Smart Water Systems

Since 2010, the Smith School has collaborated with Engineering Sciences in a programme of impact research and implementation designing and testing mobile technologies to improve water resource management and water service delivery. The work has included the design and successful launch of Smart Handpumps and Wireless Water to model water payment behaviours to improve urban utility financial performance. Partners from leading mobile technology companies and urban water utilities are joined by UNICEF and the UN International Telecommunications Union, which leads an inter-governmental 'smart water management' group on which Dr Hope is vice Chair.

Smart Water System



Does Intermittent Quality of Water Supply due to Broken Handpumps Influence Diarrhoeal Disease Incident in Rural Kenya?

SKOLL £12,000 - 2014-16

This study links into the existing research testing a new model for handpump maintenance using real-time data on handpump usage and functionality. It seeks to determine the relationship between health and the interval time when a handpump is in need of maintenance or repair. Using innovative epidemiological technology, which is triggered by handpump failure, this work will also inform the wider field of research into the health impacts of unreliable water supplies and the challenges faced by rural communities in Africa.


Rural Water Sustainability in Africa

UNICEF £250,000 - 2014-16

In partnership with UNICEF, across East and Southern Africa, this project builds on Oxford's pilot work to increase the reliability and sustainability of the community handpumps that provide drinking water to the poorest and most marginalised people. It aims to design and test a scalable, replicable model for rural water service delivery, including a pre-payment system to underpin a business model for long-term and local sustainability. In addition, it will measure the health and burden impacts related to handpump functionality and failure.


Insuring against Rural Water Risks in Africa

ESRC £350,000 - 2013-16

The aim of this project is to design an environmentally and financially sustainable water supply model that transforms user payment behaviour, and benefits poor people across rural Africa.

The objectives are to: a) design and implement a regular payment system for handpump maintenance services in Kenya; b) evaluate participation and payment behaviours based on a guaranteed maintenance service; and c) build capacity in a new handpump service company using 'smart handpumps.' This will support the delivery of national water services policy and regulation in Kenya, and provide a replicable model of water services for rural Africa.


New mobile citizens and rural water sustainability

ESRC £500,000 - 2012-15

This project partners with the mobile communications industry to examine how information changes behaviour and institutional design for the better. Since 2012, research on design and testing of handpumps in Kenya has resulted in an order of magnitude improvement in rural water services. The long-term aim is to develop a sustainable, scalable model for the professionalised maintenance of handpumps, with transparency of data driving efficiency and accountability.