Using geovisualisation to support participatory problem structuring and decision making for an urban water utility in Uganda

This paper describes the application of geovisualisation to facilitate participatory identification and structuring of problems in an urban water supply system in Uganda. The city of Kampala has experienced rapid expansion over the years, with a corresponding increase in the demand for piped water supply. However, this demand was not well matched with expansion of the water supply system, and as a result parts of the city have been facing chronic supply anomalies and insufficiencies. Faced with the task of identifying remedies to the problems in the system, the city water company undertook a formal participatory problem structuring and decision analysis process, to try and understand the underlying causes of system failures as well as the geospatial patterns of these failures. As part of this process, analysis, mapping and geovisualisation of data derived from historical records of water consumption, as well as records of pipe breakages, supply intermittences, and other recorded customer complaints, was done. The maps so produced were key in bringing the various stakeholders and decision makers to a common understanding of the problem issues, and helped in the formulation of alternative courses of action. Furthermore, with the establishment of a formal discussion forum for problem analysis and decision making, structured participatory decision making was entrenched within the company’s work ethos. It is hoped that in future, the coupling of the geovisualisation tools with the existing operational databases in the company will result in the development of a functional spatial decision support system and a dynamic framework for system performance monitoring and reliability assessment.