Providing fresh water to people in Africa is an iconic problem. We experienced the urgency of the problem on a trip to Africa in 2006. Partnering with Pioneers Africa, they went from town to town helping to dispense malaria medicine to children and watched as they dipped their hands into dirty nearby streams, scooping up disease-infested water to swallow the medicine. How could you help cure disease when the solution was only creating more disease?
So it began with one well. We began collaborating with the Bay Area Community — businesses, churches, and nonprofits — to raise money to build wells in communities.
One well turned into two, which turned into three — soon we had 150 wells built. But we quickly realized it wasn’t as simple as that.
After the wells were built, there were no tools to maintain the well. By the time structural problems could be identified, it was too late to fix them and the wells would be orphaned — abandoned because they could no longer provide water.
So today we are building low-cost sensors that monitor the health of wells. These will enable communities to identify problems and fix wells so that they can continue to provide clean waters for not just a few years, but for years to come.