How Embu Utility Firm Enhanced Efficiency Using Smart Water Meters

Smart meters are helping to track water on the internet

Sample smart water meter used by the Embu utility company

  • The IoT monitoring platform makes it possible to track real-time consumption of water

Sustainable access to safe water in Kenya is estimated at 60 percent in 2017 and the Ministry of Water and Irrigation aims to achieve 80 percent by the year 2022.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) emphasizes that access to safe and sustainable supply of water is a key indicator to wellbeing, social stability and economic growth of the population.

However, Kenya’s 103 water utility companies collectively lose more than half of their water (52 percent) to physical leaks and commercial losses, according to the Water Services Regulatory Board. This is the equivalent of two of every five liters that the water service providers have treated and pumped into the mains and is known as Non-Revenue Water (NRW).

“Depending on a water provider’s infrastructure and the area it serves, the companies lose between 30 and 75 percent of the water they pump into their mains, losing between KSh7.8 billion and KSh27.3 billion in the process,” says WASREB.

Kevin Kihara, the Managing Director at Upepo Technology Ltd says reducing the losses starts with monitoring usage. Water monitoring helps establish a water provider’s water balance – establishing how much of the water it collects from rivers, dams and boreholes makes it to customers’ meters.

How can water utility companies increase efficiency?

Kihara through a consortium of partners,  Upepo Technology Company,  Safaricom initiated a pilot project for Embu Water and Sanitation Company (EWASCO) in October 2019.

The objective of the project was to relay real-time data using Safaricom’s Narrow Band network from the devices at the 20 households to the Microsoft Azure Cloud with real-time mapping and analytics powered by Esri Eastern Africa’s ArcGIS Platform.

The data captured was used to monitor household water consumption which has an impact on Ewasco operational and revenue performance but also to enhance the response of Kenya’s water sector to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Each device is uniquely identifiable through its embedded computing system and is able to interoperate within the existing internet infrastructure to identify water consumption across Embu County,” said Kevin.

As a result, overall, water usage in the monitored areas fell from an average 325 cubic metres from December 2019 to February 2020 to 114 cubic metres between March 13, when the first COVID-19 case in Kenya was reported, to April 13.

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It was also evident that although commercial consumers are only 20 percent of Ewasco’s water connections, they are major contributors to the provider’s revenue. The project also proved that water consumption correlates strongly to general economic activity.

How Embu Utility Firm Enhanced Efficiency Using Smart Water Meters

Kevin says the company will start with installing more smart meters in Embu and then go to the rest of Kenya. “Safaricom and Upepo intend to rollout smart metering to cover an estimated 12.93 million persons who are served by the 88 Water Service Providers in 43 counties,” he says.

The collaboration will set out to save 182.7 billion litres of water, which is usually lost due to billing errors, lack of revenue collection and metering estimates.

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Ewasco was selected for the study for a reason: it is one of the most successful water utilities in Kenya, evidenced by the growth it has experienced over the past seven years, during which it has increased its connections from 17,000 in 2013 to 32,000 today, according to data from the Water Services Regulatory Board.

First published on https://newsroom.safaricom.co.ke/