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Why the government took over six bulk water facilities in Nairobi

A lack of sufficient budget and maintenance challenges is what informed the National Government’s decision to take over management of six bulk water systems and waste water treatment facilities in Nairobi.

Athi Water Works Development Agency (AWWDA) chief executive officer Engineer Michael Thuita said Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company has been operating the water facilities but over time, the urban utility firm has been overwhelmed leading to the decision to take over the management of the facilities.

LANDSLIDES

Last week, Water and Sanitation Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki, through a gazette notice, designated the six water facilities as national public waterworks transferring the development, maintenance and management of the facilities back to the national government through AWWDA.

Mr Thuita cited the recent landslides in Aberdare Ranges which resulted in interruption of services for weeks in the capital coming at a time when the country, particularly Nairobi County is grappling with Covid-19 pandemic, as the last straw that broke the camel’s back.

Currently, water supply in the capital is 35 per cent less than the overall demand, which has led to water rationing since April, 2017.

“After the recent landslides that disrupted water supply in Nairobi, it was felt that it was prudent that the national government takes over and a budget line is put in maintaining the infrastructure,” said Mr Thuita.

The facilities taken over include Ruiru II Dam and Karimenu II Dam water supply systems, Thika Dam, Mwagu and Kimakia intakes, Ng’ethu Water Treatment Plant, Ruiru Dam and Sasumua Dam and all their water supply systems.

Others are Dandora Estate Sewerage Treatment Plant and Kariobangi Wastewater Treatment Plant, Nairobi Dam, the Northern Water Collector Tunnel System comprising Northern Collector Tunnel Phase I, Kigoro Water Treatment Plant and supply systems.

MAINTENANCE

However, Mr Thuita said that before the enactment of Water Act 2002, all the infrastructure belonged to the national government which was carrying out the maintenance and had a budget line for each.

Thereafter, the operation of the water facilities was transferred to a water service provider, in this case Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company.

Nonetheless, he pointed out that inadequate budget from the county government has been hampering the management of the facilities with the utility firm being overwhelmed as financing by the county governments, which have other priorities, has not been commensurate to the strategic nature of the service which requires heavy financial investment.

“We are not taking over the services but the management. This means that the services still remain with Nairobi City Water but we are taking over the management of the infrastructure because over time it has been overwhelmed by maintaining them,” he said.

However, the new development came in the backdrop of Nairobi Metropolitan Service (NMS) Director General Mohammed Badi sending packing the entire Nairobi Water Board of directors last month and appointing a new one.

WATER SUPPLY

This was hot in the heels of the Board confirming long-serving acting Managing Director Nahashon Muguna as substantive Nairobi Water MD.

The Board had also announced that the government had committed to spend Sh18 billion to upgrade water and sewer systems in the capital in a project that was to be taken by the firm in liaison with the office of the President through the NMS and the office of the African Union High Representative for Infrastructure Development.

However, the new Board has not been operationalized as there is a case in court opposing its gazettement.

AWWDA is a state Corporation under the Ministry of Water and Sanitation and is mandated to plan, develop and expand infrastructure for bulk water supply in Nairobi and Kiambu Counties and Gatanga constituency in Murang’a County.

The agency owns water systems and waste water treatment facilities in the above areas but have appointed Nairobi City Water to provide the attendant services.

Under the Water Act 2016, AWWDA is mandated to undertake the development, maintenance and management of national public waterworks.