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Remote monitoring of community water points - request for feedback on concept.

I am assisting with a global feasibility study for a remote monitoring device and am keen to get some feedback from sector experts on the need or potential for such devices in the rural water supply sector. Prototype sensors are currently designed to monitor the functionality of community handpumps (Afridev and India Mk II) but could be modified to monitor solar pumps or other water supply infrastructure. If anyone has any thoughts on the concept and would like a brief conversation, please get in touch. All opinions welcome.

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I agree with Paul

Yes O&M is a challenge, but what will this device do that a sign attached to the pump with a free phone number to the local water office cannot deliver? A quick phone call will help the problem be diagnosed over the phone, helping the mechanic identify the solution. This will extend to water quality issues rather than just the mechanical functionality.

Brian Reed gravatar imageBrian Reed ( 2017-04-04 09:20:49 +0000 )edit

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With any new technology, it is always good to first ask yourself, "what is the problem it solves?"

In this case, it seems that is would mainly solve the problems of donors who gave funding for these water points. They can have a good idea if their money is well spend.

But even than, it is a rather complex way to do so, and needs expensive follow up for many many years. That money could be better used in our view to lower O&M cost in the first place.

In terms of making the water points more durable, it hardly solves any issue unfortunately, on the contrary, it adds technology and makes the waterpoint more vulnerable, more to go wrong and more expensive to maintain.

Given the fact that over 50% of the rural water points have serious O&M problems to be maintained because of the high repair costs, this is not a good development.

Often you see, that when there is a new technology, donors jump on it because of "innovation" gives them a certain publicity and they are a bit blind for what is really brings to the poor.

In reality, if a water point fails, people will act fast when the water point is really fulfilling a need and contact in one way or another a mechanic to solve the problem. A remote device will make them even more dependent on alien technology, so we do not support this new direction. Rural people are very capable of organising repairs, do not need this!

Let us first focus how we can lower the O&M costs for the poor, in stead of pleasing the donors with fancy technology that will bring even more costs and problems to the poor! For instance by using more reliable pumps like the BluePump.

Paul van Beers FairWater Foundation

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Completely agree with Paul's position!

aidos.nando gravatar imageaidos.nando ( 2017-04-02 15:25:53 +0000 )edit


I agree with Paul's position above. Having said that, and if you decide to go ahead and monitor, then please consider the following:

  • who will monitor the monitoring equipment?
  • what can they then do in case of a malfunction? If nothing, then why do this?
  • how will the pump users benefit from it?
    • Will they rely on the equipment?
    • Will they be able to inform someone?
  • what will the users do in case of a malfunction?
  • is there a better use for the money?
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Hi Isobelle, Yes, there is a lot of activity in this area and there is definitely a need. The RWSN mapping and monitoring or the solar pumping community is a good place to start Sean

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I mostly disagree that this is a wasted effort from the users point of view. Of course if it is only used as a monitoring device for donors it is a wasted and expensive effort, but if combined with a fast acting network of hand-pump mechanics it has been proven to reduce the time needed for repairs significantly (some systems can even predict breakdowns before they happen through statistical analysis of pump-strokes).

The best system I have seen so far is a cheap one that measures pump-strokes instead of water flow. This makes the system significantly cheaper, easier to install and less fail prone. See:

And especially interesting is also this very recent unexpected outcome: (it can estimate groundwater levels as well)

Otherwise see:

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2017-03-29 11:55:34 +0000
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Apr 04 '17