A Two-Fold Approach to Addressing Water Insecurity and Vector Control: Water Disinfectants for the Control of Aedes Aegypti and Engineering Social Justice

Author: ORCID icon orcid.org/0000-0002-7519-9363
Turner, Sydney, Civil Engineering - School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Smith, James, EN-CEE, University of Virginia

The objective of this dissertation to address unsafe water storage is twofold. Firstly, to address the risk of mosquito infestation caused by unsafe household water storage (HWS), laboratory studies were conducted to examine the effectiveness of water disinfectants (chlorine, silver, and copper) as a means of vector control. Inadequate access to safe drinking water within the household, experienced by 1 in 4 people, is a pervasive issue, often rooted in systemic causes. As a result of water insecurity, households cope by storing water inside or around the home. To address these engineering problems demands not only technical solutions but also a comprehensive, critical understanding of the interplay between the technical, social, economic, and political factors that contribute to the pervasiveness of the issue, Thus, the second objective of this dissertation was to establish a framework that would facilitate developing and applying these crucial social competencies in the engineering design process.

While all water disinfectants tested within drinking water quality guidelines showed potential to considerably reducing the Aedes aegypti population, sodium hypochlorite exhibited the highest performance of decreasing survival of late first instar larvae while silver nitrate exhibited the highest effectiveness for inhibiting emergence of late third instar larvae. Since none of the treatments led to complete inhibition of the emergence of late instar mosquitoes, combinations of the water disinfectants were tested to determine the most effective approach. While the combination treatments did not always perform better than the individual chemical treatments against younger instar larvae, they achieved higher inhibition of emergence against older instar mosquitoes as compared to the water disinfectants used separately. The combination of silver and copper proved to be the most effective in this regard, resulting in inhibiting the emergence of roughly 97% of the Ae. aegypti. This research provides communities, organizations, and governments with guidance regarding chemical treatment alternatives that can serve as viable options for addressing both vector control and water treatment management of HWS containers.

To evaluate the undergraduate engineering students' perspective on the significance of incorporating a social justice-oriented lens in engineering education, a survey was conducted before and after the Social Justice in Engineering Design (SJ-ED) module and workshop. The survey results indicate that the vast majority of the students in the class were motivated to pursue engineering because they wanted to make a positive impact on people's lives and believed that promoting social justice is crucial. However, less than half of the students had previously participated in a class or workshop related to engineering social justice, even though approximately eighty percent of them recognized the relevance of social justice to engineering even before partaking in the SJ-ED workshop. After the SJ-ED intervention, students were significantly more likely to: think they will encounter social justice issues; see social justice as relevant to engineering; have an opportunity to address social justice issues within an engineering profession; and feel they knew more about social justice than before the module. The research offers valuable insights for engineering educators on how to effectively engage and retain young engineers effectively in the classroom by appealing to their social agency and furthermore, offers guidance to facilitate the growth of social agency within them.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Aedes aegypti, vector control, water disinfectants, household water storage
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