April 22, 2010 - Starting in July 2010, water consumenrs in Nairobi will pay for water in advance, thanks to the rollout of prepaid billing meters by suppliers, aiming to reduce operation costs, cut down on debts and improve their cash flows.

Installation of the new meters will enable water consumers to use cards to buy credit for an amount of choice.

The cards will then be inserted into the meters from where the credit will be gradually used till expiry.

Like the prepaid mobile phone system, the prepaid electricity meters will switch off water supply immediately a consumer has exhausted his credit and automatically reconnect on reloading.

The Water Services Regulatory Board (WSRB) says that should help the water suppliers curb payment default, theft and cut their operation costs, leaving them with the financial muscle to upgrade the ageing transmission network and widen their footprint.

“The prepaid billing is aimed at improving the financial position of the water companies by increasing their revenue collection capabilities,” Mr Robert Gakubia, the WSRB chief executive officer,, told the

“It will increase the urgency of paying water bills and put it on the same level as paying rent or electricity, ” he said, adding that the country’s 120 water companies formed in 2002 as part of the water reforms are faced with unpaid bills running into billions of shillings.

A large number of water and sewerage systems in Kenya do not even collect enough revenue to cover their operation and maintenance costs.

Performance of the water companies is a national eyesore and according to the water ministry, only 22 out of 120 companies meet their expenditure.

This together with illegal connections and rampant corruption at the water firms has contributed to perennial shortages across most towns as the firms have been unable to upgrade their ageing supply networks to keep pace with soaring demand.
 
By going into prepaid billing system, the water companies are taking a cue from the Kenya Power and Lighting Company (KPLC), which rolled out the prepaid billing system in February 2009, and has currently roped in 25, 000 customers.