Harnessing the Cloud for Sustainable Water Systems
Resonance partnered with eWaterPay, a UK-based social enterprise, to extend their innovative digital water metering technologies to two communities in Kilosa District, Tanzania, where it is improving community water management and increasing access to water for 23,000 people.
“The eWaterPay technology has increased revenue and simplified our work. We can now monitor water tap functionality and if there is any problem, we can quickly address the issue. We will set aside the increased profit for expanding the water scheme and for maintenance.”
– Stefano Matenge, Msowero COWSO Secretary
In Tanzania, 40 million people lack access to improved sanitation, and only 60% of Tanzanians have access to an improved source of safe water. Tanzania’s health, economy, and food security depend on sustainably managed water resources, however water scarcity challenges are growing with the impacts of climate change, and many people still struggle with reliable access to safe drinking water and sanitation.
In most rural communities, an attendant manages each public water tap, unlocking the taps during the day and ensuring that each water user pays in cash for the water they use. This system has a number of drawbacks. Water users can only collect water when the attendant is available, and with a high number of small value transactions, it is easy for some payments to be misplaced and never reach the community owned water supply organization (COWSO) in charge of managing the local water system. And while more than $200 million is invested annually in water infrastructure in Tanzania, around 60% of new water systems fail within two years of their installation. These systems fail in large part because of the lack of funds for upkeep and maintenance, leaving communities without reliable access to water.
As part of USAID’s Water Resources Integration Development Initiative (WARIDI) activity, led by Tetra Tech, Resonance developed a partnership with eWaterPay to pilot their digital water metering technology to improve financial management of water systems in rural Tanzania. The eWaterPay system operates using a solar-powered digital water meter on each public tap, which water users activate with pre-paid eWater Tags. Credit is stored on these tags, which log transactions against a user’s balance on a cloud-based data platform. When a water user has credit in their account, they simply tap the tag to the eWater dispenser to collect water. Water is available 24 hours a day, with no more need to wait for an attendant to unlock the tap. The system requires very low bandwidth to operate, so they work even in areas with poor internet connectivity.
Users can purchase water credits though their mobile money accounts or by paying a water agent. The agent transfers credits to their account, which are then stored on the eWater Tag. Agents receive a small commission equal to 5% of water sales and the rest of the revenues are deposited directly into the COWSO’s bank account. With 100% of transactions accounted for, eWaterPay ensures that all water use is paid for, and that funds are available for the maintenance and even expansion of the local water system.
Resonance worked with eWaterPay to expand the company’s operations into two communities in Kilosa District, Tanzania in the following ways:
1. We identified interested communities that had sufficient human resources to effectively manage and maintain the eWaterPay system once installed.
2. We made introductions and facilitated negotiations between eWaterPay and local governments to establish pricing levels and the terms of operation in each community.
3. We managed community education and awareness activities. These included demonstrating how to use the new eWater Tags, how to purchase credit, and for the COWSO, how to manage the online eWaterPay data dashboard.
Altogether, Resonance has coordinated the installation of pre-paid water meters in 46 public water taps with eWaterPay, providing increased access to water for an estimated 23,000 people.
Resonance facilitated the relationship between eWaterPay and the two COWSOs in Kilosa District, Tanzania, and conducted a final evaluation in September 2019. The evaluation found that one water system, which had newly constructed water infrastructure, saw strong positive results using the eWaterPay system. Monthly revenue increased by 15% and 97% of customers were satisfied with the eWaterPay service. The second water system faced preexisting challenges with older water infrastructure, causing intermittent lapses in water service at some public taps in the community. This impacted user satisfaction (which was 77%) and the COWSO’s ability to collect revenue. Both water systems saw the water access increase to 24 hours a day with reduced wait times at functioning water taps.
Resonance then coordinated feedback from customers and COWSO managers about how to improve the customer experience through updates to the user interface and more extensive community engagement. eWaterPay has also improved its ability to select COWSOs best able to benefit from this technology. Primarily, this means assessing water infrastructure to ensure the water system is stable and can produce sufficient water pressure across the system to operate eWaterPay meters. These lessons will help strengthen eWaterPay’s product as they continue to scale up across Tanzania. Resonance is also sharing the lessons from this pilot widely with government and other stakeholders in order to help encourage continued innovation in rural water management in Tanzania and beyond.
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To learn more, contact our project team:
Charlotte Mack-Heller, Director
Nick McClure, Senior Analyst
Henry Jackson, USAID/Tanzania WARIDI Strategic Partnership Specialist