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GRUBS grabs socio-economic and sanitation data for better water transparency

by Julie Mollins | @jmollins | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Monday, 22 August 2011 14:22 GMT

New interactive app uses Google Maps to match socio-economic with sanitation data to improve water utility transparency

STOCKHOLM (TrustLaw) –  A new interactive web-based application using Google Maps and Google Earth to match socio-economic with sanitation data is being piloted in Nairobi to make water utility data  more transparent.

The geo-reference utility benchmarking system (GRUBS) monitors water supply, usage and general performance of utility companies and overlays it with socio-economic data.

The application is being tested by the Global Water Operators' Partnership Alliance (GWOPA) in conjunction with Nairobi City Water and Sewage Company, which agreed to share its data with GWOPA, part of United Nations Habitat.

Nairobi, a city with a cross-section of wealthy to slum neighbourhoods, is experiencing severe water rationing after rains in its water catchment areas failed in recent months.

Certain indicators can also be used to monitor governance issues, said Faraj El-Awar, programme manager at GWOPA, whose mandate is to provide universal access to water and sanitation.

"This platform will enhance transparency because it will inform citizen groups and other stakeholders," El-Awar said on Monday after a panel discussion on benchmarking the governance of private and public utilities at Stockholm World Water Week.

Coverage indicators can be monitored by overlaying the water and sanitation infrastructure with socio-economic data to determine water coverage to see if some areas are less well covered than others, El-Awar said.

"We are trying to be helpful to Nairobi Water to help inform their investment plans and policies. If they don't cover low income neighbourhoods they can see that and plan to direct their investments into these neighbourhoods in the future."

GWOPA is also developing a professional web-based networking community platform for utilities staff called The Pipeline.

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