So now we know Raila Odinga was right about the negative impact that the Northern Collector Water Tunnel Project will have in the affected Counties. Despite their effort to defend the project, engineers of the Athi Water Board said the same thing – in many words.

Raila had said the tunnel, meant to tap water from Muranga County for Nairobi residents, would lead to water shortage in Muranga County and desertification of the counties downstream within four years of its implementation.

Masinga Dam Water Drops 2.36%

To start with, the engineers said there will be a reduction of water of 2.36 per cent in Masinga Dam. To understand the impact of that, you should put it in relation to the water in Masinga Dam – its total capacity is 1.56 billion m³. A reduction of that magnitude is certainly very significant. It will eventually affect the supply of power in the country which is already faltering under heavy demand for power.

The engineers, talking on KTN, were hardly convincing when discussing other negative aspects of the project. It turned out that the “flood water” which according to the plan is meant for harnessing is actually water from deep in the rivers. The project will certainly push out farming of “high water need crops” such as arrow roots for which the Central region is best known.

Farming in Muranga County Out

Further, it will put the whole water supply system in Muranga under control – within the same system as that in Nairobi. Agriculture in general, will be badly affected, a fear that Muranga farmers are expressing and which the water board does not want – or is unable – to come clean on. It is obvious the effect will be disastrous for Muranga farmers. These are the same fears that were expressed by the late John Michuki and which made him stop the implementation of the project.

Solution for Nairobi Water Problems

Can Nairobi get water from other sources?  Yes it can. A study done in the mid 1980s showed that the water that runs free in Nairobi when it rains is enough for its needs if well harnessed. Every time it rains, vehicles are covered by water in every street of the city and houses are swept away in floods. That is more than enough water for the city.

Second, much of the water in the city is consumed by large companies that use high volumes for their businesses. Such companies should follow the example of EABL which has sunk boreholes in Ruaraka for use for its beer business.

There has, of course, to be sensible planning in the city. The study showed that boreholes were drying up because cemented and tarmacked areas were increasing even in places where grass should be allowed to grow. Water was therefore not percolating to the aquifers. In Karen, for example, where individual houses stood on five acre plots of land, subdivisions have now made them quarters and eighths of an acre plots, hardly viable for borehole construction.

“Aquifer Management Plan”

And unfortunately, the highest density of boreholes is in the most overcrowded areas. The study found that there are over 4,130 boreholes constructed in overcrowded areas. The highest borehole densities were found in:

  • Eastleigh North (28 boreholes per square kilometre).
  • Highridge and Upper Parklands (20 – 25 boreholes/km2).
  • Spring Valley and Muthangari (15 – 20 boreholes/km2).
  • Kenyatta, City Square, Kileleshwa, California and Land Mawe (10 – 15 boreholes/km²).

Noting that the boreholes in most areas of Nairobi were less than 100 feet from each other, the study says, “The current rate of ground water abstraction from Nairobi’s aquifers is unsustainable.” It recommends development of a proper “Aquifer Management Plan” and enforcing borehole construction standards.

Finally, most cities in the world are recycling water. Recycling for Nairobi City cannot be more expensive than jeopardising the existence of people in half of Kenya, putting the country’s electricity to uncertainty and ultimately making the economy shaky.