Water kiosks are booths for the sale of tap water. They are common in many countries of Sub-Saharan Africa. Water kiosks exist, among other countries, in Cameroon, Haiti, Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania and Zambia.
Water kiosks typically have four taps on the outside and faucets inside, operated by a kiosk attendant. They typically receive treated water from utilities through a piped distribution network. Where water supply in the network is intermittent, kiosks sometimes also have a water storage tank. In rural areas, water for kiosks can sometimes come directly from a well, spring, stream or lake after treatment.
Management and sustainability
Kiosks can be operated by employees of utilities, by self-employed operators under contract with utilities or water committees consisting of volunteers. Kiosk operators also sell other goods at the kiosk to increase their meager income. A water kiosk can serve between 500 and 3,000 people. Water is typically carried home from the kiosk in buckets of 20 liters. The sale price can be a flat rate per household or, more typically, a price per bucket which is advertised at the kiosk.
Making water kiosks commercially viable is more difficult where population density is low and where there are alternative often low-quality, free water sources such as shallow wells, ponds or streams. Low awareness of the health benefits of clean water can exacerbate these problems. In those conditions, kiosks are at greater risk of failing. Involving communities in deciding about the location of kiosks, their opening hours and the choice of the kiosk operators increases the likelihood of the kiosks being accepted and functioning well. If operators have a contract with the utility, regular supervision is important to ensure that the contract stipulations concerning cleanliness of the premises, prices charged and opening hours are respected.
Kenya: Regularization of informal kiosks in Kibera
In Kibera, Nairobi's largest slum, water kiosks exist since the 1970s. Kiosks are privately owned and the owners financed the construction of the kiosks and the pipes to the water mains. Water is supplied by the Nairobi utility, but is often not paid for by the kiosk owners. In 1998 there were about 650 kiosks in Kibera. Although two thirds of the kiosks have water reservoirs, often water is not available due to supply interruptions. In 2003, when a new water law was passed, the government threatened to shut down kiosks that were not properly registered. As a result, kiosk owners formed an association and engaged in a dialogue with the government to defuse the situation by paying arrears and being officially recognized.