'Smart' water pumps promise cleaner water

'Smart' hand water pumps could bring cleaner water to Africa

NAIROBI, Kenya | June 11, 2012

"It measures the movement of the handle"

—Patrick Thomson

"Smart" hand water pumps that can report when repairs are needed could deliver the promise of cleaner water to Africa, British researchers say.

Scientists at Oxford University have developed data transmitters that fit in hand pumps and send text messages if the devices break down.

Hand pumps are critical for hundreds of millions of people in rural Africa to provide water but an estimated one-third are broken at any given time, researchers said.

The growing availability of mobile networks and cellphones could be utilized to signal when hand pumps are no longer working, they said.

Researchers have built and tested the concept of implanting a mobile data transmitter into the handle of the pump.

"It measures the movement of the handle and that is used to estimate the water flow of that hand pump," Oxford researchers Patrick Thomson told the BBC.

"It can periodically send information by text message back to a central office which can look at that data and when a pump breaks, very quickly a mechanic can be dispatched to go and fix it."

In a trial funded by the Britain's Department for International Development, around 70 villages in the Kyuso district in Kenya will have the smart hand pumps installed.

The aim of the trial is to see if the technology can reduce the time needed to repair pumps, researchers said.

"Twenty-four hours is the key aim," Oxford's Rob Hope said. "Eighty percent of breakdowns are small, involving rubber rings and seals, and a mechanic would be able to fix them on the spot."

2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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