The way Kenya’s municipalities are managing their resources


The technologies themselves have not had a negative impact on Kenya's society, but the problems and available solutions have brought about attention to the way Kenya's municipalities are managing their resources.  John Mburu, the managing director of Hydro Watch, says, "There is inefficiency and lack of enough well trained personnel….a pipe could be leaking and nobody bothers to repair it. They even go ahead purchasing expired or poor quality treatment chemicals resulting to the mess." Daniel arap Moi, a Nairobi college President estimates that over 50% of water goes to waste due to leakages due to these same untrained workers.

One of the problems with management has been largely due to inadequate laws that have not provided enough guidance with sustaining water resources. In 1996, Kenneth Orie of Moi University in Kenya wrote a report examining the Water Act, noting particularly its weaknesses in provisions toward water conservation and protection. Orie noted that the Act mainly focused on water abstraction, and as it was posed a poor management tool in sustaining water resources in the face of increasing pollution, population, and economic development.  The Act specifies that water only be used for "reasonable and beneficial purposes," and because "reasonable" and "beneficial" are not defined, much of the water allocation has been geared toward economic development. No consideration is given to water support needed for the aquatic environment, such as wet lands, fisheries, and baseflow of surface water. And because these branches are ignored, but still require and accept a large portion of water allocation Kenya always falls short of what they thought they had available. The government has also failed to enforce many of the rules established to regulate water waste. The Water Rule, for example, provides for the installation of water meters by private consumers, but few have complied and little has been done to enforce the provision (Orie, 1996).

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Around the country, it's also popular belief that water dealers work with municipal water departments to create a crisis so that dealers can make more money (Hydrowatch, n.d.). Alongside mismanagement of water resources, many experts blame water shortage on corruption and global warming. Edward Kairu, director of the development group Maji Na Ufanisi, believes deteriorating pipes and infrastructure. "”In some cities like Nairobi, we may be losing anywhere above 30 percent of the water that is treated – that is a lot of water that is wasted,” he said.  “Added to that, we also have a lot of illegal connections.” Some of this corruption involves the diversion of water from its legal flow to either politically connected flow or flow to people who have bribed for it to flow their way.

It is estimated that more than half of the water consumed is unaccounted for, while the government is only collecting 20% of the fees from large water users. This abundance of inefficiency and corruption has placed Kenya in a dire state, where people are not only suffering from water shortage but distrust the very government that should be providing the help needed. Robert Gakubia, CEO of Kenya’s Water Services Regulatory Board, maintains that the government has been and continues to battle poor management in the water sector.  "You can get out laws, get out guidelines, try to monitor, enforce compliance and all that, but if in practical sense there is no investment to support those works, you know that as you give the orders, you know that the problem of mobilizing resources takes much longer,” he explained (Voanews, 2009).

Economically, many of these solutions also pose the problem of "money." Back in the year 2000, massive power rationing and water shortages resulted in two consecutive years of negative economic growth. Now once again, thanks to political instability, water shortages, impending power rationing and now Swine Flu, Kenya fallen back into tough economic times. It is important to factor in all these elements when considering long term solutions for developing countries such as Kenya. In order to be viable solutions to the water problem the systems must be relatively easy and inexpensive to install, operate, and maintain. Desalination, for example, uses a large amount of energy to remove pure water from salt water. It's estimated that the production of 1000 ML per day of fresh water can require 10,000 tons of oil per year (Qiblawey & Banat, 2008). Roughly one industrial-scale plant costs one billion dollars and one cubic meter of water costs a bit over $1 to produce (Nanowerk, n.d.).

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The Reverse Osmosis process, however effective, requires a lot of energy and produces a lot of waste. On average, the process wastes three gallons of water for every one gallon of purified water it produces.  And although Nanotechnology could increase the effectiveness of water treatment solutions and be done at a lower price, nanotechnology-based solutions are still being studied, and it could be sometime before it makes its way into the market. In short, very few developing countries have neither the money nor the oil to effectively develop these solutions. To implement desalination and reverse osmosis plants would require a lot of funds, education, and strong managerial leadership, all of which Kenya either lacks or is in the process of improving (Reverse Osmosis, 2004). Meanwhile, the country can still depend on more simple water treatment systems like the PUR powder and Water Guard chlorine packets to filter and kill dangerous microorganisms within their household water, at roughly 27 cents a piece.



Orie, K. (1996). Proposed Amendment to Kenya’s Water Legislation: Some Missing Sustainable Water Resources Management Principles. International Journal of Water Resources Development, 12(1), 79-88. doi:10.1080/07900629650042046