Arup and The Flow Partnership to create a Universal Language for Community Driven Water Management

Posted: Friday 13th July 2018

Arup has signed a two-year agreement with The Flow Partnership to help rural communities better manage their water resources to alleviate droughts and floods, and increase the availability of clean water for sanitation and other uses.

The WaterUp project team will start by working with rural communities in India to understand how their traditional water management methods can be adapted, improved and replicated by communities worldwide. This will result in a set of language neutral, educational tools that are available for free on the Water School website, allowing communities to implement simple and affordable solutions to improve their water resilience. These visual tools will use schematics, symbols, icons and animations to share information across cultures and language barriers. The website will also be used to crowd source ideas to help achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals, particularly SDG6, which is focused on ensuring clean water and sanitation for all.

The first phase of the WaterUp programme, due to run until June 2020, will have the team visiting India's largest region, Rajasthan, to research document and understand their local water management methods. Over half of the Rajasthan region is arid and it has only 1 per cent of India's surface water resources. The Flow Partnership has been working extensively with Rajendra Singh, an expert water conservationist, environmentalist and recipient of the World Water Prize, who has revived seven rivers in Rajasthan to bring water back to thousands of villages in India.

The team will use Arup-developed digital technologies to collect field data, mathematically model hydrology and document the methods in Madhya Pradesh and Maharasthtra in India. Once produced, the educational materials will be tested and refined in Colombia to ensure they are universally understood and replicable in other countries.

Water scarcity already affects every continent and climate change puts an increasing strain on global water resources. According to the United Nations (UN), 1.6 billion people, or almost one quarter of the world's population, face water shortage. People without access to improved water resources live predominantly in rural communities and the cost of constructing water systems is higher in rural communities because smaller populations are scattered over larger areas.

David Hetherington, Arup Associate and Water School/Water Up project lead, said: "In this digital age, people are more likely to own a mobile phone than a toilet, so it makes sense to use these widely available digital technologies to educate communities on water related issues like water management. By creating simple educational tools that can be easily shared and understood worldwide, it is our aim to help communities take better care of their water resources and alleviate the risks of water crises."

Minni Jain, Director at The Flow Partnership and Water School/WaterUp project lead, commented: "When technology comes together with community as an equal partner, then the design and implementation process of landscape regeneration truly becomes a worldwide endeavour. The Water School will make accessible the knowledge, methods and materials for communities to upskill and bring back their landscapes to health and life, keeping them resilient for future generations. Enlisting the help of the rural communities of the world to achieve healthy global landscapes is a way of crowd sourcing local knowledge to help make progress towards achieving UN SDG 6."

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