Reliable and cost-effective monitoring of rural water supply infrastructure has long been hampered by the geographical curse of dispersed and low-income populations, and weak institutional performance. Recent advances in monitoring technology combined with mobile network expansion into rural areas has created an opportunity to bypass these seemingly intractable challenges. Mobile-enhanced technologies have the potential to produce data that is orders of magnitude richer, faster, and cheaper than that provided by traditional monitoring methods, which require costly field visits. However, more data does not equate to better data; information generated by crowd-sourced and automated systems each has its respective limitations. We propose a framework for analysing monitoring and surveillance systems, which can help assess the strengths and weaknesses of different emerging approaches. We suggest that these advancements present an opportunity to fundamentally change the way we consider and conduct rural water supply monitoring.
Incentivizing clean water collection during rainfall to reduce disease in rural sub-Saharan Africa with weather dependent pricing
In much of rural sub-Saharan Africa, households tend to shift water collection during rainfall periods away from cleaner groundwater sources, which they often have to pay for, towards free alternative sources. This increases disease risk and decreases sustainability of service provision. New approaches are needed to incentivize households to maintain clean water use and mitigate this environmental health challenge. We propose a pricing mechanism for ‘water ATMs’ – now possible with their pre-payment and remote monitoring capabilities – derived from measured reductions in collection over rainfall periods. Appropriate price elasticity ranges (−0.5 to −1) and relative risk of diarrhoeal disease from this intervention (0.4 to 0.8) determined from the literature are used to estimate the cost per capita and cost per disability-adjusted life year (DALY) averted. These are estimated to be between US$5 and 50 per DALY averted in the scenarios studied here, which would compare favourably against other water quality interventions. Cost and value would depend on elasticity of demand and potential health gains across different communities. Considerations for implementation are discussed. The potential for accurate subsidy transfers to service providers is outlined, along with the added resilience to climate change.