No matter how industrial designers want to solve the water scarcity issues in the rural parts of the world, hand pumps have been, and for the near future, will be, one of the best ways to provide a sustainable source of water to people living in the underdeveloped parts of the world. Even after being a long time favorite of aid agencies around the world, the infrastructure to check that a hand pump is still pulling water or has dried out long time ago isn’t in place.
The condition is so bad that only two of every three hand pumps in rural areas are actually working at any given moment of time. To address the issue, a team of researchers at Oxford University have tried to make hand pumps in Kenya “smart” with the use of a device that uses cell phone technology to alert authorities when the pumps have dried out.
The idea is simple, the team implants a mobile data transmitter into the handle of the handpump, which then counts the number of times the handle moves and hence provides a rough estimate of the amount of water that has been pumped. Powered by a long-life battery, the device then sends periodic SMS to relay the information to team in Nairobi and Oxford. Once the pump stops being used, it will show up on the computer screens of the authorities, who can then get information about the pump from a local person. If the pump has actually dried out, authorities can then get it fixed and flowing again in just 24 hours.
The Guardian states that the pilot project started in August and till have pumps in 60 villages in Kenya have been made smarter with the use of this technology. With each pump serving about 200 people, the first phase of the project is already benefiting about 10,000 people.