In cities across Africa, rapidly expanding low-income communities (LICs) pose unique technical and social challenges to utilities in expanding services – but they also present an opportunity to expand the customer base and generate revenues. COVID-19 is placing huge additional pressures on the financial viability of utilities, exacerbating the need for innovative service delivery models to this segment of the customer base. In the context of short and long-term challenges posed by COVID-19, water utilities must take every measure available to improve the efficiency of operations: service quality and attention to the customer will be even more important; greater control will be required over the distribution network; and billing and revenues will need to be maximized to support the bottom line.
Smart Water Meters are a new technology with the potential to assist utilities in this process of transformation. The model offers greater control for the customer, through a flexible prepayment tailored to the spending habits of low-income households; and greater control for the utility, enabling real-time data on water demand across the supply area, and supporting a shift from reactive firefighting to preventative planning. Pilots of the technology to date have produced good results; however, more testing is needed, particularly in LICs. One project expected to inform the evidence base is a pilot of 500 smart meters recently underway in Watamu, in the Kenyan district of Malindi.Download resource