Innovation and Cooperation Bring Sustainable Water Supply to Rural Kenya
Grundfos Pumps India Pvt Ltd
(Grundfos India)

This case study exemplifies how a water scarce situation in rural Kenya, which used to cause several health hazards and other hassles to its residents, has been improved with a sustainability based innovative approach pioneered by Grundfos.

What a difference does reliable and easy access to clean water make! Before August 2016, thousands of people had no easy access to drinking water in the rural areas of Kenya viz Nakuru and Makueni counties outside Nairobi.

"For me, I used to wake up at 5 am heading out to the river to fetch water, which used to take approximately one hour", said Mary Kemto, a local woman. "The journey back with heavy, jerrycans filled with river water used to take two hours". The only chore one was ending up doing was the water fetching. The children used to get affected at many times. Many a times, they were infected by typhoid. Washing the clothes was a challenge due to the nature of the water. The quality of tea was really as terrible as of water".

Local high school principal Jacky Muthama said, "There was no safe source of water. The only source of water was the Chamakuzi Dam, which used to be at the outside of school compound and wasn't secured. This became a huge challenge, and even made some parents to withdraw their children from school."

The SmartCard payment system helps the accountability of the water service. No cash is used, and users can also top up the credit on their water cards with their mobile phones.

According to Enock Oruko, Associate Director WASH, World Vision Kenya, -- in the villages, vendors used to sell water at water kiosks. However, these used to remain open only for the limited hours during the day. A study showed that only about three in five households used to pay for their water use. With the traditional vendorbased collection method, the revenue collection rate was only about 35-40 percent. Non-revenue water (that is the water either lost from leakages, stolen, or unable to be accounted for) totted up in also around 40 percent for all over Kenya.

Villagers in Kalawa fill jerrycans with fresh water from Grundfos AQtap water ATMs. Several parties - NGOs, county and local governments, a telecom company and Grundfos - worked together to bring 60 AQtaps to two large, rural counties of Makueni and Nakuru 3-4 hours' drive from Nairobi.

The solution
World Vision, the largest nongovernmental provider of clean water in the developing world, teamed up with Grundfos to supply sustainable water collection points managed locally by the communities. The Stone Family Foundation offered a grant to make the project possible. These organizations formed a public-private-partnership(PPP) with the county governments, local communities, and telecom company Safaricom to realise the project.

Grundfos provided 60 AQtap "water ATMs" for 11 local water committees, or more than 20,000 people. These automated water vending machines started supplying water securely via a smart card based payment system. Users are needed to load up "Water Cards" with credit, for buying the water via the ATM's touch screen.

Users are required to make small and affordable payments for their water, ensuring that the water solution is sustainable. No cash transaction is required to be made. Money remains available to the local water committee for ongoing maintenance and repairing. Customers pay the price intended and can even use their mobile phones to load credits onto their Water Cards. In addition to this, water usage and payments are being tracked by the system, providing both transparent data and a quick way to identify potential need for repairs, according to Dr. Greg Allgood, Vice President of Water, World Vision.

Local resident Ruth Suvai, who is also the Chair of the Kalawa Water Project , says, "Before we started using the AQtaps, a customer had to wait for the kiosk attendant to come and open the kiosk. With the change of AQtap, a customer can draw water at any point of time. The system is more efficient now. We are also not required to handle cash. The money goes directly to the bank".

The outcome
Today, not only is the water becomes locally available and affordable in these respective areas of Nakuru and Makueni counties, it is within the affordability reach of most of the people. Non-revenue water has been greatly reduced by about 40 percent, according to World Vision Kenya.

Water revenue is increased up till 62 percent, which counts nearly two -thirds of the earlier data. With the efficient revenue collection, there comes the improved water sustainability through this project, as the running costs and expansion plans can now be met by the water committees, as mentioned by the World Vision Kenya.

Residents say, "Life has become easier" with the AQtap water ATMs. Now they have more time to be in school or do other work than spend hours fetching water.

Thanks to AQtaps, the community residents are now being benefitted in many ways.

Local resident Mary Kemto said, "Life has become easier. The food we eat now is clean. The water we drink is clean. We use clean water to do our laundry. These days I have been able to do other chores than the mere fetching of water. The long queue for water also does not exist anymore".

School-aged students have also now been able to spend more time studying in school, rather than wasting their time in fetching water or staying sick at home by being infected with water-related diseases.

Deborah Oyaro of World Vision Kenya said, "We have worked with communities and seen that this technology is good. It can really work for scaling up".

World Vision Kenya's Enock Oruko said that scaling up throughout Kenya is possible because the AQtaps provide a market-based approach making the entire solution more efficient with the help of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). He added, "now we are able to monitor how much revenue is collected, and how much water is sold. It's a step forward with transparent systems and a breakthrough in WASH (Water, Sanitation and Health) governance. It's a major step forward".

Villagers can now get water at any time of day or night at the water ATMs. Previously they had to wait for an attendant to open a water kiosk for limited hours during the day.

Enoch Oruko noted that Grundfos did more than just providing the technology. The company provided training to World Vision's WASH team and community members on the AQtap units and water management system. "This was very impressive - a major component of our collaboration," he mentioned. "It gave us the opportunity to work as an NGO in collaboration with the private partners. Grundfos is one of the greatest partners we've had in terms of innovation".

"World Vision and Grundfos have been able to expand this effort in Kenya with a grant from the Stone Family Foundation," pronounced Dr. Greg Allgood, "Our goal is to expand this effort throughout Africa until everyone everywhere has the access to clean water that lasts".