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.
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.
“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 (5 US gallons) 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.
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