The Lake Victoria North Water Services Board region of coverage comprises over 400 administrative locations, with an estimated 80% of the 7 million people it serves living in rural areas. The locations have different levels of access to water and sanitation services, necessitating prioritizing the interventions to more deserving locations.
As part of the Board’s mandate, Lake Victoria North Water Services Board has within its strategic plan prioritized development of water and sanitation services in accordance with the needs and demand per region. This has been captured in the Board’s five-year Strategic Plan and broken down into operationalizable work plans per financial year.
Within the Board’s establishment, a section specifically charged with spearheading and managing development in the rural areas has been established. The section oversees water and sanitation services infrastructure development in the various identified needy locations, majorly with the financial support of the Government of Kenya and its other development partners.
Some of the major development projects the Board has been implementing in the recent past include the Kenya Water and Sanitation Programme (KWSP) funded by the Government of Kenya in partnership with the Sweden, Denmark and Finland Embassies; and the Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) programme funded by the Dutch Government through Unicef. Such funds are channeled to the Board through the Water Services Trust Fund, in accordance with the Water Act, 2002.
District Development Vote
One other major approach to development of the rural water and sanitation utilities is through government development allocations. District Water Development funding is directed to the District Water Offices, where an annual Work Plan, cascaded from the Board’s long-term strategic plan, is developed for implementation. Projects implemented under this funding window are supervised by the Board in collaboration with The District Water Officers.
In this financial year alone, the Board has rolled out several projects worth over Kshs.200 million, mainly targeting rehabilitation and extension of water supplies to needy rural communities, and to increasing water production and supply levels.
The projects targets rehabilitation and protection of springs and boreholes which had been left unused over long periods of time, majority of which were done in the 80s; de-silting of dams; trenching and backfilling of pipe trenches; drilling of boreholes; construction of water storage facilities; installation of consumer water meters and setting up of toilet facilities in public areas.
The implementation of these small-scale projects at the District level has had a ripple effect in the benefiting communities, who are engaged in the provision of unskilled labour during construction.
The Board supports rural poor communities to access affordable water and sanitation services through targeted water and sanitation interventions. This is expected to have a major impact on their health and living standards, enabling them to participate in the country’s economic development. One of the ways in which the Board addresses the huge demand for water in the rural areas is through a programme called the Community Project Cycle (CPC) approach, a concept that ensures the targeted community participates in the whole project cycle from conception to inception to completion. The funding has come from the Kenya Water and Sanitation Programme (KWSP) and Water Services Trust Fund (WSTF). Under this concept, the Board has been undertaking water and sanitation services interventions for the first fifty seven (57) target needy locations in order of their demand levels. Ultimately, the programme targets to benefit over six hundred thousand (600,000) additional beneficiaries in the rural areas, who hitherto have had to contend with irregular and inadequate access to safe and reliable water and sanitation services.
The UNICEF Kenya WASH programme is focused on accelerating the meeting of the Millennium Development Goal on Water and sanitation for Kenya through provision of Water and sanitation services to families and school children who are underserved in the rural communities. The WASH programme is a six (6) year programme, being implemented in twenty (20) Arid and Semi Arid (ASAL) Districts across the country including Busia district, under the Lake Victoria North Water Services Board.
Under the WASH programme, some of the projects being implemented by the Board in Busia County include a number of boreholes, dug-wells, springs and community piped water schemes including Amatsi, Buduongi, Malanga Maira Budokomi, Benga, Ejinja and Namusala.
In the pursuit for quality of water in rural water sources that do not go through the conventional water treatment procedure, Lake Victoria North Water Services Board has adopted the Chlorine Dispenser technology—an innovative, low-cost way of offering on-site water treatment ideal for rural setups.
The Chlorine Dispenser Technology is an innovation that involves installation of a mechanism with a dispensing container pre-programmed to dispense chlorine in a quantity adequate for treatment of 20 liters of water, given that 20 liters containers is the most commonly used container size in the rural water points.
The innovation has been implemented by the Lake Victoria North Water Services Board in community water points developed under the UNICEF/GOK WASH programme in partnership with Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) – a local non-governmental organisation that focuses on poverty alleviation in Western Kenya.
A number of water points in Busia County have had Chlorine Dispensers installed, providing an increased level of water safety to the community. Busia County, the target for the programme, is prone to water-borne diseases especially during rainy seasons when most water sources get contaminated. The technology will no doubt be of great relief to the locals in ensuring quality of domestic water supplies.
Automation of Rural Water Supplies, the Case of Grundfos Technology
Management of rural water supplies has been one of the biggest challenges in the sustainability of the many projects in rural areas. Cases of inability to control the usage of water supplies are common, leading to collapse of many schemes due to poor management.
In order to address this, Lake Victoria North Water Services Board in partnership with Grundfos Lifelink, a European Information and Technology company that specializes in water supply automation, among other innovations aimed at alleviating sufferings of humanity, have begun testing a fully- automated community water supply system in some of its rural supplies.
The system, which works on almost the same principle that M-pesa operates, ensures control in the use of the facility and contains wastage, because every drop drawn is accounted for. This ensures there is value for money as one draws only what is paid for.
The first project, the one of its kind in this region, is currently under pilot at the Mukhweya Water Project in Matungu District, Western Kenya.
The technology is generally referred to as the Grundfos Lifelink, after the company name. Grundfos Lifelink, part of the Grundfos Group of Companies, was established in 2008 to perform global online monitoring of technical system performance, service alarms, as well as income and costs related to the water system. The adoption of the technology guarantees hundred percent (100%) transparency for all the partners involved in the Water supply and management as every drop of water is registered and accounted for.
Consumers have each been supplied with a digitalized coin, with a capacity to be loaded with money just as one would load airtime. To enable one to draw water from the supply system, the card is inserted in a slot of an operating machine, in much the same way one would in an Automatic Teller Machine (ATM). To initiate the flow of water, one then presses the value of the amount of water he/she wants to draw. The flow of water automatically stops once the amount of water worth the pressed amount is drawn.
For ease of management, the system has been programmed at Kshs. 2 for every twenty litres container, the most commonly used container size in the rural set up. After every “withdrawal” (transaction) of water the balance remaining is displayed, thus enabling the consumer to keep track of his/her expenditure and reload when necessary.
With sustainability being the greatest challenge in rural water supplies, this innovation presents a unique opportunity of addressing the same.
Mr. Daniel Owino is the Corporate Affairs Manager with the Lake Victoria North Water Services Board, Kakamega Kenya.