Solar-powered ATM delivers safe drinking water to Ugandan community

January 8, 2016 · 0 comments

By Aparna Rau, Source: UNICEF Media Center :

Communities in the Dei fish landing site in the Panyamur Sub County of Uganda’s Nebbi District were falling prey to cholera outbreaks on a daily basis, due to consistently drinking contaminated water from Lake Albert. To tackle this troubling issue Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) experts at UNICEF Uganda sought to find innovative water solutions far different from those used in the past. Taking India’s idea of the Milk ATM one step further, UNICEF Uganda in partnership with Water Mission Uganda (WMU), created one of the first Water ATM’s in the country, launching the first pilot project in the Dei parish of Panyamur in December of 2013, which serves a population of over 8,000.

LifeLink, the Water ATM designed by the Danish  company Grundfos, enables villagers to purchase between 5 and 20 litres of clean water (100 UGX, or $3 cents for 20 litres), using a water key that allows for both mobile banking and point of sale payment. The ATM machine dispenses safe water. Raw surface water is directly pumped from Lake Albert through a filtered water treatment system, engineered by Water Missions International, which chlorinates to disinfect water from germs that cause water borne diseases; the clean water is then delivered to an elevated gravity pressure water tank, all using solar power technology.

Both a Water Agent and a security guard, selected from Dei parish community, have been trained to manage day-to-day ATM operations. The Water Agent is paid UGX 200,000 (or $58) as a monthly salary and 10 per cent of the sales made from the ATM. A Water Agent Manager from WMU supports the overall running of the system. When a key is used LifeLink automatically captures the data, enabling the system to monitor clean water usage, as well as its own performance from anywhere in the world, using a remote management web application. If an issue occurs that requires maintenance, an SMS and email message is sent to operations services staff to ensure that a consistently reliable water supply is available year round.

With the aim to inspire positive behaviour change, the Water ATM project includes a village health and hygiene promotion component, in which WASH volunteers from the community are trained to go door to door creating awareness on good practices in: hand washing, household and food cleanliness, and latrine usage. Since the introduction of both the Water ATM project and social mobilization campaign, there have been almost no incidents of cholera for the past two years, while over 60 per cent of households in the Dei parish have built and started using latrines.

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