Sarah Tumwebaze and Joseph Ngome
October 15, 2012

Unlike other cities and towns in Kenya that experience acute water shortage daily, Nanyuki town residents are a happier lot. They have smiling faces because their water supply is running every day and they receive adequate and clean water for their domestic use and other industrial purposes. Almost every household has running water in Nanyuki.

The whole community in town wants the situation to remain like that and their commitment to have a continuous supply of water is demonstrated in their incessant reporting of people with illegal water connections living in their midst and in the neighborhood.

Nanyuki mall in Nanyuki town

According to Mr. Eric Bundi, the supervisor of Kenol Petrol Station located in Nanyuki Central Business District, whenever he sees an illegal water connection, he reports to the authorities. Bundi says: “I always go and inform officials at the Nanyuki Municipal Council.”

This is due to the perception of many urban inhabitants that the water supply service and management is still under the municipal councils. A trend that had since changed after the enactment of 2002 Water Act which had created water boards and water regulators to run water affairs in the country and thus established water companies in most of the cities and towns in Kenya.

A Lawyer with Transparency International, Kenya, Ms Saleen Malik, however, says that the municipal council is not the right body to report to on water issues. Town residents are not aware of the new development in water affairs in the country and still believe that water matters are handled by respective municipal councils. This is true because Mr Bundi points out that whenever he reports any water matter to the council, nothing is done.

Ms Malik explains: “It is good that the people try to report cases of illegal connections. But the reason they never get any response is because they go to the wrong body. The right place they have to report such cases is the National Water and Sewerage Authority (NAWASA) in Nanyuki.”

She explains that even when people know their rights, lack of basic information like who to report to denies them the ability to access such rights.

However, besides lack of information on where to report their grievances, the residents around the town council have an unperturbed attitude towards the water issue. The ‘I don’t care’ attitude is not in Nanyuki alone but also in other urban centres.

Mr. Bundi says that whenever he finds a broken pipe, he just passes by it without paying any attention. And he is not alone in this because majority of the residents feel that it is not their responsibility to report about leaking and bursting water pipes.

“I do not think it is my responsibility to report broken pipes. I suppose the person who is affected is the one that has to go and report such a case.” Mr. Bundi said. Just like Mr Bundi, Ms Angeli Maina, a Salon Proprietor in Nanyuki Town Council says that on many occasions she has seen broken pipes but has never thought that it was her responsibility to inform any one.

“I always pass by broken water pipes with people collecting the leaking water but I have never thought that I have responsibility to report such cases to anyone.”

Moreover, Ms Maina just like most of the resident interviewed by WIN during the field survey does not think that she can lodge a complaint in case of shortage in the water service delivery. She observed that in some instances they can go without water for days but still don’t complain.
“ In some occasions, we may go for two days or more without water. In such cases, we use the reserve we will have kept in our jerricans. But, when it runs out, we have to go to the nearby river and collect water,” Maina explains.

Most African cities struggle to provide access to water and sanitation to their soaring population

However, while she affirms that the water they get from the river, although untreated, helps them a lot. She also discloses that it is very dirty. “The water is brown and dirty but after going for two or more days without water, this type (brown water) is of a lot of use.”

Despite the fact that the situation would call for town residents to sound an alarm, they never bothered to inform the concerned authority. “Whatever the situation, we have to wait until the water starts flowing again. We do not think that we have to report such a case.” Both Maina and Bundi said.

The adamant attitude of the Nanyuki town residents towards the water situation in their area is augmented by the fact that most of them have running water in both homes and working places.
Mr Charles Ndelango, the Manager of Follinto Café which has been in operation for the last seven years in Nanyuki town says that for all that time, he has never seen water peddlers in the town.

“We have always had good water supply in this area and this explains why I have never seen a water peddler in this area for the seven years that I have operated this café.” he said.
Mr. Ndelango’s view was confirmed by WIN writers during the survey which found out that most businesses and residential areas in the town have running water.

A case in point is Ms Maina’s salon which is in a Kiosk but has running water and the butchers and restaurants visited had running water.

The residents have also fought the problem of corruption by ensuring that they pay their water bills through the bank and not giving money to any individual masquerading as water revenue collectors, Mr. Ndelango said

Nevertheless, Ms Malik says the residents of Nanyuki need to be educated about their rights as water users despite adequate water supply with minimal shortcomings.

Water Journalists Africa (WJA) is the largest network of journalists reporting on water in the African continent. It brings together some 700 journalists from 50 African countries. It was established in...

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