Many people across the developing world live ‘off-grid’ in terms of access to mains electricity, and therefore depend on alternative power sources to recharge their mobile phones. These recharging facilities are typically located in shops or informal businesses, and are often powered by a diesel generator or solar panel. Many of these rural communities are also served by local water infrastructure that has fallen into a state of disrepair. It has been reported that many individuals are prepared to pay a small regular fee to recharge their mobile phone, while their wider communities may often claim to lack sufficient funds to keep their water infrastructure maintained. This article introduces a pilot study in The Gambia that combines an off-grid recharging hub with a community water point. It is proposed that a proportion of the income generated by this enterprise could be retained and used to fund the ongoing maintenance costs of the recharging hub and the local water infrastructure.
Looking to peripheral river islands in Brazil to develop an urban island water metabolism perspective
Across Brazil, including the water rich Amazon region, access to safe drinking water remains a challenge and rainwater harvesting has gained credibility as a technological solution. Complementing a more techno-centric approach, this practice paper analyses initial findings from an ‘immersion’ that was undertaken in August 2017 on Paquetá and surrounding islands located on the periphery of Belém (Schiffer and Swan, 2018), through the proposed urban island water metabolism framework. As such, the research draws on the ‘urban metabolism’ concept which can be described as socio-technical, socio-economic, socio-political, and socio-ecological flows including water resources, people, and information in, out, and within the urban environment. Here, this has been adapted to ‘urban island water metabolisms’. The research highlights the value of more holistic and situated understanding of water systems in urban island contexts including: the role of intra-island networks that operate beyond municipal borders, accessibility in the contexts of ever changing water levels, and seasonal dimensions. The paper recommends longer-term and comparative research to further the understanding of the specific needs and challenges for water management in these peripheral contexts and to strengthen the urban island water metabolism concept.