Mobile phones improve water resource management
After weeks of mapping over 1,150 water resources in the East Pokot district and Samburu County of Kenya, all district and county planners now have access to current invaluable qualitative information from the district map books and online interactive maps that were produced. The information provided will help key stakeholders to plan more efficiently for prolonged dry periods and mitigate the impacts of drought to pastoral communities regarding water availability.
It is a hot day in Samburu County, and long trails of dust billow from behind the wheels of the vehicle, as an ACTED team moves about collecting information about water sources in the area. The task is not easy, owing to rough terrain, a poor road network, and remote locations of many areas they are trying to reach. In one instance, the team treks for seven kilometers into the bush, following a water pipe to its source - a spring in the hillside. Upon arrival, the team enters and sends data on their phones; this data will provide needed information on the state of water resources in this part of Kenya’s arid and semi-arid lands.
The region is prone to drought, and most people depend on seasonal dams and water pans for household and animal use. These sources of water don’t last long even during the dry seasons that occur from January to March, and June to September. At the same time, government and humanitarian actors have developed or rehabilitated water sources based on limited and outdated information on the most promising sites, sometimes causing more harm than good.
ACTED piloted a new approach to fill this information gap on water points using mobile phone Nokia Data Gathering (NDG) technology (see info box) to record key qualitative data from an extensive survey and map it onto an interactive online map. ACTED worked closely with communities, district authorities and other NGOs involved in water and sanitation interventions. Participants joined together to map current knowledge on existing water resources.
ACTED successfully surveyed and mapped 85% of water points in Samburu County and East Pokot District. During the exercise, water officers from each district got to know the real water situation in their districts, gaining invaluable information on water points they indicate “they did not even know existed” and access to a hard-copy map-book, where they can update details on additional water points. Other organizations involved in water and sanitation activities are already indicating how they will put this data to good use, particularly in regards to emergency and drought preparedness and response, improving County-level development strategies, and contributing to food security assessments.
View the interactive map available on
Nokia Data Gathering technology is a method of data collection using mobile phones. In addition to survey data, it can also capture images and GPS coordinates, which are directly sent to a server through the mobile phone 2G or 3G network. This survey technology is easy-to-use, accurate, real-time, and cost effective. Sending data collected from the 229 water sources in East Pokot District cost 100 Kenyan Shillings—less than one Euro. “The ease of data transfer with the application allowed us to focus on producing maps and disseminating the survey results to project stakeholders rather than spending hours on error-prone, manual data entry,” believes Rhonda, Geographic Information Systems Manager for ACTED in Kenya.
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