The Mombasa County Government has signed an agreement with two European companies to start desalinating sea water in an effort to address the acute water shortage in the county.
Water, Sanitation and Natural Resources County Executive Committee (CEC) Member Fatma Awale said a Swiss company Agua Swiss has been awarded the tender to start the south mainland project in Likoni that will see the County generate 30,000 cubic metres of water daily.
Another company Alma Water BV of Spain won the tender to provide 100,000 cubic metres of water per day from the northern mainland.
In the agreement the two companies will design, build and operate the plants for 25 years upon which the County Government will take full control. The CEC said the County Government will be buying the water through its utility company Mombasa Water and Sewerage Company (MOWASCO) to supply to the consumers.
“Mombasa has been experiencing serious water shortage because the water we used to receive from our sources in Mzima in Taita Taveta was slashed by over 50 per cent to a metre 18,000 cubic metres.
“Similarly the supply from Baricho has been reduced from about 90,000 cubic metres per day to just about 12,000 cubic metres following the flooding that destroyed much of the water infrastructure,” Ms Awale said.
Likewise, she said, water supply from Marere and Tiwi boreholes has reduced significantly adding that the plans to inject additional 130,000 cubic metres of water will be a game changer for Mombasa water consumers.
She said the project is expected to start in March 2019 with the ground breaking slated for June the same year and take round 18 months to be ready for supply.
The bigger project of generating 100, 000 cubic metres is estimated to cost between US$150 million (Sh15 billion) and US$160 million (Sh16 billion) while the other project will cost between US$40 (Sh4 billion) to US$50 million (Sh5 billion).
With the completion of the two projects, Mombasa will be joining the league of other Port cities that have adequate supply of water adding that such cities all over the world are known to do well when they have their own water supply.
“The demand for water in port cities is always great because of the unique services that are found through shipping and hotel industries. Currently, Mombasa is not in control of water supply because it doesn’t have any source,” she said.
The executive was, however, quick to allay any fears of increased water tariffs saying that water tariffs are regulated and consumers will be paying for their water based on standard rates.
Mombasa County has over the years been dependent on other counties for its water supply a situation that has made it very difficult for the residents to fully enjoy sufficient water supply.
The county has been getting its water from Kilifi through Baricho, Taita Taveta through the Mzima Springs and Kwale through the Tiwi Boreholes, quantities that are far below the demand that has been increasing with the county’s growing population.
The three sources have only been supplying a paltry 40,000 cubic metres of water per days against a demand of 200,000 cubic metres.
But even the 40,000 cubic metres is not getting to the county in full supply because of the leakages where several litres are lost as a result of old pipes.
The county has been working on trying to rehabilitate the water network under the District Metred Areas (DMA) so that we reduce the losses that could be estimated at about 50%,” she said.
In order to supplement the water from the other sources, the County Government has embarked on other projects especially sinking boreholes in different sub counties to help residents access this important commodity.
Besides the boreholes, the county through the WASH Project has undertaken rain water harvesting in schools and nearby communities as part of the water and sanitation campaign.
In the desalination plant, Mombasa County will be joining other countries like Israel, Dubai, Saudi Arabia and many other Middle East countries that have been getting water from the ocean through the same process.
The desalination project is part of the county government long term plan as captured in the Vision 2035 development blueprint that was launched in 2016.
The CEC said the county government is now addressing the serious problem of leakages from old and dilapidated infrastructure.
“We already have some funds from the World Bank to assist with the absorption capacity to assist with the rehabilitating the piping which will help reduce the loss of water,” she said.
She said her department together with that of Public Health with the help of the sub County administration is mapping all the boreholes in the county to carry out verification whether they were done following laid down regulations.
There have also been complaints that some of the boreholes are contaminated and the mapping will also help determine whether the water is safe and fit for human consumption.