British scientists have designed a new smart hand pump that will allow people in Africa to get access to freash clean water.
Oxford University scientists have designed a smart hand pump that will automatically send a text message to the district and national water managers, so they know when and where there is a problem, as well as when the problem has been fixed.
Lack of reliable access to clean water is an enduring problem in rural Africa. Hand pumps provide the main source of drinking water for rural communities in Africa, but around one-third of them do not work at any one time. It can take up to a month or more before they are fixed, leaving communities without easy access to clean water.
Now scientists have developed low-cost data transmitters that work in a similar way to mobile phones. It will inform the officials when there is a problem in the hand pump. The transmitter is no bigger than a mobile phone and fits inside the hand pump.
The smart hand pump automatically registers the movement of the handle of the pump and from this calculates the amount of water extracted from the pump. An automatic text about the water usage at each pump is sent at regular intervals to water supply managers, who then immediately know when and where a pump needs fixing. This should enable problems to be addressed more quickly and transparently.
"Reliable water supplies lead to healthier people and more productive livelihoods. We hope that by applying mobile communications technologies within the rural water sector, we can improve water security and reduce poverty for the 276 million people in rural Africa who currently don't have safe and reliable water supplies," said Dr Rob Hope, researcher at the Oxford's School for Geography and the Environment, in a statement.
The researchers are planning to start installing this technology in 70 village hand pumps across Kyuso District of Kenya, in a pilot trial funded by the UK Department of International Development. Kyuso commonly experiences droughts and will be the first place in the world to use the new smart hand pumps, a mobile technology that should improve the functionality of its hand pumps.
"This is a fantastic example of British innovation helping some of the poorest people in the world. Water does not just save lives in the short term - it is a cornerstone for delivering economic growth and helping countries to work their way out of poverty. That is why the UK will help more than 60 million people get access to clean drinking water, hygiene and proper sanitation over the lifetime of this parliament," said Rt Hon Andrew Mitchell MP, Secretary of State for International Development in the UK, in a statement.