It is a chilly morning at Mukwa village in Bumula, Bungoma County as women are queuing with containers near a borehole.
The borehole has existed for 10 years and serves over 2,000 people, spread across six villages.
“You must be here as early as 2am to get water. Nearly all the natural water springs here have dried up, and others are unreliable," Anne Nafula, a mother of three says.
Some locals say it takes nearly one hour to fill a 20-litre Jerrican with water at the borehole.
On this particular day, Nafula says she arrived at the borehole at 4am, with her husband and children, “but the queue was already long.”
Nafula adds that two years ago, it would take two to three minutes to fill a 20-litre Jerrican at the same borehole, but due to drought occasioned by the effects of climate change, one has to spend over one hour to get the scarce water.
“Some years ago, it was dangerous to send a child to fetch water at this spring and downstream because the water level was high, but currently, it appears springs are drying up and small rivers receding at threatening speed. In fact, some of the rivers have since dried up and turned into playfields for the children,” said Nafula.
The situation has been occasioned by the prolonged dry spell in the region, but there is light at the end of the tunnel following the launch of a multi-billion-shilling water project in the Western region by the government and development partners.
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So far, Sh5 billion has been injected into mega water projects in the counties of Bungoma, Kakamega, Busia, Vihiga and Trans Nzoia with a view to giving residents access to clean water.
According to Lake Victoria North Water Works Development Agency (LVNWWA) officer in charge of Corporate and Communications Tom Musungu, the government of Kenya, in partnership with the Korean government, has pumped an additional Sh500million for the completion of the Mt Elgon-Mayanja-Kibabii Complex Water Project in Bungoma County.
The agency is responsible for implementing the water projects in Kakamega, Busia, Vihiga, Bungoma, Nandi and Trans Nzoia counties, according to Musungu, who is the only authorized person to speak to the media at the organisation.
Mr Musungu says that Mt Elgon-Mayanja-Kibabii Complex Water Project will serve over 100,000 residents from Mt Elgon, Sirisia, and Kanduyi constituencies.
He said the project is 50 per cent ready, and the remaining works are to be completed within six months.
The project started three years ago and is being funded through a grant by the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) at Sh600 million.
He said Lake Victoria North Water Works Development Agency would embark on the construction of 25 water collection kiosks across the three constituencies and connect the homes of over 100,000 locals with clean water.
The project, which is 50 per cent complete, has seen an 86.3 km water supply pipeline installed, all structure works at the intake, construction of a water treatment plant of 6000m3, and the erection of another 800m3 reservoir tank at Kimukungi primary school completed.
Musungu said the government also plans to connect residents from the rural areas in Trans Nzoia County by connecting them through clean, safe and piped water at their doorsteps.
Kibabii University in Bungoma is among major institutions projected to benefit from the mega water project.
The Sh2.1 billion Kiptogot-Kolongolo Water project in Trans Nzoia County will serve the residents of Entebes and Kwanza constituencies.
“The project is towards completion, and once commissioned, it will benefit at least 300,000 residents of Trans Nzoia. It is being funded by the African Development Bank (ADB) in partnership with the Kenyan government,” said Musungu.
He added: “This is in line with Vision 2030, where the government aims to achieve universal access to safe water and sanitation for all by the year 2030 in order to meet Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6).”
In Vihiga County, the government, in partnership with the government of Belgium, is putting up a multi-billion water project dubbed the ‘Vihiga Cluster Water Project’ at a cost of Sh1.7 billion.
According to Musungu, when the water project is complete, it will serve over 120,000 residents in Maseno, Mbale and Kaimosi water supplies.
At the same time, the United States Agency for International Development has pumped a total of Sh2.8 billion in water projects to 14 counties that form the Lake Region Economic Bloc (LREB) to address sanitation, solid waste management, and menstrual hygiene challenges.
The counties are Bungoma, Busia, Homa Bay, Kakamega, Kisii, and Kisumu. Others are Migori, Nyamira, Siaya,Trans Nzoia, Kericho,Bomet, Nandi and Vihiga.
USAid disbursed the funds to some counties through the Western Kenya Sanitation Project (WKSP). The WKSP is a five-year initiative targeting 500,000 people in the selected counties.
WKSP deputy chief of party Roselyne Okwiri, speaking during a workshop in Busia town on Friday, said: “We intend to enhance equitable access to sanitation, especially women and youths.”
She said the programme is in line with the government’s goal of achieving the Open Defecation Free status by 2030.
“The national government has set frameworks for county governments to invest in sanitation and menstrual hygiene management to curb water-borne diseases,” Ms Okwiri added.
Against the backdrop, the government through the Ministry of Water, has increased water coverage from 53.3 per cent in 2013 to 65.5 per cent in 2022, while sewerage coverage in urban areas increased by 3.9 per cent to 26 per cent in 2021, according to the 2021 Annual Status Report on Water, Sanitation and Irrigation.
Impact Report by the Water Services Regulatory Board (Wasreb) as of June 2022 puts water coverage in regulated areas at 60 per cent, an improvement of 3.3 per cent between 2019 - 2021).
Sewered sanitation marginally increased by one percentage point from 15 per cent to 16 per cent. The trend in overall sanitation has been positive, and maintaining the trajectory will drive the sector toward attaining universal coverage by 2030.