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April 13, 2024
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Researchers focus on finding solution to water scarcity in Kenya

Turkana woman, Ministry of Water and National Resources, Napuu ,Turkana Central

With a population of approximately 46 million, 41 percent of Kenyans rely on water sources such as ponds, shallow wells
and rivers, a challenge especially in rural areas. Only
nine out of 55 public water service providers in Kenya
provide a continuous water supply.
Now, as part of the Kenya Resilient Arid Lands
Partnership for Integrated Development (Kenya
RAPID), researchers have created a water management platform to address the needs of these arid
lands without access to safe water.
“The Kenya RAPID programme combines assets and
experience of development actors, private and public
institutions by leveraging their capital and investments, innovation and access to markets to address
complex problems of inadequate water access, sanitation and poor governance of natural resources
in the Arid and Semi- Arid Lands (ASAL) counties
of Garissa, Isiolo, Marsabit, Turkana and Wajir in
Kenya,” says Doris Kaberia Chief of Party for Kenya
RAPID & Kenya Programs Director at Millennium
Water Alliance.
The key product of IBM’s research is a software
platform known as the Water Management as a
Service Platform (WMaaSP), which provides decision support capabilities to county water officials
and other partners.
The platform can enable decision making by predicting water demand based on population trends,
ground and surface water supply, climactic patterns
and land use. This Water Management as a Service
Platform (WMaaSP) is accessible on both web and
mobile as an app.
The platform, which uses sensors to provide supply
and demand patterns based on groundwater extraction data, can also help water service providers significantly reduce their non-revenue water (water
that is “lost” before it reaches the customer through
leaks, theft or metering inaccuracies).
“Through the support of the platform’s decision
making tool, water service providers such as Lodwar
Water and Sewarage Company in Turkana or Dirib
Gombo water scheme in Marsabit have significantly
reduce their non-revenue water. For example, Dirib
Gombo’s non-revenue water has reduced from
over 40 per cent to 30 percent and their revenues
from Tariff collection has also tripled ’’, says Doris
Kaberia, Chief of Party and Kenya Programs Director
at Millennium Water Alliance.
The traditional approach to coping with water challenges, especially in water-scarce, arid environments has been to increase supply by investing
unsustainably in decentralised water infrastructure (such as dams and boreholes) to meet growing
domestic, agricultural and industrial demands.
Local governments and donor organizations typically finance expensive water infrastructures which
are then handed over to communities with limited
capacity to maintain them.
Water managers also lack visibility into the location, status and performance of the water infrastructure, leading to an inability to respond to user
feedback and a limited ability to provide repair and
“For instance, if a citizen reports an issue to the
sub-county water officer, the officer can use the
mobile app to quickly locate the issue and assign
the complaint to a repair officer who then inspects
the issue and files a site report detailing the issue
and/or required resources, also using the app. Once
the repairs are complete, the assigned officer files
a repair report detailing what was fixed to close
the issue through the mobile app,” says Dr. Nathan
Wangusi, the Principal Project Investigator from IBM
Research – Africa.
SweetSense, a startup that works closely with IBM Research, is also installing sensors on electric water
pumps to measure rates of utilisation and infer levels
of functionality to aid in the dispatching of crews for
timely repair and maintenance for more efficient
management of decentralised water infrastructure.
IBM has also established a Rotational Program with
the counties which is focused on sharing software
development skills with the county ICT representatives as these skills pertain to aspects of WMaaSP.
The Program will allow the county representatives
to work with IBM Research’s Engineering Team to
learn first-hand how WMaaSP is designed and how
it is being developed.

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