Oxford "Smart Water" Project wins at World Water Week

A project, based on research undertaken jointly by the University of Oxford’s Department of Engineering Science and School of Geography and the Environment, has won “best poster” prize at World Water Week, held in Stockholm, Sweden.

Hand pump in rural regionThis programme links the Computational Health Informatics (CHI) Lab in the Department of Engineering Science, led by Dr David Clifton, to the team led by Dr Rob Hope and Patrick Thomson, in the School of Geography and the Environment.

The project uses machine learning methods to track the “health” of the water system under hand-pumps in rural, poor regions of the developing world, using low-cost sensors mounted in the pump handles.  At scale, this would enable the hand-pump infrastructure across Sub-Saharan Africa to be transformed into a large-scale, distributed network for monitoring water supplies.

The judging panel for the competition stated in their citation:

“Relevance – the Jury considers the research question highly relevant in the context of rising concerns about shallow ground water quantities in many countries, and therefore also relevant to the sustainable development of drinking water supply in rural areas in many parts of the world.

Innovation – the Jury lauds the innovative thinking behind the research question and the way new opportunities resulting from the introduction of information technology in hand pump management are seized, to come to a novel way of intensifying and enhancing the resolution of shallow ground water monitoring in a sustainable manner.

Simplicity – the simplicity of the concept and the research carried out reflect an elegant way of addressing a research question that focuses on developing low-cost technology, piggy-backing on already on-going innovations through information technology with distinct benefits for the rural poor.

Applicability – the Jury sees important opportunities for the research results to be applied and scaled up in a way that will significantly enhance the evidence base for the shallow ground water resources, in addition to the pump maintenance functions of the information technology installed.”

Additionally, the collaboration was recognised by The Telegraph as one of “ten groundbreaking university research projects” across the UK.

Oxford Smart Water team
From left to right are: David Clifton, Patrick Thomson, Rob Hope, with Engineering Science students Farah Colchester and Heloise Greeff.

  • See the winning poster here.