Waterwise

Fighting water vulnerability in the United States by providing water quality and infrastructure information to residents.

About

WaterWise is a web-based solution that accumulates water quality data and information about lead pipes infrastructure into one, easy-to-use platform. Within the site, users can uncover about the quality of water in their homes, learn about the health risks of contaminated water, compareoptions for addressing poor water quality, and connect with local government andcommunity representatives who can help.

Although much of this information exists today, it is highly fragmented and difficult to understand. WaterWise is a first-of-its-kind platform that simplifies the water quality conversation into a digestible problem and empowers users to take meaningful action based on their needs. 

The site leverages AI and predictive modeling from Blue Conduit, a water infrastructure consultancy started at the University of Michigan, and is designed to reach communities across United States that may be impacted by poor water quality and help them understand their water infrastructure.

Internship Snapshot

As an Impact Design Fellow at the Ross School of Business, I was fortunate to have worked with Blueconduit on this project that serves my passion of designing information and communication technologies for development. As a UX design evangelist, I kickstarted the design thinking process at BlueConduit and helped to make their platform more intuitive and reachable with an added value.

Update [27/09/2020] This project is currently under development.

Role and Responsibilities

Impact Design Fellow - UI/UX Evangelist
  • Lead a complete design sprint to ideate on a solution for the water vulnerability problem
  • Ideated on business solutions to make the product viable and have a competitive advantage.
  • Developed a working prototype for BlueConduit to pitch their solution to their respective partners.

Tools

Figma, Confluence

Duration

5 months (Jan '20 - May '20)

Team

Zichen Wang / Torre Palermino / Nan Sithanamsuwan

BlueConduit
Ian Robinson
Professor Eric Schwarts  

Impact Design Studio Team

01. OVERVIEW

Problem

‘Clean Water and Sanitation’ is sixth on the list of the United Nations’ (UN) seventeen Sustainable Development Goals for achieving a better and more sustainable future for all. According to the UN, “Water scarcity, poor water quality and inadequate sanitation negatively impacts food security, livelihood choices and educational opportunities for poor families across the world.

Nearly 63 million people in the United States have been exposed to unsafe drinking water in the past decade. Because of the pervasive nature of this water problem, estimates for replacement of affected pipelines trend north of $1 trillion USD. Thus, it is not feasible for the federal or state governments to budget for total replacement at once.

TL;DR

How might we leverage and consolidate available information to create awareness that builds trust and inspires action for improved water quality?

BlueConduit

A Michigan run startup focused on this problem has devised an algorithm to predict the lead pipe infrastructure of the area. Blueconduit’s Flint Service Line Map allows residents and local governments to get the latest service line data for their address. This not only create awareness and action towards water quality, but also helps local governments to push their funds to the AI predicted most affected areas.

Solution

Unfortunately the designs are in a Non Disclosure Agreement. Feel free to email me at ruchital@umich.edu to learn more.

Process

Waterwise was developed in conjunction with BlueConduit where our team of designers and MBA graduates worked on an interlaced business + design sprint to ideate on solutions that would benefit the cause and the business. While we were understanding the user pain points and defining our problem statements, we were also ideating on our business model canvas to re-imagine the product for BlueConduit.

Target Users

The target users are those who live or plan to live in communities with high risk of water contamination like lead exposure, such as those established prior to 1950.
To understand more about the users and their needs, we conducted contextual interviews and surveys to get a sense of their pain points.

02. USER RESEARCH

Interviews

To understand our users’ needs and the current water information sources, we interviewed community members, water vulnerability experts and local government officers to better understand the problem. This helped us identify gaps in the current system and how all of the different users get affected by it.

Survey

We created a survey to gauge the understanding of the problem and current solution used by residents. We started off by listing out all the questions that we needed answers for. For example, demographics, awareness of the water problem, current solutions they use.


  • 66% of the respondents are not aware of the water quality reports in their area.
  • 55% of participants found lead levels to be extremely important, followed by contaminants in the water.
  • Most participants prefer water solutions that are easy to implement and can be customized to their needs.
  • More than 50% of the people are completely unaware of the health issues caused by water.
  • Community involvement is one of the most preferred way to contribute to water problems.

Personas

Based on our research we created multiple personas for our residents and community members. We identified three major target groups who directly or indirectely are affected by the water vulnerability issue.

03. IDEATE AND DESIGN

Business Model Canvas

We started developing our business model canvas and identifying areas where we can place our product within Blueconduit’s landscape and ideate on potential sources of revenues.

Ideation

Based on our research, users and business model canvas  I started ideating on a platform aiming towards water quality information and inspiring action. I identified a basic user flow with all the data that we had access to:
  • Lead pipe infrastructure data from Blueconduit.
  • Water quality information by the local EPA reports.
  • Water quality and health information by EPA websites.
  • Possible call to actions - such as community and civic engagement

Refining Ideas

I took a closer look at the required features and sketched out some refined ideas for our water quality and lead pipe information.