Summary: The concept of Water ATMs has been known to Indians for quite some time. To be precise, they have been in use in the country for a decade. This article discusses the objectives these water vending machines were designed to fulfil and also, takes a look at the multiple ways they actually served individuals and communities.

A bottle of drinking water at just Rs 2! This is the essence of Water ATMs – making safe and clean drinking water affordable for the people without access to safe water supply and also for individuals on the go.

A water ATM is a self-operated kiosk that dispenses water in return for cash payment or sometimes a prepaid card. These water dispensing kiosks have been around for a long time. We have seen railway platforms dotted with such vending units for a long time. However, cash-operated vending machines are a comparatively new phenomena in the Indian scenario, and they are fast gaining momentum. Mumbai’s suburban railway network, for instance, has over 170 water vending machines. Besides government agencies and municipalities, corporate bodies have been installing water ATMs at multiple strategic locations. Such large scale installations are a testimony to this solution’s efficacy in benefitting people and communities at large.

Conceived with an objective to provide clean drinking water to people, water ATMs are widely used in different public places today and their benefits can be felt at both social and individual levels.

Meeting Community Needs: These clean water dispensing machines prove to be particularly beneficial for the less developed pockets in our country, where more than 163 million people do not have access to clean water. (source:https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/water/19-of-world-s-people-without-access-to-clean-water-live-in-india-60011). According to estimates of The World Bank, 21 percent of communicable diseases in India are linked to unsafe water and the lack of hygiene practices. Besides, nearly 500 children below the age of five years die each day from diarrhea in India alone. (https://water.org/our-impact/india/). And this is not just the picture of rural India . Factors such as unplanned urbanization and lack of storage infrastructure are affecting drinking water supply in cities across the country. Almost all metro cities are at risk of facing severe drinking water shortage. According to the National Family Health Survey data, 31% of urban households lacked access to piped water or public tap water in 2015-16.

The installation of water ATMs can not only enhance lifestyle in some of these drinking water-scarce regions, but can also reduce the waterborne disease in communities that lack access to clean drinking water. In multiple location of rural India, these water stations brought clean and safe drinking water to hundreds and thousands of families that suffered immensely due to the lack of access to safe drinking water and that was without taxing them financially. Delhi is a good case in point.

Back in 2015, the installation of 280 water ATMs by the Delhi government across various parts of the city helped thousands of people living out there.

The tall towers, plush neighbourhoods and Royal-looking thoroughfares tell only half the story about the capital city. Every summer, there are chagrins related to the lack of access to pure water. Apart from the deteriorating air quality index, the paucity of affordable and unadulterated drinking water options in the public places was a canker on the image of the city that was rapidly embracing modernization to strengthen its position as a sustainable business centre. The authorities sprung into action by installing traditional drinking water facilities in popular public places. However, there were no significant changes. Happy respite came in the form of ‘Water ATMs’ (water vending machines). Equipped with state-of-the-art technology and based on the principle of simple set-up, this eco-friendly and cost-effective solution soon became Delhi’s biggest weapon against pure water crisis. More than 1000 Water ATMs were installed across multiple locations in Delhi. Water ATMs were installed in bus depots and other public properties. The Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) and the Government of NCT, Delhi initiated many mass water vending machine installation systems throughout the city.

Please check this: Is it 280 or 1000 water ATMs

Awareness building: When people have to pay – no matter how little – for their drinking water, they come to realize the value of this resource. They start considering it as a valuable commodity that has to be used prudently. Growing public awareness helps prevent water wastage.

Clean and affordable drinking water in public places immensely benefit individuals who have to stay outdoors through the better part of the day

Be it daily commuters using local transport or long-distance travellers, using the railways, be it tourists thronging the vacation destinations or pilgrims visiting the country’s holy places – people suffer immensely due to lack of easy access to safe, affordable drinking water while they are spending a long time outdoors. Governments, as well as the corporate bodies, are taking initiatives in large scale to combat this challenge and water ATMs have come to their aid in providing tourists, commuters and others with easy access to affordable drinking water. Installed in multiple sites ranging from railway platforms to bus terminus, market places to temples, these water dispensers help people quench their thirst in a pocket-friendly manner. This facility can go a long way to enhance the image of a city or any place/organization that installs a water ATM.

Summarizingthe main benefits of a water vending machine for public places:

  • • It is an economical option for both urban and rural areas.
  • • It provides 24/7 fresh water.
  • • It reduces dependency on packaged water options which is expensive.
  • • People learn to use water prudently.
  • • It is an eco-friendly option.

Water Vending Machines: A Crucial Element of the Smart City Blueprint

India’s urban scene is expected to undergo a sea change in the future with multiple smart city projects expected to take off over the upcoming years. The concept of water ATM can play a critical role in water supply management for these young cities. However, urban players need to choose the right solutions for installation. AquaNest from Tata Steel’s Nest-In is a promising new solution in this space. AquaNest is a smart drinking water vending solution aimed at meeting clean drinking water needs at public places. This aesthetic solution maximizes water dispensing by optimizing the available space.

The above discussion leaves little room for doubt that Water Vending Machines Are Here to Stay

At a time when the water crisis is increasing in different places, the Government must ensure adequate access to clean drinkable water. The Government sector has been very active in delivering basic services such as drinking water. The private sector now needs to step up and support Government initiatives. From businesses’ point of view, installing water vending machines in schools, bus depots, and factories can be an excellent CSR activity.