Hussein Massomo and Joseph Fingo
eWATERservices has developed groundbreaking technology to ensure the supply of clean and safe water to communities across drought-prone Tanzania. With engineering and technical support from RSK’s specialist engineers, the team is revolutionising water access with digital taps.
The impacts of drought are felt across many regions of the world, the severity of which are increasing as the climate emergency escalates. Tanzania, where we live, is particularly vulnerable to drought events, with the regions of Shinyanga, Dodoma and Singida the most prone to these extreme conditions, according to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). With drought comes many challenges linked to water access: agriculture and livestock rearing, safe drinking water accessibility and maintaining livelihoods are all directly impacted by the onset of drought. Supplying safe drinking water, however, is being revolutionised by digital technologies across these regions.
The provision of free water means that the community water committee is left responsible for the maintenance and repair of the installed infrastructure operations and maintenance, often inefficient processes. Even though $10 billion is spent on water programmes in sub-Saharan Africa each year, the infrastructure installed is difficult to maintain and fix, so currently, around 40% of all new water systems break after two years, worsening the existing challenges of drought conditions and accessibility.
Digitalisation, however, provides a solution – 83% of people living in the region have access to a mobile phone, yet only 64% have access to clean water. The innovative technology developed by eWATERservices harnesses the power of digitalisation and offers a means to create accessible and safe water resources for the communities of these drought-prone regions.
eWATERservices’ taps start with a tag. People can buy water credit for their tag from either the app, using mobile money, from a local shopkeeper or receive it from someone remotely. When there is credit on the tag, water is dispensed when it touches the eWATER smart tap and that credit is deducted through eWATER’s cloud credit exchange. And it’s affordable too: on average, the water supplied by these smart taps costs $6 per person, per year. What’s more, the dispensers communicate seamlessly with our unique cloud-based payments software, providing real-time management of payments and water usage. This digitalisation enables live monitoring of the entire water system, and therefore the ability to keep it working. Each of these smart taps provides the community with water, cuts water wastage by an average of 150,000 litres and generates sufficient revenue to cover operation and maintenance costs.
RSK has been collaborating with eWATERservices for a number of years, working to install this innovative technology. Across Tanzania, teams of RSK and eWATER engineers and technicians work in rural villages to assess, install and maintain the smart water taps to deliver clean, sustainable drinking water to around 300,000 people in the country.
Currently, we are working on two projects in the Singida and Dodoma regions. These projects began in 2019 to support an initiative launched by the government and the Tanzanian Investment Bank. RSK’s engineering teams provide specialist support for these projects, ranging from site preparation and safety, transport and logistical support to replacing the original concrete plinth and pumping systems for new equipment that is far easier and cheaper to maintain. After assessing the pump, the team takes away the old plinth and constructs a new frame around the original pipes. The new frames hold the smart taps, solar panels and meter boxes, all of which are installed and maintained by RSK and eWATER engineers.
“We were involved in the construction and installation of the solar powered eWATER dispensers in various villages around the country on the RUWASA project funded by the Tanzania Investment Bank. [The team] and I were involved in the building and installation of over 70 eWATER dispensers in 15 villages in Bahi, Chamwino, Chemba and Dodoma.” Aron Engweu, Field Engineer at RSK Uganda
As part of the project, RSKeWATERservices will provide continuing operational support and maintenance for at least four years after project completion. The money generated from the water tags covers the cost of this technical support that ensures the pipes don’t leak, the solar panels are cleaned and major repairs are done quickly. As they are digital, our taps include sensors in the water tanks to detect leaks and there are sensors in each tap to identify any low flows and solar faults, so repairs are done quickly.
“The eWATER systems, being solar powered all the way from the source, make water accessible to villages and bring water closer to the communities, so people do not have to move long distances to access water. The eWATER taps also provide a balance between cheaper cost of water and controlling water wastage. The systems are always monitored online to spot systems that require maintenance.” Richmond Kalule, Field Engineer at RSK Uganda.
However, the benefits don’t just stop at harnessing digital technologies to bring clean water to people across the country. There are environmental benefits from eWATER projects too; in the 127 villages where eWATER provides water taps, wastage has decreased by 99%. The efficiency of the technology means that water flow stops as soon as the tag is removed, preventing wastage. As they are solar powered, eWATER smart taps also save 125 tonnes of carbon annually.
We believe that charging efficiently for water is the first step, but it’s those continuing steps of professional maintenance and management that will pave the way to a successful and sustainable water system in drought-prone countries like Tanzania and others across Africa.
Hussein Massomo is Head of Maintenance, Tanzania, at eWATERservices and Joseph Fingo is Remediation Field Engineer at RSK Tanzania. RSKeWATERservices is a joint venture partnership between RSK Environment and eWATERservices, aiming to provide accessible and resilient water systems by utilising digital technologies.