Metrics in Action

Easily defining and tracking indicators to enable lasting clean water and sanitation

Conditions continually change working on water and sanitation with local communities. People move, the weather changes. Pumps break down, toilets get backed up. To ensure that the promise of clean water and sanitation lasts long beyond the ribbon-cutting ceremony, we need to be able to track those water systems and toilets over the long term, and identify when things need to be fixed before they become a big problem.

Until now, most water and sanitation organizations have lacked the ability to easily track several diverse indicators over time and simultaneously across multiple projects. Metrics, part of Blue Planet Network's Analytics program, allows each member project to create an appropriate set of monitoring metrics and provides an easy way to enter data, even by field staff in remote areas.

Blue Planet Network will continue to expand these valuable Metrics resources. Future additions will include the creation of a reminder system, using email and SMS, to ensure that staff measure and enter data regularly.


Case Studies of Metrics In Action

Tracking a Diverse Set of Indicators

Long-time Blue Planet Network member, Project Well, has been tracking many indicators at differing frequencies for all of its projects. Project Well's Executive Director, Dr. Meera Hira-Smith, also a researcher at the Arsenic Health Studies Research Group, University of California, Berkeley, insists on tracking several sustainability indicators to identify patterns over time. Project Well field staff monitor on a monthly basis at the beginning of a project, moving to quarterly monitoring as trends allow. Several metrics are being tracked to improve the long-term effectiveness of Project Well projects:

  • Number of Users (Individual and Family)
  • Height of Water Column in well
  • Taste
  • Use (Drinking, Cooking, Bathing, Irrigation, Not Used)
  • Odour (shown below as part of the data collected for a third community)
  • Water Clarity
  • Amount of Chlorine Supplied
  • Arsenic (measured less frequently since the test is expensive but still two samples at a time)

Flexible, Specific and Customizable Data

With BPN 2.0, all water and sanitation organizations, large and small, have a platform where they can easily track the indicators most important to the long-term success of their work. They can trend these indicators over time to identify best practices or ways to improve future efforts.

The following is a snapshot of Project Well's customized near real-time graphs showing:

  1. The number of users at one their many arsenic-free dug-wells;
  2. Chlorine supplied to a community for regular drinking water purification;
  3. Odor over time; and
  4. Arsenic levels.

number of users

Tracking indicators can help any and all organizations to identify missing data or inconsistent data.
Chlorine content

Graph - Arsenic Levels

Dr. Hira-Smith processes the results that included matching the monitoring codes with the water source and calculating the average of the two samples per source.

"Thank you for developing such a wonderful program. I hope that people will start using it because it makes sense to see how the arsenic levels (as in this case) reduce with age or increase due to shortage of rainfall. The ability to see maps and graphs is great for me, but I am also very happy that the field staff now can easily enter data to create near-real time system updates to the graphs. The old process of using forms that got entered into spreadsheets, and then consolidated, and then graphed was extremely tedious, time-consuming, and error-prone. Now we can far more quickly focus on acting on the data in front of us. Thanks again to Blue Planet Network for helping in developing transparency at the grass-root level."

-- Meera Hira-Smith


Actual vs. Planned Impact

Blue Planet Network member, Shohratgarh Environmental Society (SES), uses Metrics to plan project activity for their eco-san toilet projects. They then measure the actual vs. planned impact of the toilets. Contextual field notes, combined with graphs, give SES the insights they need to fix problems when they are small and refine their future projects based on actual learning.

Graph Comparison Scheduled and Actual

Here a plan to construct 10 toilets is graphed vs. the actual construction activity. When combined with a step-by-step log of all activity, using web and SMS text field updates, the viewer has a full visual and in-depth account of the implementation history. The implementer's management and staff can easily track their project's progress and learn better planning for future work.

Reality checks and reflections enabled by Metrics
boost funder confidence

Along with project progress made accessible through metrics, project expenses can be tracked and documented on Blue Planet Network in field notes. Funders can use this detailed information as an important source of their due diligence on prospective water and sanitation project investments.

Metrics development was made possible by a generous grant by the Cisco Foundation.