Technology trial could revolutionise access to clean water

Village residents with one of the three smart tap water dispensers. Image: eWATERservices

Women and girls living in the rapidly growing Gambian villages of Wellingaraba and Ndemban bear the burden of fetching and purifying river water due to a lack of clean water access. Collecting and boiling water also presents an added carbon cost.

To improve residents’ lives, private operator eWATERservices recently used loan funding from Isle Utilities’ Climate Change Trial Reservoir to install three Smart Taps. This cloud-based technology uses a mobile pre-payment system and digital maintenance diagnostics to deliver 1,000 litres of clean drinking water per tap daily.

"The success of this trial demonstrates that affordable, accessible solutions have transformative potential for safe drinking water."

Jo Burgess, Isle Utilities

On completion of the trial, an average of 1,400 litres per day had been delivered to residents.

According to Isle Utilities' analysts, this innovative approach provides multiple benefits, including easy access to clean water, giving the community peace of mind that their water is safe to drink. It also meant young women and girls were able to attend school rather than spending time fetching and purifying water.

The presence of accessible fresh water for proper hygiene also eliminated the need to miss a week of school or work each month due to menstruation. Locally hired staff were trained to take on responsibility for system maintenance and repairs, which has created jobs in the community and fostered a sense of ownership for the project, as well as cutting operational costs.

Water credit can be sent or received by app, text or cash to access water 24/7, and the cost per household is typically US$6/year.

Reduced GHG emissions: Trial resulted in a reduction of 3.03 kg CO2 equivalent per litre of water, translating to an estimated annual decrease of 375 tons CO2 equivalent associated with water collection and purification.

Isle Utilities is an innovation consultancy specialising in the development and commercialisation of emerging technologies in water and the environment. The company says it has a robust process for helping stakeholders adopt innovative technologies and ensuring they are fit for purpose.

Isle facilitates negotiation with technology developers and end-users to agree upon the trials’ critical success factors and key performance indicators (KPIs). Loans are then released to the technology developers.

Should a trial not meet its key performance indicators (KPIs), there is no obligation for the tech company to pay back the loan. Similarly, there is no obligation for the end-user to make a purchase order; the Trial Reservoir assumes the risk.

Jo Burgess, head of Trial Reservoir, Isle Utilities says, "Over 844 million people lack clean water worldwide. The success of this trial demonstrates that affordable, accessible solutions have transformative potential for safe drinking water."

Clean water for drinking and sanitation has profound health benefits, primarily by reducing the burden of disease. The World Health Organisation estimates that improving access to clean water could help save 1.4 million lives annually. Having water accessible on demand has the dual benefit of freeing up time for girls and women to attain an education and work, reducing gender inequality.