Nyalenda, Kenya. In this informal neighborhood of Kisumu, on the shores of Lake Victoria, Maureen Otieno is doing the washing up in the courtyard of her house. Yet this situation should not be taken for granted: in 2002, over half the 400,000 residents of the country’s third largest city did not have access to a drinking water distribution network. At the time, they got their supply directly from the lake, the well, or from private suppliers. The result: frequent cholera epidemics and a price for a 20-liter jerrican of water of up to Ksh 20 (Kenyan shillings), against Ksh 1 to 2 today.
At the time, while needs for running water were estimated at 40,000 m3 a day, the existing structures – precarious pumping and treatment plants, built in the 1920s and 1960s – supplied less than half the amount.
In terms of distribution, in a neighborhood like Nyalenda it had a “spaghetti” scheme, meaning it was disorganized, where the law of the strongest prevailed for both costs and connections. The quality of water was not subject to any control. Wastewater was directly discharged into the lake, as most of the treatment pumps had not been working for a long time.
It was in 2002 that the Government of Kenya authorized the creation of water and sanitation management and regulation companies. With EUR 39m of AFD financing, the Lake Victoria South Water Services Board partnered with the Kisumu Water and Sewerage Company (KIWASCO) to implement a management plan for water and sanitation services in Kisumu, ranging from the water intake to its discharge into the natural environment, and including distribution.
In 2018, a new project, the Lake Victoria Water and Sanitation Project, will complement and improve the first investments in the water and sanitation network in Kisumu. This project is cofinanced by AFD, the European Investment Bank, the European Union and the Government of Kenya.
The development of the city of Kisumu really started with the arrival of the train in 1901. It was in the 1980s that water production stopped meeting demand. Today, we are covering the needs of the population until 2030.
Increasing and diversifying resources
Two water intakes, one directly in Lake Victoria and the other in the hills, at the River Kibos, have already been rehabilitated. They will cover the estimated needs of the population, which are growing sharply, until 2030. These two plants comprise pumping, but also water treatment prior to storage in reservoirs.
They are complementary: as Lake Victoria experiences periods of pollution caused by human activity and invasion by the water hyacinth, its treatment sometimes becomes complicated. The river is then the only available source of water for the city. In the event of drought, it is the lake which is the main source. Generally speaking, the river’s pumping system, which operates using natural gravity, is used rather than the lake’s system. The result: a continuous water supply, 24 hours a day, against 6 hours a day previously, and a water with quality in line with WHO standards.
Making water accessible to all
These low-income areas use a delegated management model that is unique in Africa: chief operators selected in local communities buy water from the specialized company (KIWASCO) and distribute it to residents. The chief operator is responsible for everyone’s payment for their water consumption and handles the connection of new users.
The water is sold at Ksh 25 for 1,000 liters to operators, who sell it at Ksh 43 to consumers, against Ksh 53 in the rest of the city. Thanks to the profits made, Vincent pays the wages of two employees, who help him in his trade. Today, 74% of the residents of Kisumu benefit from a network connection. The new project aims at increasing this rate.
Reducing pollution in the lake
The presence of an urban area on the shores of the lake means that there is a higher risk of pollution. Wastewater treatment, which is often forgotten in development projects, is a component of the project supported by AFD. The rehabilitation of a wastewater treatment plant in Kisat has already been financed. The discharges are first treated using a system of bacteria, which feed on most of the toxic agents present in water, and are then filtered in the various basins.
A system of stabilization basins has also been rehabilitated in the Nyalenda area. For the moment, 16% of the city’s wastewater is treated. With the new ongoing project, the treatment capacity will reach 40 to 50% by 2020.