The Ndaka-ini dam-Nairobi City pipeline is designed to transport 140,000 cubic metres of water to Nairobi. [Boniface Gikandi, Standard]

Safaricom is targeting large water utilities with smart meter solutions to help curb losses for water providers even as it seeks to grow its revenue through the new stream.

The telco last week invited companies involved in the supply and manufacturing of smart meters to tender for their provision as it thirsts for revenue from deals with water utilities. Under the deal, Safaricom said it will deploy the smart meters and its existing technology to large water utilities to enable them track water use, leakages and curb revenue theft.

"Safaricom intends to engage services of reputable supplier(s) for the provision of smart water meters," the firm said in documents dated September 27 seen by The Standard.

"We are therefore soliciting for expressions of interest from qualified vendors...the last date for receipt of proposals is October 3, 2022."

Safaricom reckons its solution can help public water utilities address the challenges of non-revenue water (NRW) - water that has been pumped but is lost before it reaches the customer. Losses can be real through leaks, also referred to as physical losses, or apparent losses; for example, through theft or metering inaccuracies.

High levels of NRW are detrimental to the financial viability of water utilities, experts say.

The smart meters are the latest effort by Safaricom to diversify its incomes from voice, short message services, cash transfers and payments. Safaricom, part-owned by South Africa's Vodacom and Britain's Vodafone, is under pressure to create new revenue streams as its voice business matures.

It said its latest project will include the supply, integration and testing of smart water meters for the water sector in Kenya.

"Safaricom shall engage selected partners to supply various categories of smart water meters to be used in developing solutions for the water sector in Kenya," it said.

"The meters should be capable of integrating with the smart water meter platform that Safaricom already has in place that includes network connectivity, Internet of Things software among other components."

Kenya's water supply companies lost water worth Sh11.6 billion in 2020 to leakages and theft, leading to unstable supply to millions of consumers and higher prices as they sought to compensate for the losses.

The Water Services Regulatory Board (Wasreb) said earlier 47 per cent of the water put into the distribution system in the year ended June 2020 was not billed, up from 43 per cent in the preceding year.

This was a result of increased leakages due to ageing networks, metering inaccuracies, theft and unmetered consumption.

A separate report by Auditor General Nancy Gathungu for the financial year ended June 2020 showed that the Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company produced 176.04 million cubic metres of water, out of which only 86.35 million cubic metres were billed to customers.

In financial terms, the urban utility firm lost a staggering Sh4.75 billion in revenue from unbilled water on the back of water theft, faulty metres and illegal connections, the report showed.

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