GIS mapping project sets out to provide Uganda with data for water infrastructure improvements
By Trimble Geospatial
Engineers Without Borders USA (EWB-USA), a non-profit organisation that provides engineering solutions in developing countries, has worked in Uganda on a variety of water, sanitation and hygiene initiatives, including developing standards for solar water pumping. In 2020, it started a water system geographic information systems (GIS) mapping project to provide accurate geolocation and other data for water infrastructure development in the West Nile sub-region of Northern Uganda.
The water asset mapping project is partially supported by the Trimble Foundation Fund, which has donated GIS and mapping technology solutions for the water inventory project.
For the Uganda water system project, high accuracy GIS solutions will support the inventory of about 120 water installations, and ultimately a master plan to address the limited water capacity in Uganda, said Zoe Pacciani, EWB-USA’s Uganda country director, and regional director for Eastern and Southern Africa.
The project will also demonstrate the power of GIS for accessing information on systems virtually, as well as the development of training programs for local engineers to learn GIS capabilities, including sharing knowledge with a local group of women GIS engineers, Pacciani said.
The formation of mismatched water systems
Uganda hosts one of the largest refugee populations in the world, and currently has more than 1 million refugees, including more than 900 000 from South Sudan. Following an influx of Sudanese refugees starting in 2016 into Uganda’s West Nile region, a variety of nongovernmental organisations provided about 120 different pumped and piped solar water systems for drinking water and sanitation needs in different refugee settlements.
The solar water systems were installed with varying levels of engineering expertise, resulting in a network that would benefit from being inventoried, redesigned, and in some cases, rehabilitated for an overall upgrade and optimisation, Pacciani said. “We don’t know what pumps are in there in order to operate and maintain them,” she said. “We don’t know if the pipe diameters are sufficient for the supply.”
An asset inventory will document the location and condition of the water systems and guide improvements so the network can be handed over to a public utility to meet current and future needs. The asset inventory is could also help develop a better-planned water system overall.
Accuracy and reliability in remote locations
The team in Uganda is working with three sets of Trimble equipment, each including a Trimble R2 GNSS receiver, a TDC600 handheld data collector with TerraFlex field software, and accessories such as a pole, mount and hard case.
The R2 will support real-time correction services through CenterPoint RTX for accuracy of better than 2 cm, enabling field engineers to perform positioning fieldwork in the remote locations without relying on traditional VRS networks or a local RTK base station. The team will use the cloud capabilities of TerraFlex field software and Esri’s ArcGIS online to set up data collection protocols remotely, including setting up remote assessments.
Creating a streamlined network of water systems
The inventory of the 120 water systems will start with 20 installations, Pacciani said. In October 2020, she spent two days in the field using the equipment to conduct a survey of the Juru water system. That survey will aid the design of the system that will feed into the overall master plan for the Nakivale refugee settlement in Southern Uganda’s Isingiro District. It is the oldest refugee settlement in Uganda, formed in 1958.
To allow effective management of the system, data capture includes recording the make and model of the pumps, the diameter of pipes, and the types of fittings and connectors.
The 120-system asset inventory, including the designs, upgrades, networking and asset management development, is expected to take all of 2021, and possibly extend into 2022, to complete.