Berkeley researchers helping Bangalore residents know when to expect water

"In the developed world, we’re used to just turning the water on, and it’s there. We don’t know how it got there," said Christopher Hyun.
By Brooks Hays  |  Dec. 15, 2014 at 5:14 PM
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BANGALORE, India, Dec. 15 (UPI) -- In southern India, water is scarce and people are plenty. As a result, supply of the life-giving liquid is rationed. It's also unpredictable. Women in Bangalore, a city of some 9.9 million, spend hours each week anticipating the running water and storing it when it comes.

Wealthy households typically have water tanks. But for most, it's a daily problem. To help mitigate the unpredictability, researchers from the University of California, Berkeley have been working to better connect residents with those that control the city's water supply.

While UC Berkeley grad student Christopher Hyun was researching water supply patterns in Bangalore this past summer, a tech startup called Nextdrop was working out the kinks in its water prediction system -- a communication system that relies on cell messaging from service workers who manually open and close city water valves.

Hyun -- part of Berkeley's interdisciplinary graduate program, the Energy and Resources Group -- and Nextgroup, which was started by a team of Berkeley grads, are now teaming up to tackle Bangalore's water supply problems.

"In the developed world, we're used to just turning the water on, and it's there. We don't know how it got there," Hyun said in a press release. "I have a passion to see people having water."

The research project relies heavily on Hyun's work studying the behavior of valvemen, whose jobs can be highly politicized and pressure-filled. Nextdrop's system can't work unless Hyun and his research partners can determine when valvemen are most likely and willing to share accurate information about the water schedule.

The new Bangalore research project will also include the work of political science doctoral student Tanu Kumar, who is planning to study the effects of Nextdrop's notifications on households' water consumption, earnings, stress levels and on residents' feelings toward the local government.

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