Water system sustainability and the need for change.

Data is useless.

Well, let’s rephrase that… data by itself is useless. It doesn’t solve our problems, but it is an important tool we can use to support rural water services.
Professional hand pump technician, Jean-Baptiste Sakassi, completes an electronic hand pump maintenance service visit report, with interest and input from the community members, May 2018.

We’ve learned first-hand how important it is to be judicious about data collection and analysis!

Starting in 2011, Water for Good integrated electronic reporting (data collection) into our professionalized maintenance services. In this service model, local teams maintain and repair manually-operated rural water hand pumps in the Central African Republic. We regularly service more than 1,100 unique water points. Technicians use a tablet at each visit to record the unique pump ID number, any part usage, the functionality on arrival and departure, the amount of time the pump has been broken (0-52, in weeks), and various other geographical and community information.

We recently collected our 10,000th maintenance report!

Today, we consider the electronic reporting to be a critical tool in support of our operations, providing rural water services.

See the results for yourself on our interactive map.

In order to generate and continuously update this map, we use simple tools and systems which allow us to collect and manage data in a cost effective manner:

  • Device – We use iPad minis (with cell service – not because we can get reception, but because they have a built in GPS). They are user friendly and just the right size.
  • Data Collection – iFormBuilder allows us to create the reports how we want with various pick lists and dynamic entries. This minimizes errors and reduces the time needed to complete the reports. There are several great platforms out there to collect data, but be sure you have the capacity to manage it!
  • Offline Maps – There is an app named Galileo, which is a free offline map we use to preload our water point data into. This allows our teams the ability to look on their iPads and view/verify the ID number of the pump report they are working on.
  • Database – Filemaker Pro houses and manages all of our field reports. By linking the well ID, we are able to view the history on the pump from construction to the most recent maintenance service visit. We can also export data into excel to analyse the total cost of ownership, functionality statistics, route efficiencies, and various other programmatic management items.


Below, we present some of the analysis and results of the maintenance services, which we would really struggle to produce without the electronic reporting.

Electronic Reporting Summarized Results


Year Number of
Water Points
of Visits
on Arrival
on Departure
2012 863 959 86% 93%
2013* 687 921 82% 94%
2014* 893 1446 88% 94%
2015 1115 1953 88% 93%
2016 1023 1509 85% 92%
2017 1125 1948 83% 90%

*Note: 2013 – 2014 was the height of a civil war in the Central African Republic. For part of the year, Water for Good had to halt operations and some areas were inaccessible.

We track the number of unique locations, or “water points,” visited by year. This differs from the  total number of visits completed each year, because some locations get more than one visit per year. You can also see the data on the proportion of pumps that are functional (pumping water) on arrival, which refers to the condition of the pump at the time the teams arrived at the water point for each visit. The proportion of pumps that are functional on departure refers to the condition of the pump after teams made any adjustments or repairs. This captures the proportion of non-functional pumps that were returned to functionality.

Note that these functionality rates are much higher than expected for a complex emergency country. To learn more about the professionalized services, read more here.

It is also important to note the data on functionality only provides a snapshot of the pump status at a specific point in time. This is interesting, because we collect it continuously, and therefore, we have monitored the reliability of water supply across the network…not just the functionality.

In addition, we like to emphasis that, with any data analysis, context is critical. For example, the civil war in the Central African Republic started in 2012 and has impacted our capacity to implement in each year, in changing ways. Another example: in the chart below, you can see our part usage varied substantially year after year. This reflects our overall level of activity, but was also impacted by the problems we had with getting our resupply of parts through customs in 2017.

The point: the electronic data and results are merely the systems we use for providing ongoing visibility into our operations. With a deep understanding of the context, we’re able to use this data internally for program evaluation, supply chain management, etc.

Pump Visit Type by Year

Pump Part Usage by Year

So, what do YOU think?

Are professionalized services a key to sustainability? How can the public and private sector do better to collaborate on the delivery of professionalized services?

Please join the conversation! Comment below, or connect via email: info@waterforgood.org

The series culminates during the World Water Week conference in Stockholm, Sweden at the end of August, where we would love to meet up with other attendees! We will also have representatives at the 41st WEDC conference in Nakuru, Kenya in July, 2018. Contact info@waterforgood.org if you’d like to connect!