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Foreign firms to purify Indian Ocean water for home use in Coast

By Linah Benyawa | August 11th 2015
Water and Irrigation Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa (left), Coast Water Services Board Chairman Granton Samboja and Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho at the board’s offices in Mombasa yesterday. [PHOTO: KELVIN KARANI/STANDARD]

The Coast region lies next to one of the world’s largest water reservoirs, yet it has always had one big problem – water scarcity.

To complicate matters, already several of the counties in the region are facing disconnection by the regional water authority because of defaulting on payment for supply.

But going by a revelation yesterday by Water Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa, who is on a tour of the region, and the Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho, an answer could bewithin reach.

To this effect, talks are on with expert Japanese, Israeli and American firms to set up base at the Coast and help desalinate water from the Indian Ocean so as to make it fit for consumption and domestic use.

The Mombasa County government, in partnership with the Ministry of Water and Irrigation, has roped in experts from Japan, Israel and  America to help make Indian Ocean's salty water suitable for consumption and domestic use.

The plans for extracting and desalinating the hard water were made public by Water Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa and Mombasa Governor Hassan Ali Joho yesterday. The move comes at a time when six coastal counties are grappling with water scarcity and associated bills that have since hit the Sh2 billion mark.

A while ago, Coast Water Services Board (CWSB) disconnected water to the six counties, occasioning acute shortage in a region where the sweltering heat and high temperatures make life quite unbearable without it.

Yesterday, Mr Wamalwa and Mr Joho announced they were exploring possibilities of desalination of water from the Indian Ocean with the support of investors and technology from Japan, Israel and US to end region's water problems.

Wamalwa, Joho and other stakeholders, who were attending a forum called by the CS to discuss water woes and the region's irrigation potential in Tana River and Kilifi counties, said through desalination, Coast can produce enough clean  water for its domestic and irrigation needs.

They observed that the sea had the potential to produce enough water for the whole country and export.

"Mombasa alone requires 150,000 cubic metres of water per day but we are only able to produce 50,000 cubic metres. We have realised that traditional technology cannot bridge this gap and, to fill it, we are exploring if we can desalinate the water from the sea  to turn Kenya from a water scarce country to a surplus country," Wamalwa said.

He said Mombasa County government had already commissioned a study and that a Japanese firm, Toyota Tsusho, had also made a presentation to him and President Uhuru.

"It is in the process of establishing a plant in Mombasa," he revealed.

They did not provide statistics on the cost and actual timelines but suggested the proposed technology is  cheaper than traditional water technologies.


The CS announced that traditional water sources and technology have not provided adequate water for Mombasa and other coastal counties.

He said his ministry intends to rebuild Muache Dams and Mzima Springs II in Kwale and Taita Taveta counties respectively but still believes this will not adequately address the region's water scarcity.

"An Israeli company also wants to establish a plant in Mombasa while the Americans have shown interest in doing the same in Lamu and we are very excited about it," The CS said, adding "The Coastline is where the future is."

Joho said his administration had already entered negotiations with Toyota Tsusho to conduct studies and invest in desalination and this technology was cost-effective and efficient.

Wamalwa announced Kenya seeks to learn from Israel's experience when the Middle East nation invested in desalination technology and can now produce  600 million cubic metres of water a day from the Sea of Galilee for its domestic needs, and export to the occupied Palestinian authorities and Jordan.

"The country has a long coastline from Kiunga to Vanga. It is about time we started using such resources and turn the country from a water-scarce to a water-surplus country and this can only be achieved through desalination," said Wamalwa.

He added that besides investing in desalination, the national and county governments at the Coast will co-operate to unleash the region's massive irrigation potential.

Wamalwa said the Israeli investors had injected Sh2.8 billion towards the Galana Irrigation Scheme project in Tana Delta for training.

It has also proposed to set up an institution in the area to train young people to enhance their capacity on irrigation.

"There is need for waste water management to improve the supply. We can also recycle water for industrial use," he explained.

He also noted that several dams have been constructed to ensure there was enough water.


And on the stand-off between CWSB and Mombasa County, Wamalwa said the national and county governments will establish a consultative forum that would open channels of communications between them.

Joho also accused CWSB of double-standards and said there has not been co-operation between the two offices which has led to duplication of projects and information. Today Wamalwa will tour projects such as Galana and Mzima Springs in Taita Taveta County.

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