Our colleague Alice Fermont shares her experiences during her visit to Nairobi Water


Our colleague Alice Fermont shares her experiences during her visit to Nairobi Water

By Alice Fermont, 29 January 2018 - Mid-January, Hans van Fulpen, Niels Schaart, Paul Bonné and Alice Fermont visited Nairobi Water in Kenya. With Nairobi Water, we started off with the WaterWorX program. Within the WaterWorX program, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the ten Dutch water companies (Vitens, Evides Watercompany, WML, Watercompany Groningen, Brabant Water, PWN, Oasen, Dunea, Waternet and WMD) and their local partner companies in Africa, Asia and Latin America contribute to increasing access to sustainable water services. The aim is to provide proper drinking water and sanitation services to one million people between 2018 and 2021. For Nairobi Water, the aim is to connect 50,000 people. Most help in needed in informal settlements.

Our colleague Alice Fermont gladly shares her experiences during her visit!

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Strategic water reserves in the Sanumua Dam. This dam collapsed in 2006 and is being rebuild (left). The WOP team of World Waternet and Nairobi Water (right).

The biggest challenge is sustainable water supply.  Water is already being rationed and in many regions of Kenya water is only being supplied two days a week. Due to this, we primarily focus on optimizing the drinking water production. Between 5% and 20% of drinking water is now lost during production. We visited four drinking water production sites and explored points of improvement together with the Nairobi Water staff. We identified many promising opportunities. The production capacity of three sites, Ngetu, Sasumua and Kabete, can be increased by 30%. We can obtain this by installing a sheet of slats, which slows down the sedimentation, therefore enlarging the production process and increasing the production capacity. If we manage to optimize the water production site Ngethu, 100,000 m3 per day can be produced additionally. Next visit we will focus on the improvement of processes, but also we want to investigate potential improvements of the transportation capacity.

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The inlet of the Chania River (left) for drinking water production site Ngethu (right). Due to the unfavorable location of the inlet, lots of sediment containing iron and manganese is taking in. This causes production losses.    

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Workshop in Sasumua to gain insight into how drinking water is abstracted and purified and which opportunities are available for improvement.


Also the wastewater treatment plants offer many points of improvement. Many of the equipment is outdated and no longer working properly. We found out that many basins are no longer being maintained, therefore they contain a lot of sludge. The rapid growth of Nairobi's population does offer many opportunities. In the surrounding area of the wastewater treatment plants the capacity can be expanded tremendously. By doing so, more wastewater can be collected. Due to the water shortages, more wastewater collection offer options for reusing this water. In terms of safety, there are still some areas for improvement as well. Luckily, we brought our H2S (hydrogen sulfide) detectors. Especially during the inlet of wastewater, we detected to much H2S gas. This is unhealthy and can cause serious health risks. We discussed this with the staff and management of Nairobi Water. agreed on some actions to tackle this problem.

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Manual cleaning in the grids at the inlet of wastewater treatment plant Kariobang (left) and the renovation of  wastewater treatment plant  Ruai (right). 

Lastly, we visited informal settlements, home to around 60% of Nairobi's population, and identified potential improvements. Nairobi Water has a high concern for informal settlements, and has set up a department responsible for water and sanitation in these areas. Many NGOs aim to contribute to improved access to proper sanitation and drinking water in informal settlements.  However, substantial improvements are difficult. Water supply has been taken over by cartels, the population is poor and has little prospects of finding employment. We visited a single mom with three kids, of which one is ill. She moved from an informal settlement to an one-room flat with drinking water connection and a toilet. The apartment looked nice, however we learned that she is not able to pay her water bills. In her street, ¾ of the water supply was cut off due to late payments.  In short, a very complex situation to improve. Therefore, we aim to kick off with a broad evaluation of projects, and from here we explore which way we can contribute to improvements.

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Visiting the water kiosk with sanitation service in Kabate, the largest informal settlement of Nairobi. New Sanitation has already been implemented here. Biogas is made from wastewater. Unfortunately, the income resulting from toilet visits is very low (left). This street is full of one-room apartments for people who used to live in informal settlements. Alas, the majority of the people's water suplly is cut off due to late payments (right). 

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We are well taken care of, and in between working there is always time for a good joke!


Stay tuned!