Technology Encounters Tradition: Evaluating the Water Pasteurization Indicator in China
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More than one billion people in the world are without access to safe drinking water. International health organizations promote boiling water as an effective household water treatment method in areas lacking expensive water treatment systems. However, the boiling point of water is well above the temperature required to inactivate the microbes that cause diarrheal disease and other waterborne illnesses, exacerbating problems such as resource scarcity and indoor air pollution. The Water Pasteurization Indicator (WAPI), a simple and inexpensive appropriate technology, is designed to minimize wasted time and resources, yet few studies document its use in the field. During a one-week philanthropic project in rural Hunan, China, community response to the introduction of WAPIs was measured through surveys and participant observation. Our results indicate that WAPI use in China may require not just minor adaptations to behavior, but a more comprehensive approach to increase cultural utility, as boiling water is a deep-seated tradition. This has implications both for future projects in China and for organizations worldwide involved in the dissemination of water treatment information.