Why ‘posh’ Nyayo estate continues to be plagued by water shortages

A photo of apartment blocks in Nyayo estate, Emabakasi Nairobi.  Owners will be expected to pay land rates beginning January 2024. 

Photo credit: File

It has been touted as offering a better deal for residents than most apartment buildings in Kilimani estate.

Manicured lawns, well-paved roads and beautiful architecture. Welcome to Nyayo estate.

For non-residents, the estate gives the perfect picture of a gated community with a serene environment that any middle-class person would aspire to live in.

But lately, residents have been plagued with one major problem.

You see, for the past three years, the issue of water shortage has become worse, with residents now resigned to spending thousands of shillings to buy water.

For three months, they have not received a drop of water from the Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company (NCWSC), said Nyayo Estate Residents Association (Nera) chairman Teddy Obieri.

“It has been a problem for the past three years but lately it has become worse. No water has come out of our taps for three months,” he said.

“Before, it used to come twice a day and sometimes most residents did not get water because the pressure is low and it cuts off before all residents have received water.”

This has put residents and NCWSC officials at loggerheads.
Last month, an altercation ensued in the estate when NCWSC officials forced their way in and disconnected water meters.

NCWSC boss Nahashon Muguna

Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company Managing Director Nahashon Muguna gestures during an interview at the company's headquarters in Industrial Area, Nairobi, on May 5, 2021.

Photo credit: Francis Nderitu | Nation Media Group

“It seems they had come ready for a fight because officials came accompanied by police officers. I understand the OCS at the Embakasi Police Station refused to give them his officers but it seems they were able to procure them from somewhere else.

Interestingly, they proceeded to disconnect meters when we have not been receiving any water,” Mr Obiero said.

“When residents protested the disconnection, they started using force. We just want Nairobi Water to explain to us why it has been difficult for them to provide water to us while other estates are getting it.”

Mr Obiero says they have been paying water bills to NCWSC when ideally they should not. This is because the water that they are billed for is that which they buy from water vendors.

“A water bowser purchased by a resident would pour the water into tanks which then has to pass through the NCWSC meters,” he said.
The estate chairman believes that it is a conspiracy by the water company to frustrate Nyayo residents.

Reconnection charges

He explained: "In an estate like Nyayo that has a total of 5,000 units, if NCWSC came and disconnected all the meters, it would make up to Sh5,000,000 in reconnection fees. Reconnection charges are Sh1,000. Maybe that is why they are reluctant to even engage us in any dialogue."

Nyayo estate comprises apartment blocks that house 30,000 people.
The estate in Embakasi was built for middle-class homeowners by the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) in the late 1990s.

As a way to mitigate the water problems, NSSF sank six boreholes to supplement water supply from the city but due to little or no maintenance, only two are still operating.

Bernard Mwenda has lived in Nyayo for the past 12 years. He moved there from South C to run away from water shortages.

Christopher Khisa

NSSF spokesman Dr Christopher Khisa

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

“In 2010, there were no water shortages, we had a constant supply of it. But when expansions started to develop, phases three to five, water supply started to be erratic. We would have three days of water and that was good enough. Then it reduced to two days, with the pressure levels also going down,” he recalled.

To cope with shortages, Mr Mwenda and other residents bought extra water storage tanks.

“When the water was available two days a week, we would store it but then the pressure decreased. Sometimes the water would come out of the taps for only half an hour, and depending on where your house is located not everyone would be lucky enough to get it,” he said.

With a family of five, Mr Mwenda spends at least Sh1,000 on water from a bowser. This water, he said, lasts at least three days.

So what is the issue that NCWSC and NSSF are unable to solve?

“We had an agreement with Nairobi Water to have an exclusive water supply to the estate connecting it from the Donholm area at NSSF’s expense,” said NSSF spokesman Dr Christopher Khisa.

Upcoming estates

“This was done, but with the upcoming estates in between those two points, the water company has had a strain on the water supply to Nyayo estate.

“As the developer, we have sunk boreholes to supplement the NCWSC supply, while NCWSC has promised to improve the water volumes to the estate.”

NCWSC Managing Director Nahashon Muguna said the problem is not unique to Nyayo estate.

Low water production and a growing population in the city are major factors that have made a constant supply of water impossible.

“When Nyayo estate was developed, it was getting its water from the Donholm area and at the time the area between Donholm and Nyayo estate had a sparse settlement. Right now the population in that area has grown and the volume of water produced still remains the same,” Mr Muguna said.

Nairobi gets 525,600 cubic metres of water per day, which cannot satisfy the entire city, and that is why there is water rationing.

“Nyayo is estimated to require around 12,000 cubic metres of water per day to satisfy that population, but we cannot meet that demand.

They have been insisting we give them at least 6,000 cubic metres but sometimes it becomes very difficult to meet this demand because everyone in Nairobi is looking for that water,” he explained.

“What Nyayo residents fail to understand is that we produce water every day but if there is a slight disruption of the system, for example, due to road construction, then that water that was supposed to go to Nyayo will definitely be channelled somewhere else.

“So the issue that we are not giving them water or are sabotaging giving them water is a fallacy. The truth is the demand for water is higher than the supply.”

The last time water sourcing for Nairobi was done was in 1997 and it was supposed to serve the city up to 2000. The water projects now underway were supposed to be undertaken in 2001 but Mr Muguna said they have not been completed.

But he is optimistic that the projects will be completed by the end of the year.

“Once these projects are completed, … then we will be able to inject 140,000 cubic metres into the system. Why would I refuse anyone water? Where would I take it all, will I drink it all myself? The answer is no,” he said.

“The government (is intervening) and very soon we will be able to put these issues behind us.”