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SMU scientists to lead water quality study at UN refugee camps
Date:10/19/2011

DALLAS (SMU) The search for solutions to dangerous water quality issues in refugee camps is driving an SMU lab group's partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees an agreement that will put the university's faculty and students to work both in the lab and on the ground in Kenya, Uganda, Liberia and Bangladesh.

Supported by a $270,000 grant from UNHCR and additional SMU funds, faculty member Andrew Quicksall and his graduate students in SMU's Lyle School of Engineering are collecting water samples in UNHCR camps, bringing samples back to SMU for analysis and also training workers in and around the refugee camps to test water supplies. The group will integrate information from other sources to develop a database that will help UNHCR planners provide safer drinking water in existing and future refugee camps.

"They've asked us to build out a whole picture, truly worldwide, for what's in the drinking water in refugee camps," said Quicksall, the J. Lindsay Embrey Trustee Assistant Professor in the Lyle School of Engineering. "So we're going to go on-site, collect water, analyze some in the field and bring quite a bit of water back to our SMU laboratories and get a full picture."

The database developed by Quicksall's group will identify contaminants in drinking water and allow UNHCR officials to track water quality in the camps over time. Some water quality problems are indigenous to the regions where the camps are situated, some develop over time, and some are the nearly instant consequence of thousands of people collecting in unsuitable locations to escape war and famine faster than sanitary infrastructure can be built.

For example, the agreement with UNHCR commits Quicksall's team to investigate critical water issues in Dadaab, Kenya home to the largest refugee complex in the world. Nearly half a million people are concentrated in three camps there, many living in makeshift shelters of twig
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Contact: Kim Cobb
cobbk@smu.edu
214-768-7654
Southern Methodist University
Source:Eurekalert  

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