City taps still dry even as rains pound the country

Residents of Nairobi’s Kahawa West are the worst hit by water shortages despite abundant rains. Some have not had water from their taps since May last year and most rely on tankers contracted by the Water ministry to supply the area. Photo/FILE

What you need to know:

  • Limits on supplies will only end after new dams and purification plants are constructed

Water rationing will continue in Nairobi until new dams and purification plants are built.

This comes as Nairobi residents realise that water rationing is still in force even as heavy rains pound most parts of the country.

However, two new dams are being planned, the Athi Water Services Board chief executive officer says. Mr Lawrence Mwangi said he is holding talks with Treasury, to have the construction of Maragwa and Ruiru (Gatamaiyu) dams, started in a year.

The projects require Sh20 billion, he said, and that residents had offered land for the dams.

“We are, however, conscious that we should compensate them.”

Ruiru dam will produce about 50 million litres of water for the city.

Residents of Nairobi’s Kahawa West have been the worst hit. Some have not had water since May last year.

Nairobi Water Company corporate affairs manager Mbaruku Vyakweli said the construction of Thika Road interfered with the supply system.

But residents queried why some of their neighbours’ supplies were resumed soon after the dry spell ended and speculated that the engineers could be working in cahoots with water sellers, claims Mr Vyakweli dismissed.

He said the water company re-routed some pipes because of the road construction project.

At the same time, the road contractor had discovered some pipes that were not in the Nairobi Water Company system.

“We have to address all these issues,” said Mr Vyakweli.

Athi Water Services Board, according to Mr Mwangi, is carrying out a study to find long-term solutions to Nairobi’s water supply problems.

“The population explosion in Nairobi was not anticipated. We are, therefore, looking at ways of providing a steady supply of water to residents along the Thika Road corridor and those in satellite towns like Kikuyu, Kiambu, Athi River and Tala without affecting supply to the city,” he said.

The Kenya Meteorological Department predicts that rainfall is expected to increase over the coastal strip and the eastern part of the country as well as the Central Highlands, including Nairobi.

The department says more rivers are expected to burst their banks, and flooding cannot be ruled out even in areas downstream of major rivers such as the Tana, Athi and Sabaki.

Asked to explain if this would improve city supplies, Mr Vyakweli said the dams serving Nairobi produce 480 million litres a day while demand was 650 million litres a day.

“The deficit is what causes the rationing,” said Mr Vyakweli.

He, however, confirmed that Ndakaini dam is 100 per cent full while Sasumua, which is under repair, has seven billion litres, up from nearly 2.5 billion litres.

Fills up

Once repairs are complete, Sasumua is expected to hold 16.6 billion litres, said Mr Vyakweli. The dam is being rehabilitated at a cost of Sh1.6 billion.

Ndakaini dam supplies 80 per cent of Nairobi’s water while Sasumua supplies 15 per cent. Smaller sources like Ruiru dam and the Kikuyu springs supply a combined five per cent of total consumption.

“Even if Sasumua fills up, we will produce 525 million litres and there would still be a deficit,” said Mr Vyakweli.

But he reckons the best solution is the long-term one offered by Athi Water Services Board to build more water sources.

The board’s chief executive says the possibility of creating alternative water sources for the communities that depend on lines supplying Nairobi is being explored.

These include residents of Gatundu, for example, who depend on water from Ndakaini and those in Githunguri who depend on water from Sasumua.

If this succeeds, nearly 30 million litres of water will be released to the city’s supply.

Nairobi Water Company managing director Francis Mugo has been quoted saying that Kenya is more than 10 years behind schedule in the development of its water infrastructure.


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