Last August, CEWAS and KAS organised a Solution-driven Water Journalism Workshop on the future of water reporting. The workshop aimed to create a collaborative environment where participating journalists would work with a water entrepreneur form the MENA region to produce an article describing a water challenge and how it is addressed by the entrepeneur’s solution. A jury panel selected the three pieces with most potential which were after polished at a dedicated session with a senior environmental journalist from the region. Smart Water Magazine would like to present the article authored by Meriam Ben Hamza, where she talks about SmartDrop, a digital water monitoring and regulation solution by Yaffa Jaradat, conceived for water distribution systems in the West Bank.
“I live in Hebron, in the municipality of Sier. From a young age I learned to live with water scarcity, due in part to water pipe leakage, and I always wondered if I could do something about it. What sparked me into action was the day one of our neighbours was experiencing a water leakage and had to take apart half of his house before discovering where it was. He could have lost his house if he hadn’t!” Yaffa Jaradat, Founder of SmartDrop, says. “That day I said enough was enough.”
Yaffa Jaradat’s initial concept of what would end up to be SmartDrop won the national Intel ISEF contest in 2019, one year before she joined the Palestine Polytechnic University (PPU) to study Data Science. SmartDrop is a system that calculates the water needs of one household and regulates its consumption through water pumps and computer software. The delivery process is electronically controlled and is meant to be moderated by a competent municipality official.
Yaffa Jaradat’s initial concept of what would end up to be SmartDrop won the national Intel ISEF contest in 2019
Valves are used to measure the flow rate of water leaving the main source and entering the household, or the water consuming entity; this also allows to regulate consumption and, in case of leaks, minimise damage while a technician is dispatched on site. Once the pre-calculated amount of water per user is reached, a digital order is sent to close the valve. In the event of water loss or leakage, the same procedure takes place and an alert is given to the competent officer with details pertaining to the accurate location of loss or leakage.
In this way, SmartDrop allows each household to receive exactly the amount it needs, taking into consideration the quantity of water available and assuring fairness. In addition to that, the project also reduces water loss and leakage in homes and within the main pipelines, by detecting issues early on and determining their location, so that the matter can be fixed in a timely fashion with minimum costs. It can also serve to pinpoint water theft locations.
Water scarcity is a recurrent issue in the West bank. The water provided to Palestinian communities in the West Bank is purchased water from Mekorot (Israel’s national water company). Because of the aged infrastructure that connects Palestinian communities in the West Bank and the water grids within Palestinian cities and villages, around 30% of the water is lost to leakage.
The situation is dire but the repairs are halted as any decision to repair a domestic water network must be approved by the Joint Water Committee. The Committee was created by the Oslo II Accord; half of its members are Israelis and the other half of Palestinians, and it is supposed to function on the basis of consensus in order to carry out any project dealing with water. Both sides have been at a standstill for decades concerning water issues, and Israel refuses any repairs that have to take place within the settlement, where Mekorot’s reservoirs are.
SmartDrop allows each household to receive exactly the amount it needs
Water scarcity is not the only issue at play here, but water inequality as well. Low pressure when water levels are low also means that sometimes, the water does not reach remote or elevated locations. According to Yaffa Jaradat, some of them can only receive water one day in the week and have to buy water from water vendors which is quite expensive and puts a strain on these families. On the other hand, people living in low-lying areas Mekorot’ s have more access to water, and tend to waste it.
Fortunately, there are no restrictions concerning repairing a single household water pipe, as opposed to a whole village’s water system, which means that the adoption of a solution like SmartDrop would allow authorities to go ahead with repairs right away. This solution is scalable and could help solve the water leakage issue of the whole West Bank, making things easier for the three million people struggling to get their hands on enough water to meet their daily needs.
Yaffa Jaradat, Founder of SmartDrop does not want to stop here. At the end of last June, she organized a workshop regarding water issues at the municipality of Sier, with more than one hundred attendees, where she also discussed SmartDrop objectives and asked for feedback. She knows that having the villagers' approval is vital to her project success, and needs a community to rally around her.
She is also looking beyond that and wants to raise awareness among the youth regarding water issues. Her first steps into the environmental sphere were hard; nobody understood her interest on the matter, as Palestinian youth don’t see water issues as a priority. This even impacted SmartDrop directly, as a vital team member, a mechanical engineer, left the project halfway, which slowed the project’s development.
Fortunately for her, her project is now being incubated at Palestine Polytechnic University (PPU), after her project was one of the four finalists at the Ecopreneur programme, and she can count on a mentor to provide technical support. Yaffa Jaradat’s initiative is laying the first brick for a more enlightened youth, aware of the implications of water issues for their future. Thanks to her persistence, we hope that we can soon witness the appearance of more water heroes in the West bank.