Week 5: The Water Boiling Guide


I know this is last minute to change projects, but for weeks I had not been happy with my developing nations drinking water concept, and after debating between that and two other ideas, I’ve decided to change. I will attempt to re-contact my experts (or new experts) to get their opinions, but I am feeling better about this.

When Marina asked me ‘what questions I hope to generate in people from this?’ my mind was drawing a blank for what conversation I wanted started from dirty bottles of water. I wanted to shock people with a bit of humor and sarcasm, but beyond that, I don’t know what I’d really like to be discussed.

So, my new idea is based on the World Health Organizations recommendations about boiling water. On their boiling water guide, there is 27 pathogen’s listed that could get into water and cause sickness or death. They all have recommended temperatures to boil water at to make them inactive, and for how long the water is needed to boil at. It’s a little surprising to look at, and, in places where pathogens in water are a real issue, referencing this pamphlet won’t guarantee sanitation.

So, I wanted to make a little app to assist in the water boiling process (and to demonstrate all the bacterias and viruses that are being made inactive). I am going to use a Processing sketch, arduino, and waterproof thermometer, to figure out when boiling water has reached an appropriate temperature, and to count when pathogens have been exterminated, based on that inactivation times. When the water has been sanitized of each bacteria or virus, a ding will go on screen that states ‘Congrats, your water has been sanitized from _____’, with a hyperlink to a description of each of the pathogens’.

Though most of the harmful bacteria and viruses found in drinking water aren’t a direct result of the Anthropocene, as fresh water becomes more and more limited, unsanitary water will more often be consumed. That water will need to be boiled or heavily filtered to be sanitized. Chlorine in our water system takes care of most of the work right now, but in emergency situations, which will happen more and more in the Anthropocene, back up water methods are needed. I can’t say an app with a thermometer is practical for climate change and fresh water availability, but by demonstrating all of the pathogens that need to be considered in drinking water, I hope to begin a discussion about what we legitimately may have to consider as fresh water becomes more scarce. This is using the amplification method as discussed in class.

I’ve ordered the thermometer and fully intend on making this, at least as a mock-up (maybe not full functionality on all 27 pathogens). For class next week, I’ll either demonstrate it in class if I can get a hot plate from someone, or record a video while using it on my oven at home.

I’m in the process of trying to system map ‘sanitary drinking water’ alongside my app to get a clearer idea of how they relate.┬áComing soon!

I hope this is a good (enough) idea for this process. I am still not pleased with myself and what I’ve come up with, but I hope this is at least semi-interesting.


  • Marina Zurkow says:

    Maybe you are being too hard on yourself. It is a process. Or maybe you do not need to be “pleased with yourself:)”
    I think this is very interesting as an idea. Down the line you’d have to think about altitude affecting boiling (I don;t know more than this but I know it is an issue).
    the elephant in the room is smart phones + dirty water – who is this for?
    Imagine your user base.
    Is it for aid workers or people in remote areas?
    I also made an assumption that could be wrong – that it’s a smart phone app.

    You’re struggling in all the good ways with this. Big props for being honest about your intentions in the first (dirty water) iteration.

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