Kenyan `Water ATM' Seen Easing Supply Woes in Nairobi's Slums

  • City targets water for 1.2 million living in shanty towns
  • Technology may battle `water cartels' who now sell supplies

An automated machine that dispenses water for cash may be the solution to irregular supplies for 1.2 million people living in the Kenyan capital’s slums, Nairobi City Water & Sewerage Company Ltd. said.

A so-called water ATM being tested in the city would enable customers to swipe a prepaid card and fill containers with as many as 20 liters of water at a cost of 0.50 shillings (less than $0.01), according to Ephantus Mugo, regional manager for informal settlements with the state-owned resource provider.

The company is seeking to procure 100 of the machines, designed by Grundfos, a Denmark-based pump manufacturer, and wants to install 1,200 over the next two years, he said Monday in an interview in Nairobi.

Residents of Nairobi’s informal settlements have their access curtailed by “water cartels who install their own pipelines on top of our infrastructure to divert and sell expensive water to residents,” Mugo said. “We are now able to get money for water supplies from where we used to get nothing.”

About 56 percent of Kenyans have reliable access to clean water while 70 percent have access to sanitation, President Uhuru Kenyatta said at the beginning of a water and sanitation conference in the capital. Kenya has a scarcity of water, with less than 1,000 cubic meters per capita of renewable freshwater resources, he said.

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