The new prepaid water services

Saturday September 22 2018

Two women fetch water from Mtemi Smart kiosk

Two women fetch water from Mtemi Smart kiosk under the Karatu Village Water Supply (Kaviwasu) board. The Catholic Relief Services (CRS) has teamed up with the government to initiate a project known as the Revolutionising Remittance Recovery in Water (R3W), a pre-paid system of accessing water to ensure effective and accountable water management PHOTO| COURTESY 

By Rosemary Mirondo @mwaikama

Dar es Salaam. The government in collaboration with the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) has initiated a project known as the Revolutionising Remittance Recovery in Water (R3W), a new method of pre-payment of water, combined with an effective and accountable water management system.

The project plans for a large-scale adoption and challenges the common approach of short-term and small-scale solutions in addressing urgent needs in the provision of water to communities in Karatu District of Tanzania.

The project is part of innovation that is a key factor in improving water infrastructure and providing communities with a reliable source of safe water, which is in high demand and comes at an opportune time.

The project under the CRS is being implemented in partnership with others. Catholic Relief Services (CRS), project manager, Eng Ephraim Tonya, told The Citizen that the system consists of 20 water-dispensing units installed in water kiosks, deep boreholes, solar pumping systems, piping networks, elevated storage tanks and storage above each water kiosk.

He said, users pre-pay for water by buying credit from the water kiosks or their mobile phones. The credit is loaded on to a smart card, similar to a credit card, which can be used to operate the water dispensers.

“The system is relevant for Tanzania especially as up to 50 per cent of the population lacks access to clean water,” he said.

He said such initiatives, however, often only address a small aspect of a larger problem and the solutions put forward do not always last beyond the life of the project.

“This is the beginning in tackling some of the major challenges concerning water delivery and helping to build a sustainable system supported by a robust water infrastructure,” he said.

He said the work was being done through a Public Private Partnership and involved the community throughout the whole process in order to ensure the project is sustainable. He added that the project is also under the ministry of Water, which is handling the legal framework as well as an enabling environment.

“They are also the guardian of the project and therefore backup in case of any vandalism to support the project,” he said.

He explained that the kiosks are operated by the local Community Owned Water Supply Organisations (COWSOs) through kiosk operators.

The system sends out data to COWSOs about water use and payments and reports any malfunctions in the system such as low pressure or flow rates, which may need maintenance.

According to him, CRS builds the capacity of the water bodies and beneficiaries of the project on how to operate the system.

He noted that they were able to sign contracts with local service providers that are owned by natives whereby in case of a problem they could be consulted to take care of the emergency.

Taking programmes to scale requires local input at all levels in the system and recognition of the importance of revenue flows.

From water users and COWSOs to government departments at district and village levels, the R3W project has achieved success by working with those who best understand the local context and have applied this knowledge to adapt the system accordingly.

He said that as a result, new users are able to recognise the system’s potential in their own communities and COWSOs can realise the opportunities the system presents to increase their revenue.

In another development, he said that innovations that ignore rural areas will never achieve scale at the national level. Villages and small towns are willing to accept new technologies and innovations but are often overlooked in trials.

New technologies and innovations are often piloted in urban areas and large cities, yet the communities accessing R3W have shown that they are ready and amenable to trying new ideas that will help them improve their lives and livelihoods.

The accessibility of similar models may lead to negative repercussions as well as positive outcomes.

For his part, Kaviwasu Water Board manager Stephen Siay said the project was well received because it had solved water challenges facing the community.

He said the new system has been designed as prepaid from the post-paid method to reduce loss of water.

“The people now have to pay for the water service before they can access the precious liquid thereby increasing accountability and reducing loss of water,” he stressed.

Most of the water for the R3W system is sourced from underground. While increasing the number of people using the system is generally regarded as a good result in terms of scale and impact, competition for, and conflicts over water may arise between local communities and visitors such as livestock keepers and water vendors if water levels go down.