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Introduction

Dr Olivia Jensen

Lead Scientist, Lloyd's Register Foundation Institute for the Public Understanding of Risk

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Dr Olivia Jensen

Lead Scientist, Lloyd's Register Foundation Institute for the Public Understanding of Risk

“Access to a steady supply of clean water is just a pipe dream for a million people living in Kathmandu,” says Olivia, from the Lloyd’s Register Foundation Institute for the Public Understanding of Risk at the National University of Singapore. “Water flows to each household for only a few hours, once every few days. Because pressure is low, many people further along the line don’t receive water at all – and even when the taps do run, the water coming out of them can be unsafe to drink.”

Not surprisingly, local people line up to ask the water company to take action. But their claims are frequently dismissed out of hand due to a lack of essential data, such as which households actually receive water and when. To make matters worse, water quality is only tested when it leaves the treatment works, not at the tap.

With the support of a grant from Lloyd's Register Foundation, citizen science is able to make a real difference. An app developed alongside Imperial College London is empowering citizens to collect data which can be used to underpin complaints, while Olivia and her team have also distributed simple kits that can be used by households to test water safety.

“We’re arming the people of Kathmandu with the tools to back up their demands, and also providing the water company with data so they can make improvements to both supply and quality,” Olivia explains. “So far, the app and testing kits have been piloted with more than 80 households in four districts of the city. We’ve established the principle and proved that citizen science can engage people and deliver valuable data – now we’re working towards winning support from partner organisations to continue our work.”

“The developed world takes
water for granted. But in Nepal,
turning the tap can be like
entering a lottery”

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