Water ATMs have been known to Indians for quite some time. In fact, they have been in use in the country for a decade. Let’s take a look at how and why these Water ATMs were conceptualised and designed, as well as the multiple ways they serve individuals and communities.


A bottle of drinking water at just Rs. 2 is the essence of Water ATMs – making safe and clean drinking water affordable and accessible to everyone.


A water ATM is a self-operated kiosk that dispenses water in return for cash payment or a prepaid smart card. These 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 phenomenon 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 as plants and industrial sites. 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 and safe drinking water to people, water ATMs are widely used in different public places today and their benefits can be felt at both community and individual levels.


Meeting Community Needs

Water ATMs have proven 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. According to World Bank estimated, 21% of communicable diseases in India are linked to unsafe water and the lack of hygiene practices. Besides, nearly 500 children below the age of 5-years die each day from diarrhoea in India alone.


And this is not just the case in 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 not only enhances lifestyle in some of these water-scarce regions but can also help reduce the incidence of waterborne disease in communities that lack access to clean drinking water. In multiple location of rural India, these water stations have 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 too without taxing them financially. Delhi is a good case in point.


How Water ATMs helped Delhi

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 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 at Delhi Jal Board sprang into action by installing traditional drinking water facilities in popular public places. However, there were no significant changes. Much needed respite came in the form of ‘Water ATMs’. 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. Water ATMs have been 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.


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

India’s urban setup is expected to undergo a sea of change in the future with multiple smart city projects expected to take off over the next few years. The concept of water ATMs 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 provides safe water throughout the day, while optimizing available space and maximising water dispensing.