cell phone signals
Like many developing or impoverished countries, Rwanda continues to be a victim of inadequate water supply and accessibility. However, a project piloted by an Oregon university may help put a dent in the nation’s water problem.

The idea is to use remote sensors to measure water supply. A project spearheaded by SweetSense Inc., and designed by Sustainable Water, Energy and Environmental Technologies Laboratory (SWEETLab) in partnership with the NGO Living Water International, the sensors will allow water pumps to be installed throughout the nation of Rwanda.

The sensors work by using cell phone signals to transmit details about water pumps through cloud computing infrastructure. The data the sensors collect includes information on water pressure, water quantity and when people are pumping water. Then, the data can be accessed through an online dashboard.

On any given day, thousands of water pumps are installed throughout Africa. Unfortunately, many usually fail within their first several years of implementation, and are never repaired or replaced. With SWEETLab’s sensors, technicians receive notifications by text message to alert them if a pump is broken or needs repair.

With a price tag of approximately $500 per unit, each sensor is battery-operated and is outfitted in a waterproof box. While 30 sensors have been already installed, Living Water International plans to install 200 sensors by the end of the year.

In collaboration with Portland State University, SWEETLab “develops and implements technologies for the support of life in remote environments.” The research organization works with academic institutions, industries and nonprofits throughout the world. Its research “focuses on improving accountability and methodologies for international development through improved data collection.”

SWEETLab has also helped to produce gravity water filters and clean-burning stoves. Kenya, Indonesia, Haiti, Rwanda and other countries have already implemented these technologies for use.

Rwanda is home to over 12 million people. According to Water For People, roughly 69 percent of Rwandans have access to clean water and sanitation services. It is also one of several African countries on target to accomplish seven of the eight Millenium Development Goals by 2015.

– Ethan Safran

Sources: All Africa, All Africa, Forbes, CIA, UNICEF, PDX, Water For People
Photo: Devex