Valuing Water: Kajiado households connection a revolution on course

Kajiado Governor Joseph Jama Ole Lenku. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

The Governor’s word

Joining the rest of Kenyans and indeed global stakeholders to mark World Water Day (2021) is yet another opportunity for us to review our status as far as access to water to humanity is concerned.

This year’s theme “Valuing Water” is extremely relevant because it is the value we give to water that determines the investments and commitment that we put into its access.

Water has remained a critical need for Kajiado, just like in other water-deficient counties in Kenya’s pastoralist belt. The different natural resources endowments and economic opportunities in our dry-lands; and the rising populations have made our counties have different priorities when determining where and how to fix our water challenges.

In Kajiado, for instance, rapid migrations to our urban and peri-urban areas have necessitated huge investments in water for domestic and small scale household agriculture; Increasing manufacturing setups have called for more water for industrial use; While the struggling pastoralist economy has made it absolutely important to safeguard water access for our livestock use.

Kajiado’s water mapping revolves around three geographical zones where my administration has invested and continues to invest in water access.

The first is the Nolturesh Water pipeline that runs from Oloitoktok, downstream to Kajiado South and Kajiado East up to neighbouring counties. This pipeline is now serving remote villages with key arteries at Oloitokitok, Maralal, Nenjani, Shukut and Iltilal. This year, the isara-Mashuuru- Imaroro water pipeline will be up and running.

Restoration of this water for local communities by my administration has been a battle for an equitable share of our natural resources and has put an end to years of resource discrimination.

Secondly, the Kajiado North and Upper Kajiado West regions are served by Oloolaiser Water and Sewerage Company. This entity grapples with huge demand from a fast-growing urban population in Ongata Rongai, Kiserian and Ngong towns.

To effectively address the demand and manage the water resources, we have embarked on solarization of eight boreholes and Ongata Rongai waterworks for the company to cut down on pumping costs. Plans are underway to solarize the Kiserian dam in the subsequent budgets to reduce the operation costs and thus lower the price of water.

Thirdly, Kitengela town has been served by the EPZ water pipeline. After a rigorous negotiation process, the County Government has finally taken control of the EPZA supply network.  A 5-kilometer pipeline will serve Kitengela town with ten freshwater outlets being completed soon. Apart from Kitengela, the Isinya, Kajiado and Ilbissil water reticulation and availability have been improved tremendously.

Fourth, the Namanga border town-Maili Tisa zone is under the armpit of the Oldonyo Orok Water project where we have pumped Sh45 Million. This water will flow through gravity hence reduce the cost of electricity significantly.

Boreholes are key in water supply both in urban and rural areas. So far, we have developed more than 60 boreholes. Their project committees keep on being trained on good governance and sustainable practices. Together with partners, we have constructed and rehabilitated nine water pans, equipped and installed 82 high capacity storage tanks in addition to putting up 45 piping systems covering 160 kilometres and a further 60 kilometres are underway.

Having a conversation on water in today’s world is incomplete without a discussion on how to conserve the little that there is.

To ensure any available water is conserved, my administration enacted the Rain Water Harvesting Act (2020).  This law requires all building plans to have adequate provision for the installation of rainwater harvesting and storage facilities before they are approved for development.

This law further addresses the need to utilize the available fresh water and curb wastage during rain seasons as sources could soon be outstripped by the exponential rise in population.

As we mark this day, I call upon stakeholders, the National and County Governments to join efforts to get this country out of the water scarcity hole on whose base we find ourselves.

Special thanks to;

1. National Government through;

2. Athi Water Works Development Agency (AWWDA): Kenya Rural Water Supply Project, Loitokitok Water and Sewerage Project etc.

3. Tanathi Water Works Development Agency; 13 borehole projects, Mailua Water Pan etc.

4. Kenya Climate Smart Agriculture Project (KCSAP); Oloontugulum Water Project

5. Kenya Development Support Programme (KDSP); Enkeresuna Water Project, Namanga Water Project etc.

6. Water Sector Trust Fund (WSTF); Isara -Mashuuru- Imaroro Water Project

7. Ewuaso Ng’iro South Development Agency (ENSDA); Kimuka Water Supply Project

8. National Drought Management Authority (NDMA); Maparasha Water Pan

NGO’s such as;

1. Welthungerhilfe (WHH) – Ongoing Programme on “WASH Rehabilitation, Reconstruction and Resilience building of Rural communities of Kenya”

2. AMREF Kenya: ongoing Water Staters Program

3. World Vision Kenya; Osiligi Community Water Projects

4. “Watershed Umbrella” comprising of Civil Society Organizations like Neighbors Initiative Alliance (NIA), Centre for Social Planning and Administrative Development (CESPAD), Kenya Water and Sanitation Network (KEWASNET) among others.

A boy from Olosho-Oibor Primary School drinking water from a tap as a girl scout looks on. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

What is the significance of World Water Day to Kajiado County and the nation at large?

As a water-scarce county, World Water Day is important to Kajiado as it offers an opportunity to evaluate and review existing challenges and opportunities in water access to communities. The Day has had valuable lessons on sustainable management of scarce resources as well as protection of water sources that continue to be threatened by climate change occasioned by unregulated human activities.

The Day further creates an opportunity to learn best practices from governments and institutions on the provision and conservation of water. It is a Day we also get inspiring stories that revolve around the transformation of society through unhindered access to water.

 What is your take on this year’s World Water Day theme, “Valuing Water”?

As a 75 percent component of the human body, water is definitely life. All plants and animals must have water to survive. Water is also the fulcrum around which our human survival revolves, and the engine of our social-economic development.

The evolving global environmental changes have essentially threatened the availability of water to humans, animals and plants. Safeguarding this precious commodity is therefore a matter of huge global concern. The theme of Valuing Water cannot, therefore, have come at a better time.

What Corporate milestones have you covered in Kajiado County towards the water agenda?

As a key driver of the Big 4 Agenda, Kajiado has invested heavily in water for human and livestock consumption, agriculture , manufacturing and industrial use.

To back our water agenda, we have robust partnerships for the development of boreholes, water pans, small dams and protected water sources and springs. Among our valuable partners are the Ministry of Water, the National Irrigation Authority (NIA), Athi Water Works Development Agency, Ewaso Ng’iro South Development Agency (ENSDA), the Export Processing Zone Authority (EPZA), the World Bank, and several international development partners.

We have further embarked on reforming our existing water companies by strengthening their corporate governance, building their human resource capacity and embracing innovations such as solarization of water projects to cut operation costs and therefore lower the cost of water.

At the center of these reforms are Oloolaiser, Ol Kejuado, Nolturesh, and Oldonyo Orok water and sewerage companies. The Rain Water Harvesting Act (2020) has been enacted and implemented to help conserve rainwater as an alternative source of water. Kajiado has also protected key water sources such as Olchorro Springs in Oloitokitok.

Generally, address Devolution and the water agenda in the counties, how is devolution solving and handling water?

Devolution has brought water closer to common mwananchi through the County Government. Using devolved funds, the County has implemented many water projects for local communities. These projects include: drilling and equipping of over 120 boreholes, construction of earth dams, water pans and laying of over 200km of water of pipelines. This has led to increased access to clean, safe and portable water.

For example, the Enkeresuna – Ilmotiok Water Project in Matapato North involved laying of 13.7 km pipeline, construction of 100 cubic meter masonry tank, solarization of the borehole and construction of watering facilities. The project serves a population of about 3,000 people and over 12,000 livestock in Ruanche Location.

Iiderekes Water Project in Kenyawa Poka ward involved drilling of a borehole with solar panels and construction of water facilities. The project is serving over 1,500 people and 8,000 livestock heads.