A significant factor contributing to insufficient and unpredictable access to water in Africa is the high percentage of broken water pumps. Previous studies have reported that between 20% and 50% of all hand-operated pumps installed in Africa are out of use. Monitoring and maintenance of pumps is often ineffective, due in part to the high costs of routine site visits, and the limited resources of NGOs and developing states. The emergence of new telemetry technology that can remotely monitor water pumps constitutes a novel, cost-efficient alternative to undertaking pre-emptory site visits. In particular, ‘SALT technology’ (sustainable, alternative, low-cost telemetry) has been developed to monitor the performance of water pumps and to communicate this swiftly and cheaply using SMS messages. SALT technology is being trialed in Malawi, through the NGO Water for People and in South Africa, in partnership with the Department for Water, Agriculture and Forestry. It was envisaged that the recipients of this remote information would be those directly responsible for and/or linked to the upkeep of pumps (in South Africa the relevant local municipality, in rural Malawi the water-focused NGOs). But data on the performance of water pumps could also be made available to other stakeholders, including communities where pumps are located, the media, and wider public; focusing pressure for better water services and encouraging active stakeholder participation. Drawing on recent empirical work and early field-testing of SALT prototypes, this paper considers the potential that SALT technology has to help realize the goal of sufficient water for everyone by improving the functioning of existing infrastructure and by supporting swift and cheap access to information. It is hoped that this dual approach (offering water service providers improved monitoring information, and making this information publically available) could result in a more efficient, responsive, transparent and accountable system of water allocation.
Cooper, Nathan John, "Priming The Pump: Exploring The Impact Of Smart Water Pumps On Communities In South Africa And Malawi, Where Water Access Is Problematic." (2014). CUNY Academic Works.