Mobile technology making water accessible and affordable

Water Source: Google Images
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RSKeWATERservices JV to deliver water to 164 000 people in Tanzania.

THE UK based RSKeWATERservices has won a tender to install 650 solar powered eWaterPay ‘pay as you go’ water meters across two districts in Tanzania- Dodoma and Singida. eWATERservices employs a low-cost pay as you go water system using mobile technology that is already serving 110 000 families across The Gambia, Ghana and Tanzania and have dispensed over 260 million litres of affordable, accessible clean water to rural communities.

RSKeWATERservices is a joint venture between the leading integrated environmental, engineering and technical services business, RSK, and eWATERServices, the company behind the eWaterPay system.

eWATERpay comprises a solar-powered tap that is connected to a digital wallet that is situated within a village community. The revenue collected is used to cover the costs of accessing clean water that is then used to operate and maintain the systems over time.

The device successfully addresses the twin challenges of water infrastructure maintenance and availability by offering round the clock access to water for users, unlike in the past when a borehole may have only had personnel at it for specific time periods.

In sub-Saharan Africa, about 40% of the population lacks safe drinking water. Within ten years, the global demand for water is expected to grow by 50 per cent.

According to a recent World Bank study on the performance of water supply services in Africa, half of the region’s utilities do not have the revenues to cover their operation and maintenance costs. Countries need to build up their operational capacities and use both public and private utilities to meet the demand for sufficient volumes of quality water.

The Tanzanian government has launched the Accelerating Solar Water Pumping via Innovative Financing (ASWPTIF) project to address this issue. The ASWPTIF project is being led by the Government of Tanzania through their TIB Development Bank with funding from the World Bank. The RSKeWATERservices JV successfully won a tender to install just under 650 solar-powered pay as you go water meters across two districts in the country.

Water shortage is a big challenge in Africa, observes Nick Leason, Director of Projects and Public Affairs, eWATERservices. “Many rural communities across Africa are plagued with water systems installed with good intent by global charities and NGOs but with little thought to the sustainability of these systems, meaning that when a pipe bursts or a pump fails, there are no funds, engineers or spare parts to repair them.”

“In Tanzania, this issue is particularly bad with an estimated 86 000 rural water systems in the country, over 40% are unserviceable, leading to thousands of rural communities who live a hand to mouth existence, having to travel large distances every day to collect water. This means that children are unable to attend school, the water has to be boiled leading to further deforestation and is a source of disease for many.”

In fact, 45% of water supply systems tend to break after two years because there is no water economy, no professional maintenance and no money to pay for maintenance. It’s important to find a solution that helps maintain the water infrastructure. eWATERpay helps address these challenges and ensures accessible, affordable clean water for rural communities. That, in turn, reduces the time needed to collect water daily, meaning children can attend school, it also reduces the risks of disease to these most vulnerable communities.

With Africa’s rapid growth in mobile use, and with 93% of Africans having access to a mobile phone, it makes it easy for them to have access to safe drinking water.

Moreover, the cost of water is affordable to even the poorest communities with a 1000 litres of water costing just 1 USD – or 5c for a 20-litre bucket. In Africa, mobile technology which revolutionised the banking sector could do the same for water shortage.

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