Sensor platform for assessment of water usage patterns in informal settlements

Rico, A., Larson, K. & Gamboa, M. Sensor platform for assessment of water usage patterns in informal settlements. Sci Rep 13, 18958 (2023).


 Rapid urbanization has intensified pressures on global water systems, particularly impacting informal settlements. Understanding water usage patterns within these settlements is of importance for better addressing water scarcity issues. Current methods for gaining information about water within these settings tend to lack spatio-temporal granularity and miss complex patterns of behavior related to water usage. As a consequence, there is a shortage of the reliable quantitative measurements needed to improve water management processes and modeling. Here we introduce a low-cost sensing platform for water assessment in informal settlements. Households within these types of settlements, lacking water utility connections and piping, often use storage tanks and buckets to distribute, store, and consume water; hence, the platform consists of four distinct sensor modules that can be placed on these types of water infrastructure. Evaluated in controlled settings, the sensors prove to be reliable for measuring water quantity, quality, and usage. Field testing within an informal community in Mexico reveals that the system can comprehensively track multiple tank storage levels, assess water quality, and capture bucket usage patterns without disrupting a household’s common activities or infrastructure. Our validation shows the technique’s potential to improve water management in informal communities, while opening opportunities for enhancement of water-related research and policy making through combinations of top-down and bottom-up interventions.

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