Busia moves to tackle water problems 

By Checky Abuje

The county government of Busia through the department of water, environment and natural resources has put in measures to access clean, safe water for the residents during this time of Covid-19 when water is one of the essentials in taming the spread of the virus.

Through the provision of a hybrid water pumping system with the capacity of pumping 80,000 litres per hour together with a newly acquired water rig machine, the department is now well prepared to address the quagmire of clean water scarcity and sanitation that has remained a thorn in the flesh for women and girl-child who have to walk miles for the commodity.

Statistics from the UNICEF reveal that 9.4 million Kenyans drink directly from contaminated surface water sources, placing the third-largest number of people in sub-Saharan Africa who do so.

According to UNICEF indicators, only 14 per cent of Kenya’s population have hand-washing facilities with soap and water at home. However, Kenya, under Sustainable Development Goal 6, has committed itself to achieve by 2030 universal and equitable access to safe and affordable water for all; access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and an end to open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations. Busia has just started the journey.

The water problem percolates deep in the rural population in the county level where the headache to access clean water and sanitation has not kept pace with population growth.

Busia county in Western Kenya is one of those devolved units that is keeping pace with water needs of its citizens after unveiling a Kshs.40m water Rig machine that will sink boreholes for clean water for the residents.

With the population pressure against clean water provisions, especially in the rural Kenya, where mothers and girl-children are at greater risk, the county government of Busia’s move to purchase the equipment will ease the high demand of water against the unmatching water supply especially at this critical time of covid19 where water is a basic requirement as per the Ministry of Health guidelines.

Busia County has a population of 893,681 and is estimated that by 2050 the population will hit more than 1.5million people. Experts say that without an elaborate water provision master plan, then the water crisis will worsen by 2050.

Dr. Isaac Alukwe, the Minister for Water, Environment and Natural resources in the County government of Busia says the new establishment by his department will address the water challenge in Busia to a greater length. “We still have a gap as a government to reach our people with clean water, but with this intervention, we are on the track towards vision 2030,” added Dr Alukwe.

Speaking during the launch of the Rig, the Busia county governor Sospeter Ojaamong conceded that clean water provision is a challenge not only in Busia but across the country and that calls for a joint effort between the leadership at the national and county levels to ensure that people are out of danger of water-related complications.

With a population of close to 1 million, majority of residents in Busia County rely on unimproved water sources such as ponds, shallow wells and rivers for their daily water provision as lack of access to basic sanitation solutions still linger large amongst the dwellers. These challenges are especially evident in rural areas and town slums where people are often unable to connect to piped water infrastructure.

The establishment of a hybrid system of water pumping from its main station at a cost Kshs 20 million, is an indicator of good tidings as far as clean, piped water provision is concerned. The department has adopted a relatively cheaper solar pumping system as opposed to electricity power pumping.

In an exclusive interview with Africa Science News, Dr Alukwe disclosed that the later system will save the taxpayer of more than Kshs. 800,000 where the department has been spending over a whooping Ksh 1 million on electricity to pump water monthly. Dr Alukwe however, urged water users to be prompt in paying their water bills for efficient service delivery.

In rural Kenya, the average total coping costs for unreliable or distant water supply is approximately $38 per month. In comparison, the average water bill of a typical household in an urban setting that is connected to a piped system is only $4.46 per month.

However, there are many areas where piped water connections do not produce a reliable, constant flow of water. Thus, solutions like borehole wells and rainwater harvesting tanks are also needed in some areas of Busia and Western Kenya in general.

In the new hybrid system, about 75,000 households will be able to be connected with clean piped water, this is according to department Chief officer Ms Roslyn Barasa.  The facility will pump 80,000 litres per hour, translating to 57,600,000 litres per month in Matayos sub-county and Busia town respectively.

Barasa reiterated that her department has a long-term plan of ensuring that the challenge of clean water and sanitation in the county is addressed to at least 80% by 2030. She, however, disclosed that financial constraints could hamper the determination and commitment of the department to achieve the objective as the initiative require a huge budget.

– joabuje@gmail.com