The Safe Water Kiosk – Setting up a small water business in Ifakara


Over the last few weeks we have been doing some investigations into the feasibility of setting up a Safe Water Kiosk to sell affordable, high quality treated water in Ifakara township, using a Sky Hydrant donated by The Sky Juice Foundation.

The Sky Hydrant is an Ultra-Filtration unit designed to be used in developing countries. It operates under low pressure (2-4m head) and will remove bacteria, protozoa and significantly reduce virus levels in water.

The idea is to use it set up a Safe Water Kiosk which treats and sells water to the community at an affordable price. The aim is to turn it into a business opportunity for residents, creating ownership of the Sky Hydrant, cover the costs of set-up, operation and maintenance, while at the same time making treated drinking water more affordable to the community.

Arriving from Melbourne, Australia, Ifakara has been an eye-opener. It is a large town with a rapidly increasing population. Only about 10% of the population have reticulated water from Council tanks and there is no reticulated sewer. Many latrines consist of just a deep pit covered by a slab and shelter. Before I came here I thought that the boreholes and rope pumps were for the surrounding small villages, but that a large town like Ifakara would have a water supply network. However, during our investigations we’ve found that collecting water is a big part of everyday life here even in town, and many people have turned it into a business. Many of the 500 or so houses connected to the Council supply onsell their water to nearby residents who come and buy their water by the bucket. The Council tanks often run dry as the capacity of the pumps and tanks is well below today’s demand. When this happens residents living near the river collect drinking water straight from the river. I have not found anyone yet who boils their water before drinking it. Other residents with no water supply use community handpumps, many of which are in shallow boreholes and at risk of contamination by the many latrines. More are now using MSABI pumps as these are constructed, which are deeper and on average have better quality water.

Below: Photo shows privately owned water point where a resident connected to the council supply on-sells water to surrounding residents by the bucket.

Bottled water is also available for purchase but is relatively expensive compared to buying by the bucket (around Tsh500 for a 1L bottle, or US30 cents). Some shop owners collect untreated water from community pumps and refill water bottles and sell this water chilled for Tsh100. We found even a local Mosque, which received a tank and electric pump as a donation from an overseas Islamic Association has turned waterinto a small business, selling untreated water for Tsh10 per glass.

For the Safe Water Kiosk we plan to sell water by the bucket, or in refillable bottles and drums. Bottles are expensive to purchase and would push up the purchase price of the water. Bottles, caps and labels alone would cost around Tsh160 (approximately US10 cents) per 1L bottle. This is a lot of money when many households currently pay a maximum Tsh30 – Tsh50 (US2.5 cents) for a 20L bucket, and may earn around US$2 per day. Local residents we spoke to near the river, one of the areas worse affected during cholera outbreaks, said they would be unable to pay more than Tsh100 – Tsh200 for a bucket of treated drinking water.

MSABI has identified Madukani Primary School as a good location to trial the business. Whilst MSABI has constructed a 22m borehole and ropepump in the school grounds, the water may still be a risk to health. Testing has found low levels of E. Coli, nitrate and phosphate in the water. This could be due to the very deep pit latrines located within the school grounds, and the fact that it is in a very high density location. School children drink from this pump every day. The surrounding community also collects water from this pump.

Below: Photo shows existing rope pump within school grounds

The idea is to install the Sky Hydrant at the school providing free treated drinking for students, and a Safe Water Kiosk out the front on the main street. We have met with the head teacher and the school committee and they are excited about the proposal, with clean water for the students and the opportunity to create an income stream for the school. The school is located close to the Lumemo River, where people are currently collecting drinking water and one of the Council tanks which often runs dry. Hopefully these people will become customers of the Safe Water Kiosk to purchase drinking waters for their families.

Over the next few weeks we will install a temporary tank stand and tank at Madukani Primary School to trial the business.

For more information on Sky Hydrants visit www.skyjuice.com.au.

Below: Children at Madukani Primary School learn about hygiene during a MSABI drama group performance