Rwanda Pilots Pump Sensors for Sustainability

by: Living Water International
March 27, 2015

Living Water International is bringing new, real-time monitoring technology to community leaders in Rwanda as part of a large-scale water sustainability program. The technology, developed by Portland State University and SweetSense Inc., uses specialized water pump sensors and cell phone data to expedite water pump maintenance. Nearly 200 of the sensors have been installed on rural hand pumps to date. Living Water is the first organization to use the technology at this scale. The pilot program in Rwanda is part of Living Water’s work in 21 countries and its mission to provide water, for life, to the 748 million people who lack access to improved water sources.

Since 2007, Living Water has worked alongside the Rwandan government to equip and train communities to drill and maintain clean water hand pumps. In 2014, Living Water, Portland State University and SweetSense Inc. introduced the sensors as a way to improve maintenance response and anticipate well repairs before they escalate. The sensors utilize the country’s 95-percent rate of cell phone coverage to send information about pump performance and any needed repairs to Living Water’s local maintenance teams, which are then dispatched to maintain water quality and accessibility in the community.

“Currently, hand pump check-ins and maintenance is a full-time job,” said Moses Muendo Mutie, Project Coordinator for Living Water Rwanda. “We are excited to be the first to use this new technology, which helps us repair pumps before they break down and lets us share information quickly and easily between community and government maintenance teams.”

As part of its mission to bring clean water for life, Living Water partners with organizations like SweetSense Inc., the leader in low-cost remote sensors specifically designed for the global development sector. Living Water, Portland State, and SweetSense Inc. are committed to training community managers to use these sensors for proactive pump repairs and cross-organization transparency.

“Decades of experience show that community ownership and government involvement are crucial to sustainable water solutions,” said Mike Mantel, president and CEO of Living Water International. “We are eager to see how open communication—made possible with tools like the SweetSense sensors—increases the sustainability of our water projects in Rwanda.”  

As the first implementing organization to deploy the SweetSense sensors on hand pumps, Living Water will work with Portland State and SweetSense to evaluate the technology for potential use across Living Water’s 15,471 water projects worldwide.