Picture two women each carrying twenty-liter containers of water on their heads. One in Nairobi and another one in Kitui County. For both, accessing water is a struggle. The one in Kitui has to walk for almost five kilometers to access water from a seasonal river while the one in Nairobi has to queue for as long as an hour to access water. Separately, residents of Wasini Island in the South Coast, have to cross the ocean in small boats to fetch clean water. It is devastating, isn’t it?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a water source has to be within 1,000 meters of the home and collection time should not exceed 30 minutes. This is not the case for millions of Kenyans who either have to travel long distances in search of water or wait for long periods of time to access it from water vendors. WHO further says that the average person needs between 50 to 100 litres of water per day. This is definitely not the case for many Kenyans and no wonder we are mostly moody, and our immune system is affected.
A lot has been said about the Government’s responsibility in reducing this water stress. Indeed, the County and National Governments cannot abdicate their responsibility to ensure that all Kenyans realize the right to water.
Water dams can solve the water scarcity problem at a macro level and benefit millions of households. Unfortunately, the country is replete with stalled or dragging water dams. They include Itare Dam in Kuresoi North, which will benefit 2 million Nakuru residents once complete; Umaa Dam in Kitui; Thwake Dam at the border of Makueni and Kitui; Karimenu Dam in Gatundu; Thiba Dam in Kirinyaga; Siyoi-Muruny dam in West Pokot; Bosto dam in Bomet; Mwache dam in Kwale; Koru-Soin dam at the border of Kisumu and Kericho.
Appreciatively, the government has completed other water projects. Last month, the Water, Sanitation, and Irrigation CS Sicily Kariuki revealed that approximately 70 percent of Kenyans now have access to clean drinking water. We must proceed with urgency to protect these gains and ensure that the remaining 30 percent will also be able to access clean water.
I suggest that we inspire both rural and urban households to go the extra mile in complementing the government’s ongoing efforts to provide clean water for all. We must urgently integrate rainwater harvesting into all new constructions both in urban and rural areas. Indeed, Vision 2030 calls for the use of rainwater harvesting as a means of enhancing clean water for all.
Apart from rooftop rainwater harvesting, we can also capture rainwater from little streams and rivers through sand dams. These are strengthened concrete walls that are built across water bodies to secure sand so that it can store more underground. This way, the rivers’ sand is able to store much more rainwater during heavy rains. Thousands of households in parts of lower eastern Kenya are already accessing clean water through sand dams and I am a beneficiary too. According to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, such sand dams provide a sustainable solution for water-scarce regions. In so doing, they enable low-income, disadvantaged households to access clean water.
Additionally, households can also use farm ponds to capture rainwater for farming. These broad pits are constructed at the lowest points of farmland. They feature inlets and outlets. They collect surface runoff that flows freely during heavy rains. That water can then be used to water crops when rains disappear. Along a similar vein, households can also build more bunds. These are crescent-shaped pits that open up the hard top layer of soil so that more rainwater can be retained. This approach was successfully tried at a group ranch in Kajiado.
Indeed, Kenya’s 12.2 million households have numerous feasible options for accessing clean water for their domestic use and farmlands. The options must be made bankable so that the populace can even access microfinance institutions for execution support. Think green, act green.