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February 17, 2019

Why Millions of Kenyans have no hope for piped water in 2016

Women fetch filthy water while carrying their kids on the back in river as water shortage hits the Coastal region. Photo Elkana Jacob
Women fetch filthy water while carrying their kids on the back in river as water shortage hits the Coastal region. Photo Elkana Jacob

AS 2016 rolled in, groups of women in Vihiga were on their way to the river with 20-litre Jerricans hoisted on their backs.

Nowadays, there are more people, but there is much less water available. This situation backs a new report which shows villagers in Vihiga have one of Kenya’s lowest access rate to piped water. But they are in good company.

In fact, 51 per cent of all rural Kenyans started the new year on a dry note. They lack access to clean piped water. And there’s little to hope for this year. Water coverage has been increasing at an unacceptable snail-pace of less than five percentage points each year.

The 2013/2014 review of Kenya’s water services sector by the Water Services Regulatory Board (Wasreb), also shows that only 53 per cent of town dwellers have clean piped water.

The report, released last month, implies that Kenya missed the Millennium Development Goal seven to halve, by 2015, the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and sanitation.

The country is also likely to miss the Sustainable Development Goal six of providing water and sanitation for all by 2030.

“The situation of sewage is no better. At the current access level of 16 per cent and with only 30 out of 215 urban centres in the country having modern sewage systems, the country risks experiencing undesirable effects such as poor health and diseases due to poor hygiene,” says Water minister Eugene Wamalwa.

The performance review report identified funding as the biggest hindrance to this goal.

It shows that investments in urban water and sanitation amounted to Sh12 billion in 2013/14 compared to an investment need of around Sh75 billion annually (Sh33 billion for water and Sh42 billion for sanitation).

The report says for 100 per cent water coverage to be realised by 2030, about Sh176 billion will be required.

The MDGs targeted 80 per cent water coverage in urban areas and 75 per cent in rural by 2015, and 40 per cent sanitation in urban areas and 10 per cent rural.

But currently, sewerage coverage stands at only 16 per cent in urban areas and zero per cent rural.

The 2012/2013 version of the report showed an annual one per cent of increase in urban water coverage from 53 to 54 per cent.

“Though investments through water service boards and water trust fund increased almost four fold from period 2007/2008 to 2013/2014, covering not more than 12 per cent of needs, funding for infrastructure is insufficient,” the report says. This means Kenyans must now brace to pay more tax for sanitation. Wasreb says it will levy five per cent on water bills to gather money for sewerage, which has stagnated at an average of 16 per cent the last four years.

The board’s chairman, Antony Kiroken, says this was agreed after a study on how to bridge the funding deficit was undertaken.

“If implemented, the levy would raise Sh750 million annually, which can go towards bridging the funding deficit,” he says.

Kiroken says the national government should continue to develop national standards for progressive increase in water coverage.

The report says the quality of drinking water fell from 92 per cent to 91 per cent while hours of supply rose by one per cent from 17 per cent to 18 per cent from 2014 to 2015.

It says water and and sewerage companies in Nyeri, Thika, Meru are the top performing utilities while Rumuruti, Mombasa and Olkejuado are worst performers. Wasreb relied on data collected annually from water service providers and water service boards through the Water Regulation Information System.

A total of 91 water service providers and eight water services boards covering 20.5 million people were analysed.

At the county level, the report says significant disparities were found with the highest water coverage being Laikipia with 86 per cent while and Vihiga was the last with 15 per cent.

Performance on hours of supply was better with 34 counties scoring 79 per cent with an average of 12 hours of supply.

Lamu and Mombasa were the only counties that fell below acceptable threshold.

Wamalwa said Water Bill 2014 will bring clarity and certainty in the water sector.

During the Paris talks on climate change last month, access to water featured prominently.

UN says nearly 1,000 children die daily across the world due to preventable water and sanitation-related diarrhoeal diseases.

Between 1990 and 2015, UN says, the proportion of the global population using an improved drinking water source increased from 76 per cent to 91 per cent but 2.4 billion people lack access to basic sanitation services, such as toilets or latrines.

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