be suitable both for installation in surface water and groundwater supply wells, and will send information via cellular telemetry to a central database, where all information will be accessible via web.

This measurement system will fundamentally change the way pesticide monitoring is performed throughout the world and will contribute to increased security in the drinking water supply while simultaneously reducing the cost of monitoring for those managing drinking water sources.