Where is the “smart” in smart water meters?

Batsirai Chikadaya Avatar

Harare City Council began rolling out pre-paid water meters early this year.

A public outcry against the move did not stop the City Council from going ahead with their project.

The rollout “pilot project” installed water meters in Bluffhill, Sunningdale, Kambuzuma, Greendale, Avenues, and Avondale.

Unfortunately, I live in one of the areas listed above, so I had my water meter installed and these are my observations as to why I think the new water management system is not in the interest of residents.

I can only speak about the water meter I have installed, I have noticed 3-4 different types of water meter units, so experiences may differ.

Firstly the water meter uses a “wireless remote control”, the outside unit and the home unit connect wirelessly to synchronize data.

This does not work as well as it may sound.

The home remote unit needs to sync with the outside meter unit to give you a reading of your consumption and units left.

To get the two units to sync you have to be at least 10-15 meters close and pointing at the meter.

Also, you have to have the outside unit on to achieve the sync, so, either way, you have to go all the way outside to the meter to check your readings.

Also, the system does not notify the consumer with alerts of low water units like the electricity meter we have become accustomed to.

If you are not vigilant you can run out of water at odd hours.

In the early stages of the roll-out, a lot of residents were going without water for 2-3 days thinking it was a council issue when in fact their “free” water provision had finished.

Council gives you 3 cubic meters of water  for free when they install the meter.

When the water finishes, a new challenge arises, payment.

At the moment you can only buy water at City Council offices, so if you do run out, you have between 8:00 am and 16:30 to buy water.

Surely a convenient and modern payment system should have been put in place before implementation.

There are too many platforms: mobile money (EcoCash, TeleCash, GetCash), mobile banking, online banking, and agents are all available .

Lastly, there has been no effort to educate residents.

Very few people know how to operate the equipment or what the terms mean in reality.

A lot of people thought the 3 cubic meters provided on installation was a lot of water.

Continuing with daily routines, watering yards and gardens many residents were surprised to find their allocation spent.

I feel as though the Council is making it too difficult for residents to adopt water meters.

They have to at least address payment issues.

A secure mobile payment system or ability to simply buy water at your local supermarket could make a huge difference.

As it stands, City Council seems to have no real intentions of increasing its revenue or are going about it poorly.





  1. TSA-The_Serial_Analyst

    Can I prophesy??
    I am seeing residents turning to “by-passing” the water meter and this will be happening en-masse! If frustrations keep piling up, coupled with challenges to pre-pay for the water, what will stop the residents from just digging a few meters into the ground and connect a by-pass piping?

    1. Gatsheni

      well depending on what smart technology the HCC is using, there is a very low chance of that happening unnoticed, the device should at any instant be able to report a temper message

    2. Gatsheni

      well depending on what smart technology the HCC is using, there is a very low chance of that happening unnoticed, the device should at any instant be able to report a tamper message

  2. Gatsheni

    In the age of information and technology, there is a need for entities like municipals to have a team of technology experts /strategists who (Research and Development department ) will spend time carrying out research on technologies councils can use to achieve operational efficiency and i believe very little or no research was done here. I have done extensive research from smart meters to total automation of Waste/water treatment plants (for BCC). Am currently designing a low cost smart water meter with a broader outlook to what the city should be in the future

    1. civilian

      will your water meter involve tokens s well

  3. Muzukuru

    This is Zanu PF peddling another misguided solution bcoz they don’t want to admit they are the problem. For decades we had flowing water now we have none. With electricity nothing has changed.

    Big wigs don’t pay for their services. They even take money from parastatals to buy themselves cars.

  4. JFK

    Thanks for highlighting the cons, but I’m still convinced that these new meters are the way to go.

    1. Absalom

      Prepaid Water meters are an excellent idea. Reading through many articles I have notice the are some flaws as can be expected in any implementation stage. I noticed that you are for this idea.

      I am from Namibia and I feel we to need this system. Please contact me you maybe of great assistance. Absalom my whatsapp details +264812031467

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