‘Almost all of the installed water pumps are at least partially equipped with solar panels to provide cheap and renewable energy to run the systems.’
Since October 2013, BTC’s Water Supply Gaza project has successfully improved access to drinkable water in rural areas in the northern part of the Gaza Province, Mozambique. This relatively dry region is characterized by remote and widely dispersed communities, that rely on few and often salty water sources. Despite these challenges, the project has installed and updated many water and sanitation facilities in the region, greatly improving the lives of the rural population in the province.
In order to provide the population of rural Mozambique with drinkable water, BTC’s Water Gaza project often relies on renewable energy solutions. Not only are the targeted communities disconnected from a reliable and clean water source, often they are also not connected to the national electricity grid. In the few locations where they do have access to the electricity grid, it is often unreliable, with frequent power cuts that can take days to repair.
When access to the only water source in the area depends on this grid, power cuts can have devastating consequences. In order to overcome these issues BTC’s Gaza project has been focusing on independent and environment-friendly energy since the start: almost all of the installed water pumps are at least partially equipped with solar panels to provide cheap and renewable energy to run the systems.
NEW APPROACHES, NEW TECHNOLOGIES
NO MORE MANUAL PUMPS
It is important to move away from manual pumps, since these can only be installed directly above drinkable water sources. In the Gaza province, fresh water sources are often located outside of communities and not easily accessible to people living in the area. The project has successfully installed multiple electric solar pumps at boreholes containing drinkable water, which then pump water into reservoirs of nearby communities from a distance. Pumping the drinkable water directly into the communities greatly improves easy access to water.
A NEW SIMPLE APPROACH TO ASSESS WATER SOURCES
It is important to invest in new water detection techniques to assess the quality and saltiness of the water in boreholes. In the Gaza region, many pockets of groundwater consist of different layers of water – some drinkable, and some not drinkable. After digging a borehole the simple technology detects which layers of water could be tapped into in order to provide the population with fresh, drinkable water, and which water layers should be avoided. This technique ensures the most efficient exploitation of fresh water from a borehole, even if it contains both salty and drinkable water.
DESALINATION - A NEW SOLUTION IN MOZAMBIQUE
In case no fresh water can be found within the groundwater in a particular area, investments in desalination installations are to be made, especially when taken into consideration that Mozambique has 2500+ kilometres of coastline. The Belgian Development Agency is currently implementing its first desalination project in the Gaza Province. In cooperation with the Brussels’ Region Brussels Environment Fund, the project will install desalination units in 6 different communities where the water source is too saline to safely drink. Here as well, a strong focus is put on green, renewable energy solutions: both the pumps and the desalination unit are equipped with solar panels and the energy is stored via a cutting-edge technology relying on pressurized tanks instead of batteries.
Not only does this approach deal with mitigating the effects of climate change in the region (namely, increasing droughts and scarce water sources), at the same time it minimizes the project’s impact on the environment by focusing on green energy to generate and store electricity – a win-win situation.
DIGITISATION & DATA COLLECTION
Since 2015, BTC equips local technicians with the Akvo Flow app which is installed on smartphones and tablets. The local technicians in the field are trained on how to use the software, and then collect accurate data on the water installations in their area using the app. For this purpose the software was adapted to effectively monitor water installations: It created a specific and straightforward questionnaire for local technicians to complete by the click of a few buttons each time they visit a water installation in their area.
Information to be provided focuses on the installations’ working status, its water quality, photos of the installation, and additional comments if necessary. In addition, the software automatically uploads the GPS coordinates of the location where the questionnaire was completed, making it clear which installation was monitored, where and when. This way, there is very little room for error, making the gathered data very reliable. The software then uploads all this information to the Akvo Flow server, where the users (technicians in the field) can see the real-time updates. In the meantime, the system administrators can easily control, manage and follow up the data collection.
The big advantage of this tool is its accessibility and ease-of-use: Nowadays almost everybody has a smartphone or a tablet and the software is very straightforward and user-friendly. The information provided is reliable, exact and localized. Apart from being a cheap solution that everyone can use, this approach also gives ownership to the local population, since it enables them to independently monitor their water installations.
On top of that, BTC developed an extra visualisation platform with interactive maps showing the number of installations that are operational or experiencing problems, the water quality in the region, and the exact locations of all the water installations. All these maps are completed with clear statistical graphs.
Thanks to the Akvo Flow Database, BTC Mozambique and its local partners can keep track of the water situation in the Gaza province and operators can immediately respond to technical problems as required. The system is currently monitoring 1965 water installations in the Gaza province in Mozambique and the project will continue to be expanded in 2017-2018.