Access to drinking water for African cities

In a partnership with the REGIDESO (Régie de distribution d´eau), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) constructed waterworks in Goma, the Democratic Republic of Congo. Occasionally, these need to be repaired. A specialised task force comprising engineers and construction specialists has been put in place to support this and at the same time develop a water system master plan allowing the population better access to drinkable water in Goma and other African regions. The master plan needs to be based on an exact analysis of the region’s topography to enable evaluation of the risk of mudflows, assessment of the slopes to determine where to position pipes and estimate the water network. And all this within a short period of time on a restricted budget and with limited access to often conflict and violence-riddled areas where situations can escalate rapidly.

In response to this, Airbus Defence and Space provided the ICRC with its Pléiades-based Elevation1 Digital Terrain Model (DTM). By using this one-metre DTM, the ICRC was able to position the pipes with a high level of modelisation due to a precise elevation model. Combined with GCPs (Ground Control Points), the accuracy was extremely precise. This technology was essential to determine where the drainage basin was and measure the risk of flows which could, in turn, endanger the hydraulic infrastructure.

The Elevation1 DTM helped the ICRC make informed decisions about the project, choosing the right material, measuring precisely and designing the best infrastructure possible, all of which have proved to be cost-effective and time-saving. The use of bare Earth elevations is a key success factor in the planning process. Thanks to the ICRC’s action, 50% of the inhabitants of Goma will soon have facilitated access to drinkable water.

Yaan Rebois, a GIS specialist for the ICRC said, “Working with a precise and quality DTM allows minimising the evaluation phases and moving on more quickly to the implementation and set-up phase for the benefit of the civil population affected by conflicts.”

About the Pléiades-Based Elevation1 Digital Terrain Model

The Airbus Defence and Space Elevation1 product is a Pléiades-based terrain model (DTM) representing the bare Earth. With a resolution of one metre, it offers a very high vertical accuracy of up to 1.5 metres, when combined with ground control points (GCPs). Elevation1 is ideal for hydrological applications.


Local resources are usually unqualified, the access is limited because of ongoing conflict, and it is a fast-changing environment. DTMs are cost-effective, time-saving and facilitate the decision-making process. As such, they are essential for the analysis phase that helps to size the area.

  • Cost-effective:
    The ratio profitability/return on investment is really high. If unable to deploy a team on the ground to analyse the topography, satellite-based elevation models allow remote access to a complete and accurate representation of the area targeted.
  • Time-saving:
    Conflicts evolve fast; the area tends to get urbanised quickly. The timeframe to act is usually short.
  • Facilitate the decision-making process and planning:
    Building a water system master plan requires precise, real factual data. The use of DTM allows the ICRC to make the right choice regarding the design of the infrastructure. Making planning easy with Elevation1 DTMs.

About the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)

Established in 1863, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is an independent and neutral organisation that operates worldwide. In Africa, by providing water, creating or maintaining a sustainable living environment, they contribute to reducing death and suffering due to damage to infrastructure or disruption to water supplies.

International Committee of the Red Cross


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