A quiet visit by Nairobi County Governor Johnson Sakaja to the Ndakaini Dam in Murang'a County has reignited the water war between the two counties.
Sakaja took to his social media accounts on Wednesday to post photos of an excursion to various water sources that serve Nairobi residents, with the caption: "Spent the day inspecting our water sources and treatment plants at Ndakaini Dam in Muranga, Ngethu Water Treatment Plant in Kiambu and Sasumua Dam in Nyandarua together with our water company management".
This does not seem to have gone down well with Murang'a Governor Irungu Kang'ata, who has long accused Nairobi County of shortchanging Murang'a.
Kang'ata, who was apparently unaware of the tour of the facility in his county, described the visit as a "serious trespass" while commenting on pictures shared by the Nairobi governor on his official Twitter page.
He went on to express his displeasure by sharing screenshots of the tweet on his WhatsApp status.
The Ndakaini Dam, the country's largest reservoir located in Gatanga constituency, supplies about 84 per cent of the water consumed in Nairobi County.
Built in 1994, the dam has a storage capacity of 70,000,000 cubic metres of water and is 65 metres deep, producing 430,000 cubic metres of water for Nairobi residents. The dam draws water from the Thika, Githika and Kayuyu rivers.
The national government is completing the construction of an 11.8 kilometre tunnel that will increase water supply by channeling 140,000 cubic metres of water per day into the Ndakaini Dam.
Under construction since 2015, the Sh8.2 billion tunnel will draw water from the Gikigie, Maragua and Irati rivers and is expected to end perennial water shortages in Nairobi.
Tensions between the two counties have long been high, with some Murang'a leaders demanding that a share of the dam's water be reserved for locals.
Tensions between the two districts had long been high, with some Murang'a leaders demanding that a share of the dam's water be reserved for local people.In January this year, Sakaja announced that the tunnel would open in August, saying that some issues that had delayed its completion had been resolved.
Meanwhile, Governor Kang'ata announced plans to push through legislation in the county assembly to pay for Murang'a water diverted to Nairobi.
"In consultation with the assembly, there will be a policy that will guide the compensation of our resources that are channeled to Nairobi and its environs," Kang'ata said.
Murang'a Senator Joe Nyutu has also been vocal in demanding that the Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company (NCWSCO) pay for the supply it takes from Murang'a's rivers.
"A county like Narok gets revenue from tourism in the same way Murang'a should benefit from its water," the senator lamented.In March this year, Nyutu said Murang'a should not continue to give its water to NCWSCO for free while the company charges Nairobi residents for the commodity.
The senator said that while Murang'a supplies a large percentage of the water distributed in the capital, locals face water shortages and walk long distances in search of the commodity."NCWSCO should either consider supplying the commodity to Murang'a residents satisfactorily or pay a premium based on litres of water drawn from the county," he remarked.
Nyutu added that the water company had not undertaken any corporate social responsibility activities in Murang'a County, despite the county supplying it with water.
Former Murang'a governor Mwangi Wa Iria had earlier threatened to go to court to force the government to allow the county's residents access to water from the Ndakaini dam.
Locals also say the dam is not helping them as they have long suffered from water shortages despite the region being home to the largest dam supplying water to Nairobi and its environs.
Residents say they are not even allowed to "draw a cup of water from the dam, even if you are dying of thirst".
"If the NCWSC sees you trying to fetch water from the dam, they will arrest you, but we are the ones protecting the environment for them to get the water they don't even allow us to touch," said one resident. The Nairobi and Murang'a county governments have long been at loggerheads over the supply of water from the Ndakaini dam, with former Murang'a senator Kembi Gitura arguing for the creation of a legal entity through a joint venture between Nairobi City County and Murang'a County, whereby the two would jointly develop the water plan.
Kembi, who was Murang'a senator between 2013 and 2017, said that by creating a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV), the two counties would borrow money from the World Bank or any other such body to develop the water sources that would then supply the water to Nairobi, Murang'a County and/or other consumers.
He added that the SPV, owned jointly as above, would sell the water mainly to Nairobi and the future towns in Murang'a and/or such other entities.
If for any reason the concept is not acceptable to Nairobi City County or for that matter the Athi Water Services Board, then Murang'a County will have to go it alone and develop the plant and sell any surplus water to any willing buyer, including Nairobi," he said in 2015.