Water Fund to benefit conservation
A new project that aims to deliver sustained water supply to over 9.3 million people while conserving the environment has been launched today in Kenya.
The project, known as Nairobi Water Fund, has been described as the fi rst in Africa by its implementing partners, and is expected to generate US$21.5 million in long-term benefi ts to Kenyan consumers, farmers and businesses.
It is being implemented through a public-private partnership led by The Nature Conservancy (TNC), which has its headquarters in the United States.
According to TNC, 60 per cent of Nairobi’s residents lack access to a reliable water supply, with the problem expected to become worse through unpredictable rainfall resulting from climate change.
“Water funds are founded on the principle that it is cheaper to prevent water problems at the source than it is to address them further downstream,” TNC adds.
Fred Kihara, the outreach manager of TNC’s Nairobi Water Fund, says: “The water fund mobilizes people involved in water catchment conservation to use scientifi cally-proven methods to maintain a green infrastructure. The private, public partnership engaging farmers will result in cleaner, more quantity of water and a greener infrastructure.”
According to Kihara, TNC and partners have developed a global portfolio of 32 water funds now conserving more than seven million acres of watersheds and secure water supplies for 50 million people.
“Through the fund, Kenya can spearhead for Africa an ecosystems programme that brings benefi ts to all,” he adds.
The partners involved in the project include the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company (NCWSC), Kenya’s electricity generating company KenGen, Water Resources Management Agency, Kenya, Coca Cola Africa Foundation and smallholder farmers who have adopted agricultural practices to conserve the environment and improve dry season water flow.
Fred Kizito, a senior scientist with CIAT, Kenya, says scientifi c guidance and research will play a major role in making sure that the programme succeeds.
He tells SciDev.Net: “Research helped build the ‘business case’ to show that investing at least US$10 million in onthe-ground environmental management efforts for the Upper Tana River will have a tangible impact on water quality and quantity, and farm productivity.
“We can only know if the [Nairobi] Water Fund is delivering on its promises by monitoring ongoing impact on soil erosion and water quality. CIAT is using various monitoring and assessment tools such as real-time water quality sensors, runoff and erosion detectors, soil moisture probes and rapid infi ltration tests, among others, to quantify impact of interventions.”
Philip Gichuki, the NCWSC managing director, who also chairs the fund, notes that Nairobi has witnessed tremendous growth in water demand.
“We plan to invest in expanding our water supply, since at least 30 per cent more water is needed,” Gichuki says.
Meeting this demand depends on the conservation efforts in the catchment area and on farmers championing the cause such as Jane Kabugi, whose home on a steep slope overlooks Kiama River, a source of the nearby Ndakaini Dam that supplies 85 per cent of Nairobi’s water.
“Alongside other farmers, we have dug trenches, planted grasses and bamboo to prevent soil erosion and sedimentation in the river as part of conservation measures to ensure that the dam has adequate water supply throughout the year,” Kabugi says.
This article has been produced by SciDev.Net’s Sub-Saharan Africa desk.
Facts and Figures on Water Quality and Health
The global health challenge: preventing water quality-related disease
• No safe drinking-water: almost 1 billion people lack access to an improved supply
• Diarrhoeal disease: 2 million annual deaths attributable to unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene
• Cholera: more than 50 countries still report cholera to WHO
• Cancer and tooth/skeletal damage: millions exposed to unsafe levels of naturally-occurring arsenic and fl uoride
• Schistosomiasis: an estimated 260 million infected
• Emerging challenges: increasing use of wastewater in agriculture is important for livelihood opportunities, but also associated with serious public health risks
The Health Opportunities: Implementing good practice
• 4% of the global disease burden could be prevented by improving water supply, sanitation, and hygiene
• A growing evidence base on how to target water quality improvements to maximize health benefi ts
• Better tools and procedures to improve and protect drinking-water quality at the community and urban level, for example through Water Safety Plans
• Availability of simple and inexpensive approaches to treat and safely store water at the household-level.
Safe use of wastewater, excreta and greywater
• A growing world population, unrelenting urbanization, increasing scarcity of good quality water resources and rising fertilizer prices are the driving forces behind the accelerating upward trend in the use of wastewater, excreta and greywater for agriculture and aquaculture.
• The health risks associated with this practice have been long recognized, but regulatory measures were, until recently, based on rigid guideline values whose application often was incompatible with the socio- economic settings where most wastewater use takes place.
• In 2006, WHO published a third edition of its Guidelines for the safe use of wastewater, excreta and greywater in agriculture and aquaculture. In four volumes, these Guidelines propose a fl exible approach of risk assessment and risk management linked to health-based targets that can be established at a level that is realistic under local conditions. The approach is to be backed-up by strict monitoring measures.