The ‘flying-toilets’ of Kenya’s perilous-plumbing past could be no more if recently installed cash-dispensing water machines take off the way government expects them to.

Rural life in Nairobi just got a heady dose of futuristic convenience this month when Kenyan authorities made the first ATM-styled water dispenser available to the public. Four of these water-dispensing machines, that operate like cash machines, have been installed in Nairobi slums – with customers able to buy affordable water using smart cards or mobile money.

Without water pipes or plumbing in the tin-hut districts, residents have previously resorted to buying water from street sellers who dragged handcarts loaded with jerry cans or oil drums into the back alleys. That water was often dirty, sometimes taken illegally from broken pipes. But the new machines, installed by the government-run Nairobi Water and Sewerage Company (NWSC), allow people to purchase clean water directly – and far more cheaply – than before.

The World Health Organisation guidelines say people need a minimum of 20 litres of water a day as a basic requirement. For less than 15c Nairobi residents can now buy 20 litres of water for 20c cheaper than they would be able to find it on the black market. “Illegal water services are going to die off because residents are assured of good water quality “, NWSC chief Philip Gichuki told News24 at the time.