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Kakamega County losing Sh180m annually to water theft, faulty meters

The Tindinyo water treatment plant where Kakamega county source its water for consumption by locals. [Benard Lusigi, Standard]

Kakamega County Water and Sanitation Company (Kacwasco) loses over Sh180 million annually due to water theft and illegal connections.

Kacwasco Technical Manager Mr Celcus Shilewa said the loss translates to 41 per cent of water every year. He said the water firm has been grappling with the challenges, which have led to shortage of clean drinking water.

“Residents have been raising concerns about water supply challenges, they don’t know what we are doing to guarantee the constant supply of clean drinking water. We have embarked on  inspection of meters to get rid of illegal connections and to ensure proper maintenance and flow of water,” said Mr Shilewa.

According to Mr Shilewa, residents should give the company ample time to fix the challenges once and for all. Kacwasco Chief Executive Ms Christabel Ashiono said Jua Kali and Kefinco estates are notorious for water theft cases.

The two estates are occupied by many university students who are suspected to be tampering with meters. She said a recent inspection disclosed that 90 per cent of illegal water connections are in that area.

“Residents tamper with meters so that they can use water free of charge,” Ms Ashiono said.

She said a major maintenance of the water mainlines will be undertaken to deal with illegal connections and improve water supply.

“We are aware there is an outcry about water shortage, this is as a result of maintenance works from our mainline in Yala to Tindinyo which is our water source, once completed it will deal with the illegal connections and guarantee residents continuous water supply,” said Ms Ashiono.

“We have established an inspection unit that conducts impromptu inspections which have unearthed massive theft of water,” she said.

The official said they have resorted to installing modern water meter gauges similar to those being used in Japan and Egypt to deal with the theft.

“The modern meters make it easy to monitor water supply and detect any faulty line and will be managed from our offices.”

“This water meter is of high technology, if one tries to steal water after disconnection we are able to detect, the same cannot be said about the old meters that could easily be tampered with.”

She said the new meters can capture the pressure of water and indicate whether the line has been tampered with.

She said the meter will capture the water intake of every user and the wastage. “Residents will be able to pay bills at the comfort of their homes through a digital account in order to curb defaulters.”

Last week, residents and owners of businesses within Kakamega town lamented over water shortage and planned rationing.

Owners of hotels and food eateries said their businesses have been hurt as a result of erratic water supply patterns.

“It is becoming difficult to run a restaurant due to water shortage yet we pay for the commodity, this problem is killing business, we appeal for quick intervention,” said Julius Mukoto, a hotel manager.

Vegetables and fruit vendors said the situation was becoming unbearable to sustain business “as our products are going bad due to inadequate supply of clean water.”

“We are more than 500 traders selling perishable goods at this market and we require water in plenty to keep our products moist,” said Dora Atiti, a trader from Kakamega market.

Enoka Sabana, a resident said they have been receiving higher water bills citing from the water firm.

“We are receiving abnormal bills, this must be looked into because the charges are not commensurate to the water we consume every month.”

But Kacwasco boss said the normal flat rate has been Sh320 per 0 to 6 units of water consumed.

“If someone consumes more, the amount goes up.

“If you use more water and units go beyond six units, it means you have surpassed the normal flat rate of Sh320 and that is where the issue of higher charges of up to Sh500 comes, nonetheless, the new tariff system will ensure clients are charged based on the units used, in case you did not use the water, you will not be billed,” said Ms shiono.

The firm’s chairman Laban Ayiro said the ongoing maintenance is geared towards averting any shortcomings ahead of the completion of the Lirhanda water tank project in Shinyalu Sub-county at a cost of Sh87 million.

Prof Ayiro urged the county government to support the water company start the piping process.