A Transdisciplinary Methodology for Introducing Solar Water Disinfection to Rural Communities in Malawi-Formative Research Findings

Integr Environ Assess Manag. 2020 Nov;16(6):871-884. doi: 10.1002/ieam.4249. Epub 2020 Mar 20.


Despite the increasing volume of evidence demonstrating the efficacy of solar water disinfection (SODIS) as a household water treatment technology, there still appear to be significant barriers to uptake in developing countries. The potential of SODIS is often treated with skepticism in terms of effective treatment, volume, and safety, and is dismissed in preference for more accepted technologies such as ceramic filters and dose chlorination. As part of WATERSPOUTT (EU H2020 688928), our study used a transdisciplinary methodology to cocreate an innovative SODIS system in rural Malawi. The formative work focused on the design of 1) an appropriate and acceptable system and 2) a context-specific intervention delivery program using a behavior-centered design. Initial research identified specific water needs and challenges, which were discussed along with a cocreation process with potential end users, through a series of shared dialogue workshops (SDWs). Specifications from end users outlined a desire for higher volume systems (20 L) that were "familiar" and could be manufactured locally. Development of the "SODIS bucket" was then undertaken by design experts and local manufacturers, with input from end users and subject to controlled testing to ensure efficacy and safety. Concurrent data were collated using questionnaires (n = 777 households), water point mapping (n = 121), water quality testing (n = 46), and behavior change modeling (n = 100 households). These identified specific contextual issues (hydrogeology, water access, gender roles, social capital, and socioeconomic status), and behavioral determinants (normative, ability, and self-regulation factors) that informed the development and delivery mechanism for the implementation toolkit. Integr Environ Assess Manag 2020;16:871-884. © 2020 The Authors. Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. on behalf of Society of Environmental Toxicology & Chemistry (SETAC).

Keywords: Behavior change; Codesign; Household water treatment; Solar water disinfection; Transdisciplinary.

MeSH terms

  • Disinfection*
  • Humans
  • Malawi
  • Rural Population
  • Water
  • Water Microbiology
  • Water Purification*
  • Water Supply


  • Water