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Water ATMs had been launched in Ghana – and are altering the best way individuals can entry this important useful resource

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Common, protected and dependable water entry is a urgent want within the world south. One-quarter of the world’s inhabitants don’t presently have entry to scrub ingesting water. In Ghana, about 5 million individuals out of a complete inhabitants of about 31 million lack entry to scrub, protected water. One individual in ten has to spend greater than half-hour to get ingesting water.

Issues are notably acute in off-grid communities. These are the low-income, rural and peri-urban places that aren’t related to municipal or predominant centralised water provide.

The non-public sector and different non-governmental suppliers are getting more and more concerned in filling the hole, typically in partnership with the federal government. Some non-public water service suppliers have turned to improvements like “water ATMs”. These automated standpipes are popping up as a approach to broaden inexpensive water providers.

Powered by photo voltaic power, most water ATMs are designed to function 24 hours a day. They’re low-cost, self-contained, automated water merchandising machines that retailer clear water and are most frequently related to a water purifying plant that makes use of groundwater. Clients purchase water from the ATMs utilizing a water card, which is topped up with credit score through cellular cash.

In my current study, I got down to discover how water ATMs had been working in low-income, peri-urban or off-grid places in Ghana. I discovered that water ATMs delivered comparatively restricted operational-level worth. They usually had been altering the water entry panorama – not at all times for the higher, from customers’ perspective.

Impression of water ATMs on water entry

The analysis was carried out in Yawkwei, a peri-urban group within the Ashanti area of Ghana. Right here, off-grid households have the selection of utilizing water ATMs or not, however may also depend on different sources equivalent to different non-public standpipes and group boreholes.

The water ATMs had been operated by Secure Water Community, a non-profit organisation devoted to growing and implementing small, financially viable water initiatives. They had been put in at six water standpipes, 5 with a single ATM and a predominant station with two ATMs, collectively serving about 2,000 individuals.

Pipe-borne water tap
<span class="caption">A water ATM level in Yawkwei.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">Godfred Amankwaa</span></span>

Water ATMs had been put in incrementally and used the prevailing bodily, institutional and monetary infrastructure locally. This was carried out to cut back the price and the possibility of resistance or rejection of the innovation. It relied on what was already in place, equivalent to cellphones, Secure Water Community’s standpipes, and group actors like water station operators and cellular cash brokers.

Learn extra: What it’s really worth to pipe water to homes in rural Zambia

The research discovered 5 predominant methods during which water ATMs had been altering the water entry panorama.

Improved water reliability and entry: Water ATMs supplied extra dependable, versatile and handy (time-saving) entry than former or competing varieties of off-grid water provision locally. As an example, individuals spent on common quarter-hour for a spherical journey, from dwelling to water ATM and again, in comparison with 29 minutes at two non-ATM boreholes locally. Additionally, individuals might gather water outdoors the station caretaker’s or vendor’s hours of enterprise. Assortment might slot in round different livelihood actions as an alternative of disrupting them.

Value and adjustments in water practices: Water ATMs introduced the relation between prices and water extra to the fore for customers. Customers grew to become extra cautious on the level of water assortment, since they might be paying for any water spilt. Additionally, regardless of the know-how not altering water costs or tariffs (20 litres for 10 pesewas), some customers claimed they had been successfully being charged extra as a result of they didn’t get the identical quantity of water for his or her cash.

A water ATM person mentioned:

(…) see, this pipe (water ATM level) is nearer to me however the costs of late make me go to the opposite standpipe by the shop. After I use this similar container (a 40-litre bucket), a Ghana cedi (GH₵1) buy ensures 5 instances of that container from different distributors. However as an alternative of getting 5 instances, I solely typically get 4 instances at similar quantity once I use the water ATMs. I choose to stroll that distance if I can get an additional container of water.

Modifications within the on a regular basis social relations on the standpipe: A few of the former casual, social facets of water entry, equivalent to an alternate of gossip, views and considerations throughout water assortment, had been diminished.

Roles and energy shifts: New actors grew to become an important a part of water assortment. Some had been community-based (cellular cash brokers), others on the nationwide degree (the cellular operator MTN) and abroad (eWaterPay). They benefited from shopper funds and use of cellular cash associated providers.

Empowerment vs disempowerment: Households with out water ATM playing cards or credit, and girls who had been distributors at off-grid water standpipes, had been disempowered. As an example, 4 girls distributors at completely different water standpipes had misplaced their livelihoods on account of water digitalisation. These with water playing cards had been empowered.

Backside-up method

Based mostly on my findings, I recommend the next methods to make water ATMs more practical.

  • Authorities ought to allow a beneficial coverage and regulatory area for water infrastructure funding and an enabling ecosystem for domestically based mostly digital improvements.

  • Water service suppliers, once they introduce improvements, ought to undertake and construct on current programs and native establishments to create a supportive enabling setting.

  • Reasonably priced pricing must be set from the outset to encourage buy-in and utilization.

  • Authorities ought to collaborate with non-public water suppliers to incrementally undertake digital water applied sciences. First they need to put in place danger administration mechanisms to assist prioritise and scale back dangers threatening the sustainability of current infrastructure and for protected and inexpensive water supply.