13 July 2021

ATM-based water distribution in urban centers

"We ensure clean water to low-income communities in urban centers through a network of Water ATMs"
(Minhaj Chowdhury, Drinkwell)

Drinkwell – Transforming water into opportunities

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Drinkwell helps utilities increase safe water coverage, reduce pilferage, and decrease non-revenue water by providing turnkey solutions that provide metered dispensing of safe water through mobile money-enabled water ATM solutions complete with on-site operation and maintenance services that provide utilities with the assurance they need around provision of safe, affordable, and accessible water.


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The Dhaka Water Supply & Sewerage Authority (DWASA) faces serious quality and illegal withdrawal challenges as it works towards its mission of providing safe drinking water to the approximately 17 million people across Greater Dhaka. Around 700 water points across Dhaka are uncontrolled, allowing "water sharks" to occupy the tap connections and illegally sell water. DWASA estimates its water losses at 40% at such points and is currently unable to monitor the proper functioning of its water pumps. Furthermore, WaterAid Bangladesh studies found 100% of DWASA water provided to slums to be contaminated with faecal matter. Another challenge for low-income households is the high cost and uncertain availability of the illegal and unsafe water they buy.

Entrepreneurial Approach and Innovation

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Drinkwell's value proposition involves offering safe drinking water while minimising water loss and increasing revenue to water utilities. Its solution includes a) a cost-effective and safe filtration technology with an integrated water flow and quality monitoring solution, b) a turnkey water ATM booth allowing cashless collection of drinking water and c) a long-term operation and maintenance service.

Drinkwell's systems-based approach is innovative in three ways: it is (1) appropriate – low energy intensity, longevity, minimal environment waste; (2) based on scalable technology – drinking water sensing, cashless electronic card dispensing, and cloud-based reporting of water flow and quality; (3) cost-effective – Drinkwell's direct-to-customer model eliminates the 15-20% margin typically charged by dealers and middlemen and passes on the savings to customers, thereby maximising the impact per dollar spent.

The economics of the model allow Drinkwell to turn a profit and grow its operations and DWASA to generate sufficient revenue to install more units. Its business approach (with the turnkey model) makes the solution attractive to other water authorities.


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Drinkwell succeeded in establishing DWASA as a partner – and not a competitor – which greatly helped the organisation to enlarge its network of water ATMs in the city. Together they work towards the goal of providing 17 million inhabitants of the city with access to safe drinking water. By the end of 2020, 300 across the city should be deployed. At the same time, Drinkwell is expanding into other markets – namely India where it is represented with a local office in Kolkata – as well as into other cities in Bangladesh. The deployment of water ATMs in Chittagong, Bangladesh’s second largest city, has begun and 96 additional systems are to be installed in 2020 and 2021. Amid the COVID-19 crisis, water supply becomes ever more essential. Drinkwell with its 50 employees is therefore working in close collaboration with Dhaka WASA and a multinational company to set up an additional 100 handwashing facilities near the water ATMs in the city.

Success factors

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Entrepreneurial spirit Entrepreneurial spirit stands for:  Drinkwell especially stands out for creativity and innovative thinking as they have identified the "ATM-principle" as an opportunity to sell water in an efficient way. 
Access to finance   Drinkwell is particularly successful in national and international fundraising. 

Apart from the success factors mentioned above, this start-up has been recognized by the Swiss Re Foundation because of its planning and review expertise and technical operation skills. 

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