Why this Innovation is Important
Safe Water Network aims to provide reliable and accessible water for consumers in rural areas. Automating water services through water ATMs and smart prepaid meters for household connections improves access by increasing water availability and empowering consumers to collect water when it is most convenient for them. Through digital finance integration, these automated services remove the need for a station operator or vendor to be available for people to pay and use safe water. Water ATMs and prepaid meters allow for 24/7 availability of water while facilitating digital data collection, helping us understand consumer behavior and trends.
How this Contributes to the Long-term Success of our Model
Increasing access and availability of water through automated services allow for longer hours of operation at water stations, which increases water sales and revenue without higher local operating costs (operator salaries, vendor commissions, etc.). For example, household connections have historically only had a 50-70% collection rate, and many households end up in arrears. However, once installed, prepaid meters help households plan their water expenditures and pay off arrears accrued from historical use, so that the water station doesn’t lose money for services provided.
In addition to improving revenue collections and eliminating account arrears, automatic water services are less likely to waste treated water or undercharge consumers with different-sized containers (as can be the case with operator-reliant sales). Because they rely on prepayment into digital accounts, water stations can raise prices by smaller increments than are available in local currency coinage. This allows more pricing flexibility related to inflation rates, without the risk of losing consumers from a sudden price increase.
Progress to Date
With support from the GSM Association (GSMA), Safe Water Network Ghana has begun rolling out water ATMs to water station standpipes, and has retrofitted all household connections to prepaid meters, which are now linked to a mobile-money payment platform. Safe Water Network India has implemented water ATMs at all of its stations, providing 24/7 water service at all locations.
Safe Water Network Ghana will continue scaling water ATMs across its portfolio to increase convenience to its consumers. It has also committed to installing prepaid meters at all new household connections in the future (though some exceptions will be made for schools and healthcare facilities). Safe Water Network India now exclusively uses water ATMs at new water stations in its clusters.
For More Information
To learn more about how you can help us develop automated services contact: Lauren Cuscuna