In a couple of years time, people from all over the world will be able to judge the cleanliness of their water just by taking a picture of it with their smart phone.

The collaborative project, which is being developed by scientists and ecologists in six different countries, is aiming to create a simple piece of technology called the MONOCLE that can attach to a phone’s camera and measure the water’s levels of pollution in a single snapshot.

The technology is similar to that of the wildly successful iSPEX attachment that was released in 2015.

Astronomer Frans Snik, who is a developer on the MONOCLE project, says: “It is a spin-off of our astronomy technology that we use to measure whether there is water in liquid form and oxygen present on planets around other stars, which could be an indication of extraterrestrial life.”

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Dutch researchers at the University of Leiden believe that the MONOCLE technology will give citizen scientists in urban settings the ability to check their water for contaminants and use their measurements to help drive more environmentally-friendly legislation and policies. Additionally, fishermen in more rural parts of the world will be able to gauge the safety of their bounties and fishing grounds.

Snik says that the attachment is expected to be deployed for testing at three different locations in 2019: Baloton Lake in Hungary, Loch Leven in Scotland, and Lake Tanganyika in Tanzania.

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“These places have been chosen because the citizens taking part—fishermen and residents who want to have good, clean drinking water—benefit from having a simple and fast way of making measurements,” says Snik.

The researchers are even trying to develop the attachment so that its blueprints can be freely downloaded and 3D-printed by anyone in the world. The biggest hurdle that the team faces is being able to ensure that the MONOCLE will be compatible with smart phone cameras in the future.

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