The government is still in the dark on how soon it can guarantee Nairobians enough water for domestic use.
It requires that ongoing new-source water projects be completed, enough funding be found even when it has admitted it is broke, a cohesive plan be adopted to fight water cartels, and wastage be minimised.
As matters stand now, the most immediate reprieve articulated in the plans to provide Nairobi with water comes in 2035.
A July 2020 report by the Athi Water Works Development Agency shows that the capital city has a water deficit of about 304,000 cubic metres a day.
“To address this crisis, the ongoing construction of the Northern Collector Tunnel in Murang’a County once complete by close of 2022 will boost supply by 140,000 cubic metres per day,” the reports says.
It adds that the Karimenu dam in Kiambu County now under construction is expected to inject a further 23,000 cubic metres to the Nairobi supply.
“Additional suggestions to increase water supply capacity to Nairobi are the building of Maragua and Ruiru 2 Dams,” it says.
But while the Maragua dam that is budgeted to pump 180,000 cubic metres of water to the city per day is still in its formative phase, its tentative completion date being the end of 2026, Ruiru 2 is expected to be ready by the close of 2023.
Nairobi water crisis
“Once it is possible to deliver those additional water sources, plus the Ndarugu dam anticipated to provide a further 225,000 cubic metres per day and planned to be in place by 2035, it will be safely said that the city and its satellite towns have won the battle against water shortage,” the report says.
The urgency with which the Nairobi water crisis is being handled came to the fore in the past one week when two delegations visited the Sh8 billion Northern Water Collector Tunnel being built in Murang’a County.
One delegation was led by Water and Sanitation CS Sicily Kariuki, and another a week later was led by Nairobi Metro Services (NMS) Director-General Mohamed Badi.
The CS said the 11.8km-long and 3.2-metre-diameter tunnel that seeks to pool water from the Maragua, Gikigie and Irati rivers was first mooted in 1998, with a tentative completion date of 2010, but it still drags on.
The two leaders concurred that the tunnel is 91 per cent complete and is part of a broader strategy for new water sources for Nairobi and 13 satellite towns by the year 2030.
The targeted satellite towns in the plan are Kikuyu, Ruiru-Juja, Kiambu, Karuri, Githunguri, Mavoko Municipality, Ngong Township, Ongata Rongai, Thika, Gatundu, Limuru, Lari and Tala-Kangundo.
But a hurdle looms from Murang’a politicians, who are threatening to go to court to stop Nairobi from pumping water from the county unless under an agreement that allows Murang’a residents to benefit.
Provision of clean water
“We have been saying that the first beneficiaries of our water deposits should be we as Murang’a people. There is no way we will sit back as area leaders to be witnesses of our water being pumped to Nairobi when the people living near those dams have no drinking water,” said Murang’a Senator Irungu Kang’ata.
The promise, he said, was that before Murang’a is used to quench the thirst of Nairobi, locals must be the first beneficiaries.
Ms Kariuki added that the mandate of the government is to ensure that the water rationing infamy in Nairobi and other areas of the country is dealt with resolutely, saying Murang’a is earmarked for rapid water connections for domestic and irrigation uses.
She said the government has a national target to ensure availability and access to improved water for everyone by 2030, lamenting that previous targets have been missed, with a promise to reach 80 percent national coverage by 2015 remaining behind schedule.
The national estimate for household provision of clean water was 57 per cent by the end of 2018.
Mr Mbadi said once the tunnel is completed and increases flow to Nairobi, it will be imperative that water cartels that thrive in the city be crashed so that the commodity can reach all residents without unnecessary interruptions.
He said water infrastructure vandals and those who establish illegal diversions will be dealt with.
A January 2018 investigation by City Hall showed that the biggest threat to effective supply of the little available water to Nairobians remained the cartels that interfered with flow pipes to fill their tankers and sell it to city dwellers.
For maximize their profits, the cartels would block supply pipes to create artificial shortages.
Data from the ministry indicates that nearly half of the capital’s 4.5 million residents do not have direct access to piped clean water and have to rely on kiosks, vendors and illegal connections.
The general shortage of the commodity per day is 125,000 cubic metres.
As the supply crisis worsens, Nairobians have been subjected to harsh rationings under the equitable distribution programme that does not work, with many residents going for months without any drop from their taps.
Mr Badi said the rationing strain in the city will only be resolved by developing new water sources in the face of the current supply that was ideal for the demand that applied more than a decade ago.
The city is suffering from a more than 25 percent water shortage, says the Nairobi County Water and Sanitation Company.
The World Health Organisation issued an alert that most of the capital’s water is unsafe.
Nairobi generates about 60 per cent of Kenya’s gross domestic product. Mr Badi said the city should get its act together in supplying safe water to its residents and that the drive is on course.