WaterReport celebrates 10 years in Africa

Water monitoring project in Ethiopia helped People in Need.

Today, when efficient use of natural resources is essential for maintaining ecological balance, people are looking for innovative and modern solutions for water resource management. The scarcity of potable water is one of the major problems in most African countries. Ethiopia is one of the countries most affected by this problem. That's why 10 years ago HRDLIČKA, spol. s r.o. came up with a revolutionary project called Protecting Water in Africa and the WaterReport software. It had the ambition to change the way water resources are monitored, cared for, and repaired by local people. The whole solution was not an isolated one but built on the long-standing work of the non-profit organization People in Need, which has staff in the area and provides much-needed support to local people and water source maintenance. People in Need raised the money to build or repair the water sources and, as an investor, wanted to control these remote sites. The WaterReport tool is an ideal tool for People in Need and local water authorities to monitor and effectively communicate between the managers of remote water sources in the rural areas of Halaba and Sidama and the water authorities who are responsible for the functioning of the water sources.

The main problem with water sources was the lack of information on whether they were functional or not. Local people could not rely on whether they would get water at all after a long journey. WaterReport became a platform that allowed immediate reporting of water source failures and management of their repair through one central system. The goal of the project was to streamline communication, thereby reducing the downtime of water systems.

The first phase of the project started in 2014 when an inventory of water resources in the Halaba area was carried out and WaterReport started to be used for monitoring. During the eight-year process, hundreds of problem reports and over a thousand regular reports were submitted by dozens of different water user representatives. The most frequently reported problems included problems with pumps and electricity, as well as problems with pipes and fittings, tanks, and generators.

Based on the successful experience in the Halaba region, WaterReport expanded to the Sidama region in 2018. However, the rainy Sidama region is very different from the dry Halaba and the number of small "maintenance-free" wells is much higher.  For this reason, monitoring in Sidama was limited to very deep sophisticated wells with large capacities that supply entire villages. After almost 10 years, the Protecting Water in Africa project is ending in this form and moving into its new phase.

People in Need has the ambition to build a new solution that would monitor all water sources, including simple wells, and that would gradually be rolled out to all areas in Ethiopia. This solution would then be handed over to the Ethiopian authorities for maintenance free of charge. At the same time, the Ethiopian government requires the application of strict security measures and the maintenance of data on local servers. Given this process and the complexity of these conditions, we agreed that People in Need would develop, maintain, and apply the new solution itself. However, HRDLIČKA, spol. s r.o. will remain in the role of consultant, as it has years of experience and know-how in the development and operation of WaterReport.

In a country like Ethiopia, we have encountered the following main barriers: high illiteracy rate of the population, language barrier, inaccessible internet in places, corruption, and unwillingness to take responsibility for loss or damage of equipment, which stemmed from lack of motivation. But barriers are part of change, and if we know them, we can work with them. As we find projects like this very meaningful, we will be happy to support such ideas and activities in the future. As pioneers in the field, we feel obliged to come up with innovative approaches and set dysfunctional structures in motion toward transformation.

Authors: Mgr. Lucie Kmochová and Ondřej Hrdlička MTCP (Hons)

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