Citizen Sensors Make India’s Complicated Water System A Little Easier To Navigate
Monday, June 23, 2014
Here in the United States, we take running water for granted. It’s always, or almost always, there when you need it. But much of the rest of the world can’t count on that. Even in cities where the water runs, it only runs at certain hours and on certain days. To wash and cook, you have to store spare gallons for a later time.
If you’re prepared, this might not be that bad. Bangalore resident Pronita Saxena explains that many middle-class Indian families, like hers, have an automated pump. When the water’s on, it senses the flow and fills up a tank for later use. Poor families aren’t so lucky. They need to be ready and waiting to fill up by hand. And, sometimes they wait a long time, not knowing when a utility will switch on the pipes in a particular area.
It’s this uncertainty that Saxena is trying to fix withNextDrop, an Indian social enterprise that’s using mobile phone technology to create a more responsive water supply system. It’s a straightforward concept. When a “valveman” turns on supply in a certain neighborhood, he will alert Nextdrop with a phone call to an automated line. That in turn allows the nonprofit to create a map of water pressure in a city, and alert people when they can expect water, so they’re not waiting for hours before filling up.