When Kenya hosted the Blue Economy Conference in its capital, Nairobi, residents of Githunguri sub-county in Kiambu county took pride in a water trust that now delivers the precious commodity at their doorsteps.
Githunguri is less than 40 kilometres west of the capital Nairobi
There is no gainsaying water is life, which is why more than 1,500 delegates to assembled in Nairobi from November 25-29 to discuss how Blue Economy can be harnessed for the benefit of mankind.
However, sources of water are under serious assault from man, who increasingly encroaching on water towers for agricultural land and other uses like settlements and infrastructure.
The ever-looming danger to the availability and hygiene of this precious commodity has over the past three decades attracted public-private participation to halt its depletion and pollution.
Karweti Water Trust provides clean and affordable water that has kept local people going for over 50 years. The water trust is run by an 11-member board.
The boardt prioritises provision of clean and safe water to in the sprawling and populous sub-county. The chairman of the board Peter Kamitha says hard work had borne fruit since the board sealed corruptions loopholes.
“The commitment of the board helped to eliminate corruption. The water bills given to consumers reflect the quantities they consume. It is rare for the water trust to bill consumers based on estimates. The board is able to share the task of reading the water meters and complete the exercise within the shortest period,” he says.
The board opted to do the job themselves.
The chairman explains further, “We are able to locate and report on any illegal connections, which are disconnected and culprits brought to book. We no longer have unscrupulous businesspeople who interfere with our water.”
The trust distributes water to over 1,500 families, besides students and teachers of St Joseph High School in Githunguri, Maiiri and Kidiga primary schools and Githunguri Technical High School.
Karweti Water Project began as a self-help venture, consisting initially of 50 men and women from Githunguri in 1968. From inception to 1975, the project financed with funds raised through harambees. The money was used to expand the services which involved buying new equipment and servicing aging ones.
In 2005 the project received the backing of the World Bank in the form of a loan through the lender’s Output-Based Aid programme. The trust paid back 40 per cent of the loan after making 50 more new connections.
The conditions of the World Bank loan were that the trust would expand the project by 50 new connections annually. That was in addition to providing meters so that the consumers would be able to pay for the water services.
The lender instructed the trust to connect 700 more homes as a way of providing feedback on the sustainability of the project. After reaching the threshold, the name of the project changed from Karweti Water Project and restructured the management to a trust.
Early this year, county government of Kiambu collapsed water companies into an umbrella body to ease oversight. The move met with resistance for lack of public participation.
“It is just impossible. We cannot surrender the project to the county government. Consumers fear it will be taken over cartels and eventually inefficiency will creep in,” he laments.
He spoke of plans to expand the project
He says, “The pipes piled in our premises are meant to expand the project and we are in the process of getting more water from River Ruiru by next year,” concluded the chairman.
Kiambu Director of Water Resource Management Authority James Nyangweso confirmed that Karweti Water Trust is a registered self-help that provides water to locals. Mr Nyangweso clarified that the group is permitted to supply water.
He says Karweti is permitted to abstract 277.04 cubic metres of water per day. The permit lapses in 2021.
Mercy Njenga, like many other Githunguri residents, consumer supports the trust. Ms Njenga is opposed to attempts by the county government to usurp the management of the water services.
“If people can manage their own affairs, why should the county government imagine that they can take over the management of self-help groups?” she questions.
- A Tell report