Loss of water through leakages and defective meters has been a major challenge for both water suppliers and consumers in Kenya. How to control spillage and reduce cost has been a major debate, especially among urban households whose consumption of piped water is higher than their rural counterparts.
To curb this problem Mr Stephen Muriuki, the managing director of Real Technologies, has come up with digital prepaid water meters.
Though in its pilot stage, the programme which he is conducting across the country is introducing digital water meters which he says will solve the problem of water cartels and wastage. While the technology may not be new in Africa, it is new in Kenya and will help water companies and consumers too.
Water companies across the country lose millions of shillings monthly to cartels and vandals. A recent report by the government revealed that Nairobi Water and Sewarage Company alone has lost water valued at Sh2.1 billion. The report also unveiled rampant illegal water connections, especially in low income settlements.
Mr Muriuki, whose company is located in Nyeri town, said the idea of introducing modern water meters was born in July last year while he was still working as a cashier at a leading bank in the country.
â€œDoing my calculations and seeing how much money water companies were losing every month pained me a lot,â€ he said. â€œI also heard my friends complain of huge monthly water bills,â€ he added.
Mr Muriuki decided to leave his job and start Real Technologies, based in Nyeri town. He is the managing director of the firm. He started researching on how to bring a solution to many Kenyans suffering in the hands of water cartels and vandals.
â€œMy research involved going across the country, more so to informal settlements in Nairobi, interviewing people and handing out questionnaires. â€˜â€˜Thatâ€™s when I realised that some people pay bills for water they have not used,â€™â€™ he said.
In some cases water companies do not visit homes to read water meters because of inaccessibility. In other areas meters supplied by companies are tampered with while others are stolen, making it difficult for firms to calculate water used.
Digital water meters will come in handy, he said. Customers buy tokens and load them into meters, cutting down the need to go to water suppliersâ€™ offices. The meters allow water users to buy credit through bank cards, mobile money or pay directly to water companies.
They are set in search a way that when they are loaded with credit they open the valve and water flows. â€œIn case of low credit or battery the meter will send signals to the consumer,â€™â€™ he said.
The meter also alerts the consumer and water company in case of leakages, helping them pinpoint where the problem lies. They also have proved to be tamper proof and all
, Mr Muriuki said.
The meter has several advantages which include generating elaborate reports for management, giving maintenance schedules and preventing
fraudsters from interfering with the water flow system,â€ said Mr Muriuki.
â€œThrough this new technology companies will be able to get accurate bills, thus preventing the amount of water lost through leakages.â€
Mr Muriuki said that he came up with the prepaid water metering system to balance the needs of urban dwellers against commercial goals of utility providers.
The prepaid meter has been successful in countries such as South Africa, Uganda and Namibia where companies are introducing it. If adopted, the gadgets will make water accessible to more customers at the utility providerâ€™s rate.
He says that digital meters will be connected to water supplying companies and managed through a Meter Management System (MMS). The MMS is a centralised system which allows water firms to track records of all prepaid meters.
The meters will be mounted in peopleâ€™s houses to prevent theft and damage. â€œEach also comes with a battery which lasts for six years,â€ said Mr Muriuki.
Source : Daily Nation