Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.


Kenya slums boosted by 'water ATMs'

01 July 2015, 06:37

Nairobi - Around the world, people use bank machines to access cash - but in the Kenyan capital's crowded slums, people now use similar machines to access an even more basic requirement - clean water.

In a bid to boost access to clean water, four water dispensing machines have been installed in Nairobi slums that operate like cash machines - with customers able to buy affordable water using smart cards.

It has cut costs dramatically, and is helping improve health, residents say.

"It's pure and good for cooking, and above all it is affordable," said Peter Ngui, who runs a small street restaurant.

"I used to get water from far away, but this water system is closer to my place of work."

Previously people living in Nairobi's cramped slums struggled to get clean water cheaply.

Also Read: Kenya's president appoints new central bank governor

Without water pipes or plumbing in the tin-hut districts, residents resorted to buying water from sellers who dragged handcarts loaded with jerry cans or oil drums into the narrow streets.

That water was often dirty, sometimes taken illegally from broken pipes.

But the new machines, installed by the government-run Nairobi Water and Sewerage Company (NWSC), allow people to purchase water directly - and far more cheaply - than before.

For the government, the machines allow them to make a profit, as water was previously stolen from them, with people cracking pipes to siphon off water to sell. For the people of the slums, the clean water provided is cheaper than that sold before.

Six times cheaper

"The project is commercially viable," NWSC chief Philip Gichuki said. "Illegal water services are going to die off because residents are assured of good water quality."

The new machines have made water up to six times cheaper. Previously, people would buy 20 litres of water in a jerry can from a street seller for three shillings, often from unreliable sources.

That price - the equivalent of 3 US pennies - was difficult for many slum residents who are unemployed or who only occasionally find work for $2 a day.

Now the machines sell the same for just half a shilling - and the water is treated and safe to drink.

"We will have more and more people accessing water in a more dignified manner," Gichuki said, standing beside one of the new machines, as long lines of women waited to fill cans full of water, heavy loads they must then carry back home.

"The people in the informal settlements will improve in terms of their health standards and they will also spend less money in terms of water services," he added.

Residents load money onto the water smart cards at a nearby kiosk or via payments sent on a mobile phone - a common system of payment in Kenya, which pioneered the sending of cash via phones - then tapping into the machine how many litres they want to buy.

"This water project has come at a very good time, because if I have 50 shillings, I'll deposit it onto my water-ATM card, and get water from this point for a whole month," said Francisca Mbenya, who lives in capital's vast Mathare slum.

Lack of proper sewerage

The machines are operated by local residents - youth and women groups - who earn 40% of the profits from the water sales as an incentive to ensure they are kept running and the system is not vandalised.

Previously, pipelines were damaged when some people tried to steal the water. Now with the new machines and water points, the government hopes there will be less reason to damage the pipes.

Lack of efficient sewerage and toilets mean water sources in the slums are often polluted, with diarrhoea common, while over 80 people died in a recent outbreak of cholera across the country.

Also Read:Fire destroys parts of largest market in Kenya

Kenya's slums earned a grim reputation for "flying toilets" - when people defecate into plastic bags due to a lack of other facilities, which are then hurled somewhere else into the shanty town. Conditions are improving however.

"I used to get water close to my home, but the problem was the hygiene level - right next to the water point was a sewer," said mother-of-three Mbenya, as she tested the new water system. "This water point is clean."

The United Nations say access to clean water is a fundamental right, while the World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines say people need a minimum of 20 litres of water a day as a basic requirement.



Read News24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
1 comment
Comments have been closed for this article.

Read more from our Users

Nigeria @ 56: Words to my green f...

A leader’s job is not to dictate, but rather to be respected, admired and be a trustee, of the land we love, with so much potential, a land which should be freer than free. Its still a long way to fufilling our destiny! Read more...

Submitted by
Isaac Asabor263
Recession: An opportunity for Nig...

The recession should be seen as an opportunity for the country’s promotion as long as we all collectively conduct ourselves in a patriotic manner, writes Isaac Asabor.  Read more...

Submitted by
Black and White

We want to imitate the whites in everything because we are ignorant of our inherent originality and content. We spend all our Naira to acquire his inventions because we so oblivious of our natural endowments that we allow him have it for free. Read more...

Submitted by
Nate Nat
Adamawa State University Mubi: A ...

ADSU integrity forum has accused the Sunday Joshua Wugira, a lawyer, of adopting unorthodox tactics by abusing his privilege by attacking the integrity of ADSU Vice Chancellor Dr. Moses Zira Zaruwa, writes a News24 reader. Read more...

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
My Country Nigeria (Part One)

Poetry by Abdulsalam Jubril.

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
Recession, dearth in leadership a...

Every leader has the opportunity to become great and making himself immortal in the lives and hearts of people for generations to come. Will Mr. President seize this opportunity?, questions Abdulsalam Jubril. Read more...