The Nakuru County government has turned to boreholes to supply its residents with water after the Sh38 billion Itare dam project in Kuresoi sub-county stalled.
The devolved unit is planning to sink boreholes and water pans at a cost of nearly Sh200 million, in efforts to tame perennial water shortage.
The county government is seeking alternative ways of addressing water scarcity after hopes of having the multibillion-shilling Itare dam completed by 2021 dimmed.
Deputy Governor Eric Korir said plans are underway to increase the number of water sources in the county.
“Even as we wait for the completion of Itare dam, we have embarked on the construction of boreholes across the county. Our experts are on the ground to identify fluoride-free areas that will see more boreholes established. We are looking to increase the volume per day by more than 20,000 cubic metres,” revealed Dr Korir.
Already, areas such as Gilgil, Naivasha and Nakuru town have been identified by private investors for the establishment of more fluoride-free boreholes to help meet rising water demand.
According to the county’s fiscal strategy paper of 2020, which was tabled before the Nakuru County Assembly in March, the county government plans to drill at least 21 boreholes and 10 water pans to cushion residents from frequent water rationing.
“To increase water and sanitation coverage in the period 2020/2021-2022-2023, the county government will prioritise the construction of 21 boreholes and 10 water pans across the county. The county will also desilt 14 water pans,” states the document.
The county government has in the past few months drilled boreholes in Naivasha, Kuresoi South, Kuresoi North, Nakuru Town West, Gilgil, Bahati and Njoro, among other sub-counties.
Last year, the county government allocated Sh3 million for a borehole at Silibwet in Keringet ward, Kuresoi South sub-county.
The Silibwet borehole is expected to serve thousands of residents upon completion.
The devolved unit has embarked on several other water projects in Kuresoi North and Naivasha sub-counties.
In Naivasha, the county is constructing a water reservoir and piping water at Maiella Water Project in Maiella ward.
The county is also drilling boreholes at Kiptagich and Sirikwa in Sirikwa ward, Kuresoi North sub-county.
Piping and installation
Kuresoi North residents will also benefit from the Tarakwet water project in Kamara ward, Kuresoi North sub-county, where pipes have already been laid.
In Njoro, the county government has invited tenders for the piping and installation of an elevated steel water tower at Kaptich water project.
Other areas where the county is drilling boreholes include Kabatini in Bahati sub-county and Barut in Nakuru Town West.
According to Dr Korir, the county government seeks to drill and rehabilitate boreholes, increase pipe reticulation and desilt dams to increase water supply coverage for Nakuru, which currently stands at 66 per cent.
“Water is life. The county government, in partnership with Nakuru Water and Sanitation Services Company (Nawassco), intends to sink more boreholes especially in remote areas and informal settlements,” said Dr Korir.
The county intends to roll out similar projects in all the 11 sub-counties.
However, residents are now staring at the risk of dental and skeletal problems due to high concentration of fluoride in the county's boreholes.
The fluoride levels are sometimes way above the 1.5 milligrammes per litre allowed by the World Health Organization.
Experts have warned that continued use of groundwater puts residents at a high risk of suffering from dental fluorosis and crippling skeletal deformities.
"Prolonged exposure to high levels of fluoride causes dental and skeletal fluorosis. The mineral makes the bone more brittle and less strong, so it is more prone to deformities. It can accumulate in the joints and cause arthritis,” warned Dr Peter Maina, an orthopaedic surgeon.
Dental fluorosis is a teeth defect that causes white or brown spots on the tooth surface or enamel, which in most cases are so mild that only a dentist can detect.
This permanent staining develops in the first eight years of life from consuming too much fluoride.
The teeth can then continue discolouring from lacy white spots to yellow and then to dark brown.
Although Nakuru County Water, Environment and Natural Resources executive Festus Ng’eno and director Johnson Kamau could not be immediately reached for a comment, a senior county official revealed there are plans to increase the number of alternative fluoride-free water sources in the county.
Investigations by the Nation established that the most affected areas are Njoro, Nakuru town, Naivasha, Gilgil and Bahati, where dentists report higher levels of dental fluorosis, especially in children.
"Stained teeth has been a very common problem in most households in various parts of Nakuru. I started experiencing the problem when I was 10 years old. It always lowers my self-esteem and makes me feel shy to talk while facing people," said Ms Mary Nduta, a resident of Gilgil.
Already, residents of Bahati, Gilgil, Nakuru town and Naivasha have been experiencing back and joints problems.
The situation is worse in Naivasha, where boreholes are the main source of water.
The Sh38 billion Itare dam in Kuresoi, whose construction began in June 2016, was touted as the largest project of its kind to be undertaken in the South Rift region after the Sh5.5 billion Chemususu dam in Baringo County.
It was one of the flagship projects of the Jubilee administration and part of Vision 2030, the Kenyan government’s long-term national development policy.
However, the construction of the mega dam, projected to serve a population of one million people in Kuresoi, Molo, Njoro, Rongai, Nakuru Town, Kericho and Baringo Counties, has stalled.
This is after the Italian company, Cooperativa Muratori e Cementisti, which was constructing the dam, filed for bankruptcy in a court in Ravenna, Italy.
The dam is also subject to corruption investigations by the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI).