Does it FLOW?
April 17, 2012
By Ilana Cohen
The Benefits and Limitations of a Water Point Monitoring Tool
An estimated 30-40% of water points across sub-Saharan Africa do not function (RWSN). People falsely counted as having access to safe water from these may revert to unsafe or far away sources. Water ministries, district governments, or the NGOs that installed them do not do know which ones are non-functional, or where the greatest needs are for repairs or new investments. Sadly, this sustainability problem is an old one, but new approaches supported by new ICT tools may be the agents of change. This blogpost looks into the experiences of three different organisations using Water for People’s innovative technology “FLOW.”
The challenge of water point monitoring:
The historical focus on new water infrastructure above maintenance has meant regular monitoring is often absent from ad hoc water projects, and local authorities or water ministries have not had the resources nor capacity to monitor. Effective monitoring is also complex. A single pump test one day does not indicate functionality in the dry season or even at the end of a day’s use, and whether the system is being effectively managed so that maintenance funds will be available. Conducting paper-based water point surveys requires transfer to digital records for sharing and updating data; the process is time consuming, error-prone, and hinges on correctly pairing paper surveys of each water point with GPS data.
The NGO, Water for People, is changing the game with a new attitude and a new tool. Their “Field Level Operations Watch” (FLOW) is a remote technology system for robust monitoring needed to ensure sustainable services. FLOW uses an android application to collect monitoring indicators with GPS information for each water point. Cloud computing sends data from the phone to a dashboard system that analyses service level and sustainability instantly, plotting the results on Google maps (see Figure 1). Where mobile networks don’t exist or are down, the application can still collect data offline that can later be downloaded for analysis. FLOW’s design enables indicator data to be customised, and collected digitally for ease, accuracy and rapid transfer.
What do you think?