Working to Improve Water Access

Clean Water and Sanitation
Sustainable Cities and Communities

How MECS Grantees are Working to Improve Water Access for World Water Day 2015!

Globally, 768 million people lack access to improved water sources. Yet there are far more who may have services that are intermittent, unreliable, and potentially unsafe. Mobile technology can provide valuable solutions through service monitoring, payment solutions, and more. MECS is celebrating this opportunity by featuring our three grantees supported by the UK Government.

Here’s a snapshot, in their own words, of how that are leveraging mobile to improve water services and what changes they hope to see by next World Water Day.

Next Drop – Bangalore, India: Two-Way Communication System

There are over 3 billion people waiting for water across the globe. This means someone needs to stay home, just in case water is released. No one knows when the next supply will arrive and the wait could span 2-10 days.

NextDrop’s SMS service alerts citizens 30 minutes before their tap has water, ending uncertainty about public water supply.

Furthermore, when citizens verify they got water when we predicted they would, the utility can confirm the flow of water distribution. This is the first time a utility running an intermittent water supply system will have real-time visibility into its operations, allowing the utilities to pivot from being reactive organizations to proactive, customer-focused entities.

We’ve also developed a system to not only get information on reported leaks to the relevant parties at the utility, but we also provide tracking on the fix to the concerned citizen.

The popularity of our SMS alerts about water timings in Hubli and Dharwad proves that people value information about their water supply. With our expansion into Bangalore, we hope to engage citizens who use data on their mobile phones as well.

By the next World Water Day, we’d love to contribute unique and unprecedented value around real-time information on water source, quantity, and quality. If we can create greater transparency and choice around household water behaviour, we believe the people of the world’s largest democracy will feel an unprecedented level of claim over their own citizenship experience.

Development Workshop Angola (DWA) and SeeSaw – Huambo, Angola: VerAgua

VerAgua improves access to water in informal settlements through reliable monitoring of community water-point services.

The majority of Angolans have no appropriate access to water services. Even in places where important investments were made to improve water supply, services are often unreliable. Poor monitoring and maintenance is clearly a key factor. Mobile phones are already very common and can be an important tool to improve monitoring and, as a result, improve services.

DWA and SeeSaw are implementing VerAgua, a mobile-enabled reporting system to provide reliable information to a range of stakeholders on how much water is being delivered by public standpipes. The VerAgua system has three components – a data collection component, a ‘standpipe management’ component and an information dissemination component. As the information is mapped, VerAgua provides information on the spatial distribution of water and how well, or poorly, specific communities are faring.

By next World Water Day, DWA and SeeSaw expect to be able to show evidence of the impact of better monitoring, using mobile technology, on water distribution services.

Portland State University with Living Water International and support from MTN Rwanda – Rwanda: CellPump Project

Portland State University, in partnership with SweetSense Inc. is providing the technology for the first operational scale deployment of remote sensors specifically designed for the global development sector. In partnership with Living Water International, 200+ sensors will be installed in water pumps in remote Rwandan villages, serving an estimated 60,000 people.

The first-of-its kind project, CellPump, with support from network provider MTN, Portland Development Commission and others, and represents a significant milestone for the global development sector that is striving to improve accountability, transparency and overall project performance of remote water, energy and infrastructure projects.

“The unfortunate reality is that as many as half of the water pumps in low-income countries fail within the first couple years,” said Evan Thomas, SweetSense CEO. “We have taken this very important challenge to heart and are attacking it head on. Our sensors, data acquisition system and online dashboard are a cost-effective tool for NGOs, government and donors that want to know the status of water, energy and infrastructure projects in real-time, from anywhere in the world.”

In cooperation with the Government of Rwanda, Living Water will utilize the SweetSense sensors on 200 hand pumps they have previously installed since their work began in 2007. Rwanda’s cell phone signal coverage is greater than 95 percent as a country, making it the ideal location for the CellPump program. SweetSense sensors utilize cell phone signal to send water pump performance data to the internet cloud, which is presented in dynamic graphs, charts and other visualizations in a user-friendly online dashboard accessible from any internet browser. Alarm functions and automatic notifications via SMS, email, and other methods alert project managers and operations and maintenance teams of potential problems.

By World Water Day next year, Living Water International, the Rwandan government, and many others will be able to monitor the performance of their fleet of hundreds of water points remotely from their computer. Over time, this will significantly reduce the cost per liter of water delivered and improve health of those that need it most.

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