In February Alex Gason, Development & Fundraising ROI, and Philip Songa, Arup Senior Engineer, travelled to Uganda as part of the Smart Water project. The aim of the project is to develop a system to improve the reliability of hand pump boreholes in Uganda through effective monitoring, informed management and decision-making.
Alex shares an update on the Smart Water project.
“The purpose of the visit was to install borehole monitoring devices at 10 villages selected in the Kumi district and to install the monitoring system at the Kumi water tower. Key stakeholder meetings were planned to explain the system and to get further community buy-in to the project.
The team managed to install all 10 devices in the chosen villages in Kumi. The communities were very receptive to the initiative and they seemed delighted with the tamper switch on the side of the pump. This activates when the well head is opened; it is a simple fridge switch which pops out on opening and releases an alarm which sends a text to key stakeholders.
The system worked better than expected and we were all genuinely surprised by how well it functioned. The devices seem robust for the 1st generation and the data is accurate, the text message system works and we were able to do some initial tests using this, calling people to action.
The backend/data side of the system also worked: You can simply click on each borehole on the map for an individual analysis of performance, hourly strokes, tamper problem and battery rate.
Philip met with the Minister of Water and the Irish ambassador to explain the progress and they were very enthusiastic about the project.
Going forward our East Africa staff will mobilise the communities for further training. The team will meet to discuss next steps with a key emphasis on refining the system, devices and looking for further funding to scale. New additions such as a solar panel to provide continuous power without the need for batteries is currently being tested.
This field trip was for the most part a success, as we have proved the concept and the system works, and we will now seriously think about how we develop capacity. We are in negotiations with a local telecoms partner about the possibility of a partnership to scale the project across a number of districts in Uganda. There will be lots of issues and areas to tweak but overall a positive development.