How Drones Can Change the Water Sector: WaterWorX in Ghana Explore the Potentials

WaterWorX WOP between Ghana Water Company and VEI use drones and prove they are a cost-effective tool to help detect water losses, theft, and offer accurate data in densely populated low-income areas.

The future of the water sector also lies in the implementation of novel technology, drones being one of them. Over the years, water utilities in Africa made tremendous progress in using novel information and communications technology (ICT) tools to enhance their water services operations. Next to GIS, hydraulic modelling, and SCADA is the use of drones, a major innovation for aerial (real estate) photography, remote sensing, and detection of leakages along major water transport lines.

Drones are also used by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) for surveys of living patterns, sanitation needs, or identification of flood prone areas in refugee camps. Drones provide a hawk’s eye view and can reach out to relatively inaccessible locations, easing walk-along transmission line inspection currently challenged by vegetating, snakes and limited access, and offering better spatial and temporal resolution than satellite imagery.

Ghana Water Company GWCL, within their Dutch co-funded WaterWorX program with VEI, currently explores the potentials of drones to enhance their daily operations. In the dry season, they are piloting drones to inspect the main water transmission lines. Several inaccessible and suspicious “wet spots” were identified (image below), suggesting major water losses or water theft urging GWCL to take remedial action.

Courtesy of GWCL and VEI

 Together with GWCL’s Low Income Customer Support Unit (LICSU), low-income urban communities in the Greater Accra Metropolitan Area were mapped at an altitude of 100 m. The generated orthographic maps have high accuracy within the 2 m. range, including elevation or digital terrain. The accuracy increases to less than 0.4 m. by flying the drone twice over the same area at 40 m. altitude. The superior georeferenced orthographic images and corresponding data derived from them enabled LICSU to better assess the potential impact of a proposed network extensions to various low-income urban communities.

ArcGIS is useful to perform image classification; in particular, to identify dwellings, properties, and visible polytanks may assist hydraulic modelling, especially at intermittent water supplies.

During the forthcoming International Amsterdam Water Week (November 2021), a training and demonstration programme is envisaged to share the experiences and results of GWCL. * For more information contact Mr. Manuel Tayara from VEI/WWX by email: