Saku Water Kiosk Eliminates Cash Handling

A rehabilitated, metered water kiosk. Photo credit: FHK

Saku, Marsabit, Kenya, September 14, 2017— New technology has brought a major change to the Saku water kiosk: people no longer need to carry cash to have access to clean water. Instead, a prepaid meter system ensures that consumers at the kiosk, which is part of the Marsabit Water Supply Project in Saku sub county, Saku Ward, always get their moneys’ worth.


The Marsabit Water Supply Project uses two water kiosks, Saku and Shauri Yako. The Saku water kiosk is managed by Saku welfare group, a 30-person group comprised of people living with disabilities. The group buys water in bulk from the Marsabit water supply, and then sells to the Saku community in units of 20 litres. The current water tariff is Kshs 3 per 20 litre jerrican. The revenue collected from water sales is used to meet the project’s operational and maintenance costs.

In 2017, the Millennium Water Alliance’s (MWA) Kenya RAPID program, in collaboration with the County Department of Water, carried out technical and feasibility assessments to identify areas of improvement within the project. Following the assessments, Kenya RAPID undertook the following activities: a new pipeline to connect the main storage tank with the two kiosks, construction of two masonry water kiosks, construction of a 27m3 steel tank, and installation of control valves, chambers and a master meter. The program also installed prepaid meters in the two kiosks, and trained WMCs on the adaptation of the prepaid meters.

Ali Godana, Chairman of Saku Welfare Group in Marsabit County. Photo credit: Johnson Nganga

Ali Godana, chairman of Saku Welfare group, said, “Before Kenya RAPID intervention, our project was faced with very many challenges. We did not have a storage tank, water pressures were low, our pipeline encountered frequent breakages, we could not account for daily water use, we did not have control valves and chambers, and our water kiosk was in poor state. However, through Kenya RAPID, these water infrastructures were rehabilitated.”

Maree Hirbo, one of the project’s beneficiaries, experienced the improvements first-hand. She said, “The old kiosks were unhygienic, and the water was prone to contamination. The drainage around the kiosks was poor. Water logging around the kiosk was a common phenomenon. This sometimes acted as breeding point for mosquitoes. With the new kiosks and well designed dispensing pipes, contamination has been eliminated. With high pressures, water dispensing is fast, reducing the waiting time.”


All customers at the water kiosk are now issued prepaid chips. These chips are exchanged for water, and then reloaded. Swapping cash for chips aims to reduce money handling, eliminate water wastage, increase accountability and allow for better budgeting.  

Godana said the introduction of the prepaid meter system has been the program’s biggest success. “Less man power is required to operate the system. Customers can only access the amount of water they have paid for. The system is able to document water dispensed at any time. The system has also eliminated free water, which is not sustainable. We are very grateful to Food for the Hungry through the Kenya RAPID program for introducing technology in our water supply.”

Hirbo agreed with Godana. “Initially, we had a problem of getting change considering water was selling at Kshs 3 per 20 litre jerrican. Sometimes our children used to lose money on the way,” she said. “Fortunately, today they do not need to carry money. All they need is a chip. It is my prayer that this wonderful work and technology will be replicated in other parts of our county.”

This project is currently benefiting 19,000 people, with the number expected to grow to 23,000 people upon completion of a second kiosk.

Maree Hirbo fetching water at the metered water kiosk at Saku, Marsabit County. Photo credit: Johnson Nganga

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Posted September 20, 2017

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