In the low-income settlement of Dandora in Nairobi, Kenya, we have been working with Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company (NCWSC) to upgrade the area’s water supply system and improve access for 52,000 low-income consumers.
For residents like Alice Wambui (pictured, above), who lives in the Maili Saba area of Dandora with her husband and five children, the project has had huge benefits.
Before the project, Alice had to buy water either at a local privately-owned borehole or another borehole a kilometre away. Her family should have been receiving piped water directly to their home, but the supply had been illegally diverted and had become unreliable.
Alice’s family has now been transferred onto the new network built by WSUP and NCWSC, reducing the amount she pays for water to less than a fifth of what she previously paid.
She says, “I’m happy because whatever money I was paying at the borehole for water, I can use for something else. It saves time; it used to take 2-3 hours to collect water and because the meter is on my premises I will just be paying for what I use.”
Prior to the project, in some areas of Dandora over 90% of the water produced by NCWSC was lost either through leakage or diverted by illegal connections before reaching customers like Alice – this ‘non-revenue water’ (NRW) was a problem for customers and for the utility. Cartels operating in the area were charging high prices for water and supply was unreliable.
WSUP and NCWSC have laid nearly 23km of new pipeline in the area, as well as opening an NCWSC satellite office to serve as a customer care and complaints centre and establishing a project task team.
This team has embarked on mass promotion to ensure that network connections are legal and metered, distributing application forms for water connections to landlords and homeowners.
John Chege, a field sociology with NCWSC who has been working as part of the project in Dandora, says that a “ripple effect on the socioeconomic status of residents” can already be seen: “The cost of water is being reduced, so people are able to invest their money elsewhere.”
He notes that the reduction in queuing time has had a positive impact on women and children and says that “from my observations I think people’s health is improving and they are spending less money on medicines and treatment for sicknesses.”
The network has already triggered the construction of sewerage extensions to plots in Dandora, and work on a community clinic is also in progress.
NCWSC’s Informal Settlements Department, a unit which focuses on serving low-income communities, has recently with the support of WSUP and other stakeholders been elevated to the status of Informal Settlements Region, ensuring that the “ripple effect” observed in Dandora can spread to other low-income communities in Nairobi.
This work has been carried out under the SWIFT Consortium, which works in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and Kenya to deliver sustainable access to safe water and sanitation and encourage the adoption of basic hygiene practices.
Led by Oxfam, with Tearfund and ODI as Global Members and WSUP as Global Associate, SWIFT is part of DFID’s WASH Results Programme.