Kakamega employs solar to pump piped water to locals

Kakamega County has unveiled Sh26 million water points in its target to connect at least 8,000 people annually in villages to piped water using solar energy to pump.

The move comes even as access to quality water remains a challenge in the rural county where only 10.1 per cent can access piped water even as the access to safe water has surpassed the 70 per cent mark.

The main sources of water such as River Nzoia, Sasala, Isikhu, Yala, Kipkaren and Lusumu and streams especially near major forests are drying up due to climate change.

Governor Fernandes Barasa said the county surpassed the 68 per cent national average for access to clean water with the last mile water connectivity programme dubbed “amatsi khumuliango” (water at the doorsteps) aimed to increase the number of people connected to piped water.

“The Sh 26 Million water projects we launched will provide (water) access to over 3,000 residents, addressing a demand of the precious commodity from approximately 20,000 residents of Malava Constituency. We have now broken the 74 per cent threshold of access to water and sanitation services,” he said in Malava on Thursday as he launched the Malava Urban Water Project in Shirugu-Mugai Ward and Chombeli Water Project in South Kabras Ward.

“This achievement exceeds the national average of 68 per cent as per the 2022 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (KDHS).”

Mariam Were, the chief officer in the water department, said the county had major water projects like Musembe Dam in Lugari and Lumino Dam in Likuyani, and the Kuvasali gravity scheme in Malava.

The others are Nandamanywa water project in Shinyalu; Lwakhupa in Navakholo; Yala Butwehe in Ikolomani; and Misango Hills community project in Khwisero.

“We have especially solarised most of the projects to help pump water to the people. We had challenges among the girls and women who walked long distances to fetch untreated water in rivers and streams,” she said.

“Today a significant number get steady supply at their doorsteps or source it at schools and churches where we set up community water points powered by solar. The risks exposed to our girls and women on their way to fetch water are cut down just as the time wasted in the journey.”

Sources from UNDP say solar pumps save countless hours that used to be spent fetching water for daily household needs.

Those tasked with water collection, usually women or children, have brought about improvements in health and hygiene, education, and increased revenues from other livelihoods.

The rural county’s integrated development plan indicates that the last mile connectivity programme “amatsi khumuliango'' moved the access to water to 80 per cent this year down from 71.3 per cent in 2018.

This comes even as the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) says around one in four people lack access to basic safe drinking water, especially in rural areas, putting them at risk of contracting a number of waterborne diseases, such as cholera, worm diseases, typhoid and dysentery.

Ebi Shiyuka, 60 from Chombeli village said she used to walk at least one kilometre to access untreated water from village streams.

“When I had some money, I used to buy a 20-litre jerry can at Sh 10 from people who sunk private bore holes in their homes. That is however a story of the past with the last mile connectivity, I was connected to tap water in my backyard some six months ago,” she said.

Her neighbour Pylis Musebe, 61, said the piped water hardly dries up as it is connected to solar power.

She likes it that the water is treated and safe for consumption even for her grandchildren who school at Chombeli Primary school.

The duo was also dependent on rainwater, hand-pumps and in few cases expensive diesel water pumping for their water supply to meet their basic needs.

These sources of water however were adversely affected by drought, particularly when there was no rain for up to several weeks.

According to the UN Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN), when solar water pumps replace either diesel generated electricity or grid based electricity, there are certain climate related benefits.

“A diesel generator emits CO2 during operation and grid based electricity is usually generated with either coal, oil or natural gas which also emits considerable quantities of CO2,” says the CTCN in its publication produced last year.

“In contrast, a solar based water pump system does not result in greenhouse gas emissions. Extensive use of solar water pumps would therefore lead to substantial greenhouse gas emission reductions.”

By AFP 7 mins ago
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