Sh16 billion Mombasa desalination plants project fail to take off 

Water overflows from a damaged pipe at Kibarani area in Mombasa. The government plans to construct a second Sh35 billion pipeline from Mzima Springs in Taita Taveta County.  

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Four years after Mombasa County Assembly approved plans to desalinate seawater, to help address an acute water shortage facing the county, the project remains stuck at preparation stage.

The Sh16 billion desalination plants, one to be based in north mainland at Shimo La Tewa and the other in the south, in  Likoni constituency have failed to kick off due to lack of letter of comfort.

According to Mombasa Water Supply and Sanitation Company (Mowasco) managing director Anthony Njaramba, the two plants are to supplement the current water sources and were touted to be a solution to the perennial water shortage facing Mombasa County.

"The projects are currently at preparation stage and they are delaying because of lack of letter of comfort," he said.

Letter of comfort is an official communication from a party to a contract to the other party that indicates an initial willingness to enter into a contractual obligation absent the elements of a legally enforceable contract.

Mr Njaramba said once the documentation is complete, the two projects should begin and will cover the 130,000 cubic meters shortage the county experiences daily.

The MD said once the documentation is complete, the construction of Shimo La Tewa plant is expected start and will take between 12 to 24 months to be complete.

"Mombasa gets an average of 30,000 cubic meters against a demand of 200,000 and desalination plants, Mwache dam project and the Mzima Spring II will ensure water shortage problem is solved," said Mr Njaramba.

The national government is in the process to expedite the implementation of the Sh42 billion Mzima Springs II pipeline and Mwache Dam projects.

In August 2018, Mombasa County Assembly passed a motion proposing the construction of two desalination plants and later governor Hassan Joho's administration awarded Almar Water Solutions of Spain and Switzerland's Aqua Swiss tender to construct the two plants.

Aqua Swiss was awarded a contract to build a smaller desalination plant in Likoni that can purify 30,000 cubic metres per day while Almar Water Solutions will put up the desalination plant in the north of the mainland at Shimo la Tewa.

President Uhuru Kenyatta approved acquisition of more than 10 acres at the Shimo La Tewa Secondary School for the desalination plant.

The move gave impetus to governor Joho's plan to purify Indian Ocean water for use by the residents and to address the perennial water shortages in Mombasa, and the huge demand in neighbouring Kilifi County.

The county has been experiencing acute shortages due to reduction of supply from Baricho Dam in Kilifi, Mzima Springs in Taita-Taveta and Marere Springs in Kwale.

Mombasa lacks a fresh water source and the supply from Mzima Springs has been declining leading to residents, industries, and businesses to contend with dry taps for months.

Acute water shortage in Mombasa has also been attributed to direct theft of no-revenue water and illegal connections.