Unreliable water supply causes spike in borehole drilling

Machinery drilling abstraction borehole along river Sabaki in Kilifi County. [Robert Menza, Standard]

Almost 30,000 more boreholes have been drilled in the last five years pointing to Kenya’s unreliable water supply for millions of households.

Compared to between 2018 and 2019, the number of boreholes drilled to source the precious liquid has tripled to 45,086 in 2022.

In 2018/19, a total of 15,418 boreholes were drilled by both the public and private sectors. This is an increase of 29,668 boreholes.

This is contained in the recently released Economic Survey 2023 by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS).

According to government data, there were ten times the number of boreholes drilled by the private sector in 2022 compared to the public ones.

In 2022, the private sector drilled 40,763 boreholes compared to 4,323 done by the public.

The number of boreholes drilled by the private sector has been significantly increasing in the last five years with 13,461 between 2018 and 2019 followed by 16,759 between 2019 and 2020, 17,954 between 2020 to 2021, and 35,304 between 2021 and 2022.

For the public, the figure was 1,957 in 2018-2019 which grew to 2,249, in 2019-2020, 2,455 in 2020-2021, 3,859 in 2021to2022 and 4,323 in 2022 to 2023.

“There was a notable increase in the number of boreholes drilled in 2021/22 as an alternative source of water following unreliable water supply,” the report states.

“This number is expected to further increase by 15.1 per cent to 45,086 in 2022/23 with the private sector accounting for 90.4 per cent of the total boreholes drilled.”

But as the number of boreholes increases, particularly those drilled by the private sector, the amount has been spent by the government - which holds the sole responsibility of providing safe water to the public - reducing.

“Overall development expenditure on water supply and related services is projected to decrease from Sh46.5 billion in 2021/22 to Sh45.3 billion in 2022/23. Development funding for rural water supply is expected to decrease by 9.1 per cent to Sh2 billion
in 2022/23,” reads the report in part.

The decline is also reflected in the development expenditure for National Water Harvesting and Storage Authority(NWHSA) which is expected to decline by 6.9 per cent to Sh1.25 million in 2022/23.

“Development expenditure for the National Irrigation Authority (NIA) is also expected
to decline from Sh10 billion in 2021/22 to Sh8 billion in 2022/23,” the report adds.

Development expenditure as well for Rural Water Supplies will also drop to Sh2 million in 2022/23 from Sh2.16 million in 2021/22.

However, the amount spent on training of water development staff has been increasing from Sh60 million in 2018/19 shooting to Sh224 million and Sh218 million in 2020/21 and 2021/22 respectively. In 2022/23 this amount stands at Sh183 million.

The report records that the number of water purification points(WPP) is expected to increase from 343 in 2012/22 to 355 in 2022/23.

“This increase is attributed to the expected completion of Siyoi Muruny, Habasweni and Karimenu II water projects, as well as rehabilitation of water supply projects at Ijara, Marsabit and Mandera among other ongoing water projects,” the report reads.

The total volume of water abstracted, the report says, increased marginally from 32.3 billion cubic metres in 2021 to 32.4 billion cubic metres in 2022 with surface water abstractions accounting for more than 90.0 per cent of the total volume of water abstracted during the year under review.

“Groundwater abstraction increased from 220.4 million cubic metres in 2021 to 230.8 million cubic metres in 2022,” the report adds.