Enabling responsive support for water services with the MAP

Safe water system in rural Malawi.

In 2017, Water Mission launched a major initiative that fundamentally changed the way we monitor and support rural water services throughout our global programs. Driven by our core values of excellence and integrity, we desire for the people we serve in communities, institutions, and areas affected by crisis to enjoy the highest level of water accessibility, safety, and sustainability.

Children drink safe water in Honduras.

With this goal in mind, we collaborated with a consultant (IBM jStart) to develop a tool that would enable efficient and scalable monitoring, support, and learning. The tool, which we call the Monitoring and Alerting Platform (MAP), was designed to make water system operational data, which we obtain from remote monitoring technologies and form-based reports, more visible and therefore more actionable—enabling us to respond more efficiently and effectively to issues in a timely and accountable manner.

Water Mission Uganda technician making repairs to a water system.

The central functionality of the MAP is its ability to generate alerts when key operational parameters such as water production, water quality, well depth, or financial sustainability fall outside of an acceptable range (e.g. water production or chlorine residual is too low). Alert levels can be customized based on the unique characteristics of the water system.

Anyone who has a responsibility for or interest in the performance of a particular water system or service area is notified via email when alerts are triggered and is able to view, communicate about, and track changes to operational data in real time from anywhere in the world via the web-based platform.

Historical data and communications about specific alert instances can be viewed in an interactive, searchable, web-based map.

Email notifications are pushed to key decision makers when alert values are outside of preset ranges
Email notifications are pushed to key decision makers when alert values are outside of preset ranges.

A literature review included in the most recent UNC WASH Policy Digest concluded that remote monitoring data can improve operational performance of rural water supply systems, but only when combined with a highly responsive maintenance service. We certainly agree with this conclusion and have taken steps to ensure that our country programs have the capacity to respond to critical issues that are highlighted by the MAP.

In any country where we operate, at least one dedicated staff member serves in a MAP coordinator role and is tasked with monitoring alerts on a daily basis and taking swift action in response to issues. These actions include communicating directly with community-based water service providers, initiating the dispatch of field technicians, logging communication on the platform, and following up to ensure that alerts are cleared. Once triggered, alerts remain active until they are cleared upon receipt of a data transmission or report indicating that the issue has been resolved.

Water Mission Indonesia staff make repairs.

Water Mission is committed to utilizing this platform on a global scale, and we will continue to adapt our approach as we learn how to take full advantage of it. In fact, we are already growing in our understanding of how reliable the water systems we support truly are. On any given day over the past year, less than 20 percent of the safe water supply systems we actively support around the world had a “no production” alert triggered, which may indicate that a technical or administrative failure has occurred.

Safe water system in Haiti.

We have seen that these alerts are cleared in less than four days on average. This is encouraging not only in that end users of these systems are not going weeks without water service, but also because it allows us to set goals and monitor progress towards reducing system downtime even further as we move forward.

Learn more about the MAP and our remote monitoring practices.

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