Smart hand pumps promise cleaner water in Africa

It is estimated that at any one time a third of
hand pumps are broken
Rural communities across Africa may soon benefit from improved water supplies thanks to mobile phone technology.

UK researchers have developed data transmitters that fit inside hand pumps and send text messages if the devices break down.

The "smart" hand pumps will be trialled shortly in 70 villages in Kenya.

Details of the new approach have been published in the Journal of Hydroinformatics.

Hundreds of millions of people across rural Africa depend on hand pumps for their water supplies. But it is estimated that around one third are broken at any given moment. Often located in remote areas, repairs can sometimes take up to a month.


But one of the big changes in Africa in recent years has been the expansion of mobile phone networks. It is now estimated that more people in Sub-Saharan Africa have access to these networks than have access to improved water supplies.

Speed is the key

So researchers at Oxford University have developed the idea of using the availability of mobile networks to signal when hand pumps are no longer working. They have built and tested the idea of implanting a mobile data transmitter into the handle of the pump. Patrick Thomson is a member of the research team and explained how it works.

"It measures the movement of the handle and that is used to estimate the water flow of that hand-pump," he told the BBC.

"It can periodically send information by text message back to a central office which can look at that data and when a pump breaks, very quickly a mechanic can be despatched to go and fix it."   (BBC.co.uk)


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