Whenever you encounter a dry tap in Nairobi, chances are that it has a lot to do with greedy cartels in the water distribution chain that control supply and sell it at a premium to city residents than the usual excuse of low water levels in the dams as a result of poor rains.
It is claimed these cartels and officials at the County’s water distribution company, Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company (NCWSC), working in cahoots with some leaders have created a syndicate, subjecting Nairobi residents to an artificial water crisis for their benefit.
While water cartels are making staggering profits from peddling water at exorbitant prices, city residents are forced to dig deeper into their pockets to find water for their daily needs.
They have resorted to buying it from bowsers owned by powerful individuals operating the cartels.
An official at NCWSC noted that the county’s perennial water shortage is an act of water cartels who act through the protection of the county fathers.
“How comes when there is a water shortage, there is always either water tankers or cart wheelers ready to supply water to residents yet this is one of their rights as stipulated in the City Hall charter.
How come the water is always available for sale yet not for distribution?” he asks.
Daily water consumption by residents of Nairobi currently stands at 690,000 cubic metres against a supply capacity of 550,000 cubic metres. This means a shortage of 140,000 cubic metres.
An 81 per cent supply does not explain why most city homes have to go without a drop from their taps for an average of four days in a week.
These cartels have established a grip in Eastlands and are running water affairs in areas such as Umoja, Buruburu, Kayole, Komarock, Donholm, Embakasi, Ayany, Dagoretti, Jamuhuri, Imara Daima and Utawala, among others estates that experience an almost perennial shortage forcing them to depend largely on water vendors.
Data from various vendors shows that city residents pay more for water at an average of Sh1,000 per 1,000 litres compared with Sh18 per 1,000 litres recommended by Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company.
This means one is paying 50 times more than the recommended price.
With Nairobi’s population rising beyond the five million mark, the projected demand for water in the city in 2020 and 2030 stands at 1.6 million and 2.2 million cubic metres respectively.
It is through the illegal connections that the cartels have managed to hold their grip on the water business.
According to the NCWSC, an illegal connection is one through which a consumer gets water without a formal application to the company.
To get water, one must apply for it with a form which is provided by the supplier. After that, you will get a meter and will receive monthly bills.
An illegal connection mostly happens when a consumer either taps or diverts water from other pipes that are legally connected. In most cases, people with illegal connections do not pay for the water they consume.
Illegal connections can cost a heavy fine or even land one in jail.
According to the Water Services Regulatory Board, inefficient management, missing consumer orientation and the lack of a clear policy led to inadequate service delivery and high levels of consumer frustration, which in turn forced a growing number of urban poor to depend on informal services Mbaruku Vyakweli, the NWSC corporate affairs manager maintains that the water supplier does not condone water cartels in estates and informal settlements that extort residents.
“We have heard about these cartels that have illegal water connections and extort citizens in Mathare, Kibera and Tassia estates. They are very rampant but we have crushed them down, disconnected their illegal connections and arrested some of them,” said Vyakweli.
He warned Nairobians against paying anyone masquerading as a Nairobi Water official, and adds that any transaction between the supplier and citizens must be documented. He encourages customers to report issues of extortion, bribing company officials, and hoarding of water to the company.
“We have a fully-fledged security and investigations department, which has been reinforced by Administration Police. It is not true that there are some no-go zones for our company officials. We have made considerable efforts to smoke out the illegal connections that extort customers,” he said.
While they have distribution pipes throughout the city, the company admitted it cannot supply water throughout as it had become scarce. Hence the advent of distribution programs that ensure every consumer gets water at least twice or thrice a week, depending on where they live.
“Our supply is not reaching our demand. In fact, we fall short of supply by 100,000 cubic meters in a day and that is why we came up with a distribution program to ensure everyone has water.
However, it is not true that we deliberately disconnect water so that some vendors can benefit from it by selling customers water at exorbitant prices,” said Vyakweli.