UK Research and Innovation | Survey

1st Submission Idea

WaterTime! Pre-payment systems for sustaining safe water supplies

Sustainable access to safe drinking water across Africa is a major concern. At any one time a third of handpumps that are used to access groundwater upon which millions across Sub-Saharan Africa are dependent are non-functional. Research by the University of Portsmouth UK suggests that in the majority of cases the explanation is poor management of handpumps by communities and a lack of collected and available funds to pay for regular maintenance of handpumps. Concerns over the safe keeping of collected water fees, as well as the reality that free-riding is widespread, lies behind the reluctance to pay water user fees, necessary to ensure systems are maintained. Innovation and technology has a potentially important role in addressing the African water crisis, however, it needs to be developed with equity in mind.  Collaborating with Practica Foundation and Susteq in the Netherlands, UoP research has helped the development of the pre-payment WaterTime system that utilises digital technology to help with monitoring handpump functionality and providing data on usage by different households, as well as improving the collection of water user fees for the operation and maintenance of rural water systems. However, the risk of pre-payment systems is that those who are unable to afford to pay for water will be denied access to safe drinking water. WaterTime registers all users and communally agreed vulnerable households can be guaranteed safe water, a basic human right. Monitoring household consumption means interventions can be targeted to households that are reducing or ceasing to collect water.  Millions of donor funds have been spent on extending the water supply network, focus is now needed to maintain the systems that have already been constructed if we are serious about realising the sustainable development goals for safely managed water. UK Innovate could help to promote this vital field to ensure sustainable and equitable access to safe water through the promotion of carefully developed technology and innovations in the sector.

How could digital technologies provide a solution to this challenge?

WaterTime prepayment systems utilises digital and mobile technologies in order to send water credits to hubs in kiosks who then sell WaterTime credits to user - the credits are uploaded to their tags that when tapped on the adapted handpump releases the pump and thus water. Data from the hand pump on usage by different household can be access on a dashboard remotely to monitor usage and functionality. 

Charles Clerck 2 weeks ago

Julia, you may have spotted some other posts on a similar topic
Public Private Partnerships for water management -
Well Smart – digital solutions for managing well water use with farmers -

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Julie Ingram 2 weeks ago

Thanks Charles, looks interesting, similar to Africa Water Enterprise active in Gambia and Tanzania which I am familiar with Our long term ambition is to develop Smart Well beyond a metering system to a learning system, as the issues are behavioural and institutional as well as technical.

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lauren clarke 2 weeks ago

Status label added: 1st Submission Idea

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