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Our taps shouldn’t run dry

By Isaac Kalua | Published Sun, January 8th 2017 at 00:00, Updated January 7th 2017 at 23:28 GMT +3

Taps don’t just run dry. They become dry because of a series of factors and choices spanning years, which we must now interrogate and stop treating the symptoms of occasional water scarcity at the expense of sustainable water management.

Kenyans started the New Year with the gloomy announcement that Nairobi will be hit by a four-month long water rationing. This rationing is largely occasioned by water shortage at Ndakaini dam whose capacity is well over 70 million cubic metres yet the dam currently holds a paltry 49 per cent of that capacity. Clearly, we haven’t seen anything yet considering our population increase.

According to the Master Plan of Developing New Water sources for Nairobi, population of the city and 13 satellite towns is projected to be 13.4 million by 2035. That may seem like a lifetime from today but it is not.

Accordingly, we basically need to expand both the capital city’s water sources and water supply infrastructure. This cannot happen if we even undermine the existing water catchments through human encroachment and unsustainable land use plans. All our water towers provide freshwater for both urban and rural centres in the country and must be protected at all costs.

Conservation of our major water towers is a matter of national survival and security. Politicians, state officers and private sector players who encourage human encroachment into any of our national water towers, should be prosecuted for undermining national security. In the same vein, any governor who has not instituted a people-driven water master plan has failed miserably and must be sent packing by voters. Going forward, climate change-induced erratic rainfall should never be an excuse for water scarcity in Nairobi or elsewhere in the country.

It boils down to good planning and execution of those plans. Although Nairobi already has a water master plan launched in 2012, the plan needs about Sh 104 billion to be fully implemented. It should be ascertained why there has been a delay in raising these funds from both public and private players; domestically and internationally. The persons responsible for this delay must be held accountable!

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Time is also ripe for ‘payment for ecosystem services’ to be fully integrated into water funding in Nairobi and across the country. If we have no problem paying for fuel every time we stop at a petrol station, why should anyone have an issue facilitating for community driven water towers conservation initiatives yet they pump water into our homes?

I therefore urge parliamentarians to debate and pass specific legislation that will require and enforce payment for ecosystem services. This will increase the funds available for implementing the water master plans in this country. That way, taps may never run dry when clouds disappear.

Water is wealth, let’s save it with an attitude. Think green, act green!