Dispensing water from ATMs or water dispensing ATMs?

This piece is not about water dispensing from ATMs instead of cash, but about how the Delhi Government has developed ‘water dispensing ATMs’


According to media reports, there are only about 2 lakh ATMs in the entire country, working under National Payments Corporation of India. And out of this small number, many are non- functional and when a card is inserted, air gets dispensed instead of cash.


People have started writing complaints with their fingers on the dusted faces of ATMs, even in cities like Mumbai. In all probability, CCTVs in ATMs would record their pictures and banks may soon start initiating action against the account-holders for misuse of ATMs. Is it correct to blame the customers for getting irritated when they are driven from ATM to ATM for cash? Every other day, we get to hear disturbing news about extra charges levied by banks for using ‘other-bank-ATMs’, over and above the permissible limit of 3 to 5 times. It is a widely known fact that there are no charges for use of debit cards in other countries. Since this is a debatable issue, I have smuggled this paragraph in this article, to draw the attention of ‘opinion makers’ on common man’s concerns. This piece, however, beginning from here, deals with the subject of Water ATMs, which I thought would generate interest only if this paragraph was included.

The concept of Water ATMs is a widely researched subject and some projects have already taken off, though in a limited sense. The idea was first broached to the Delhi government in 2012 by some entrepreneurs. As the adage goes, ‘Necessity is the mother of invention’ and it was acute shortage of potable water in the vicinity of certain residential areas that made the government support the project which would supply water through unmanned kiosks, now known as Water ATMs.  

A report in The Indian Express sometime during 2012 read as under:

“The problem of water shortage in city slums could find an answer in 'pay-and-use' water ATMs scheme, which the Delhi government is studying at present.

According to the proposal, the water will be filtered at a centrally located plant through reverse osmosis, and supplied to a network of decentralised, "off-grid" and solar-powered ATMs that will be located in areas with low water supply.

"Potable water will be sold on prepaid smart cards, which can be used at the ATMs. It (water provided) will be on-demand, in customer chosen quantities and at a price lower than alternatives, including household filtration. Access to clean water on demand will improve public health, livelihoods and school attendance," the proposal states.

According to recent reports, a PPP (private-public sector partnership) effort in Delhi has started supplying water through ‘Sarvajal’ ATMs in remote Savdha Khevra, where families evacuated from Delhi slums on the eve of 2010 Olympic Games stay. This initiative of the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board, Delhi Water Board and Piramal is praiseworthy. Priced at 15 paise per litre (for colony residents- about 1200 litre of water per day is being ‘dispensed’), water here is much cheaper than the Rs15 per litre water we get from private suppliers.

I leave the cost-benefit analysis and ‘subsidy’ issues for readers to debate upon.


(MG Warrier is former General Manager, RBI, Mumbai and author of the 2014 book "Banking, Reforms & Corruption: Development Issues in 21st Century India")

Narendra Doshi
10 years ago
The success of pay & Use concept for "Sulabh" Sauchalayas can take up this activity OR any other agency. The Indian mindset is moving more & more towards'pay & use' as I recently discovered at several tourist places in the South like Munnar, Thekkady, Kodaikanal, Ooty etc, where the Sauchalay payments in the range of Rs2/- to Rs 5/- for males and upto 300% more for females and tourists paying it with smile.
10 years ago
The population of India needs to be reduced first. This will lead to reduction in water usage and wastage. The people in the slum areas have no job other than producing kids which use water haphazardly... Modi Government frame a proper Population Control policy first.
10 years ago
This project has been successfully running in many areas of bengaluru without any hitches. They are selling 20 ltr can of pure drinking water at only Rs.2/can & they are using discharged waste water from the unit to watering gardens, public toilets & other utilities. Hope others will emulate this.
MG Warrier
Replied to Bharath comment 10 years ago
Such initiatives should get, or rather deserve, more media coverage. This thought was behind this short write-up.
M G Warrier
Ashutosh S Vakharkar
10 years ago
Though this idea is worth exploring, you would have the same concerns troubling the Money ATMs i.e. of security. Also you would you have to ensure that the ATM surroundings are clean and hygienic, else the whole purpose of supplying clean drinking water would be defeated.
Emraan Hundekar
Replied to Ashutosh S Vakharkar comment 10 years ago
Emraan Hundekar
Replied to Ashutosh S Vakharkar comment 10 years ago
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