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June 2, 2020

Researchers are working to end water scarcity in Kenya

As part of the Kenya Resilient Arid Lands Partnership for Integrated Development (Kenya RAPID), researchers have created a water management platform to solve the needs of arid lands.

“The Kenya RAPID programme combines assets and experience of development actors, private and public institutions by leveraging their capital and investments, innovation and access to markets to address complex problems of inadequate water access, sanitation and poor governance of natural resources in the Arid and Semi- Arid Lands (ASAL) counties of Garissa, Isiolo, Marsabit, Turkana and Wajir in Kenya,” says Doris Kaberia Chief of Party for Kenya RAPID & Kenya Programs Director at Millennium Water Alliance.


The main ingredient of IBM’s research is a system called Water Management as a Service Platform (WMaaSP), which provides support to county water bodies and other relevant stakeholders.


This software will help decision making by predicting water demand based on population trends, ground and surface water supply, climactic patterns and land use. This Water Management as a Service Platform (WMaaSP) will be accessible on web and also as a mobile app.


The system will make use of sensors to enhance supply and demand patterns in accordance to groundwater extraction data and will  also help water service providers by reducing non-revenue water (water that is “lost” before it reaches the clients through unchecked leaks, stealing or meter inaccuracies.

“Through the support of the platform’s decision making tool, water service providers such as Lodwar Water and Sewarage Company in Turkana or Dirib Gombo water scheme in Marsabit have significantly reduce their non-revenue water. For example, Dirib Gombo’s non-revenue water has reduced from over 40 per cent to 30 percent and their revenues from Tariff collection has also tripled ’’, says Doris Kaberia, Chief of Party and Kenya Programs Director at Millennium Water Alliance.


For a long time there have been a traditional approach to solve water problem in water-scarce and arid regions to increase supply by investing inadequately in decentralised water infrastructure like dams and boreholes to help households, agricultural and needs. County governments and other organizations normally finance water infrastructures which are left over to local people who are unable to regulate them.

“For instance, if a citizen reports an issue to the sub-county water officer, the officer can use the mobile app to quickly locate the issue and assign the complaint to a repair officer who then inspects the issue and files a site report detailing the issue and/or required resources, also using the app. Once the repairs are complete, the assigned officer files a repair report detailing what was fixed to close the issue through the mobile app,” says Dr. Nathan Wangusi, the Principal Project Investigator from IBM Research – Africa.

SweetSense, is a startup company that is working with IBM Research and is  also installing sensors on electric water pumps to help in utilisation and dispatching of resources for timely maintenance and repair for effective and improved management of decentralised water infrastructure.

IBM has already  created a Rotational Program within the counties which is aimed on sharing software development technical expertise and skills with the county ICT representatives since these skills regards to aspects of WMaaSP.

The county representatives will to work with IBM Research’s Engineering Team to learn and acquire first-hand skills on how WMaaSP is designed and how it is developed.



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