International charity WaterAid has launched a new tool, the Water Point Mapper, which is hoped will transform water supply monitoring in developing countries.
Free to users, the mapper produces maps showing the distribution and status of water supply services across the world and is an efficient way to identify and track which facilities are working, and where new ones are needed. It has already been named by Reuters' AlertNet as one of the 'Top 20 big ideas that don't cost the Earth'.
Up until now, the monitoring and mapping of rural water supply services in sub-Saharan Africa has been a complex process involving the use of expensive Geographical Information System-based software tools.
The Water Point Mapper can be used in conditions where there's minimal computer literacy and no internet connectivity. It's based on a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, which generates maps that can be viewed offline in Google Earth.
Essentially, the tool aims to put information and maps into the hands of local-level planners who need it most. WaterAid hopes that this will assist in the delivery of safe water facilities to the 884m people worldwide currently living without access to clean water.
The Water Point Mapper can be used to:
- Identify water sources that are no longer functional.
- Show the distribution of improved water sources so that inequalities in services can be identified.
- Indicate the distance communities must travel to find the nearest improved water source.
- Identify areas where investments are needed.
- Map contaminated water sources.
The mapper has already been put to use in Malawi, where the location of new water kiosks has been planned with the Lilongwe Water Board in order to improve water supplies for poor communities.
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