Kenya’s water sector is characterized with many challenges such as water meter theft, infrastructure vandalism, and pollution that lead to increased poverty levels and environmental degradation. Such and many others can be solved by enacting and implementing the Water Act 2015, that ensures every individual or institutions have access to affordable and quality water. For this to prosper there should be effective management of water catchment areas, investments in water management personnel and incorporation of engineers to design softwares that ensure water is available at the right time.

Kenya’s water sector is characterized with many challenges such as water meter theft, infrastructure vandalism, and pollution that lead to increased poverty levels and environmental degradation. Such and many others can be solved by enacting and implementing the Water Act 2015, that ensures every individual or institutions have access to affordable and quality water. For this to prosper there should be effective management of water catchment areas, investments in water management personnel and incorporation of engineers to design softwares that ensure water is available at the right time.

David Onyango is the Managing Director of Kisumu Water and Sewerage Company; He is an engineer by profession but has since moved away from the active engineering practice to be a manager. He has a degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Nairobi and holds a Masters degree in Construction, Engineering and Management and another Masters in Business Administration. He has experience in both public and private water sectors.

Tell us about Kisumu Water and Sewerage Company Ltd and what do you do?

Kisumu Water and Sewerage Company was formed in 2002 and began operations in 2004. Initially, it was part of the water department in the Municipal Council of Kisumu but with amendments of the Water Act 2002, water companies were formed and that is where this company emerged. It is charged with the responsibility of supplying water and sewerage services to people of Kisumu. Lately, the governor asked us to extend beyond the boundaries of the city and we are progressing to be a County water service provider. We hope to achieve this in 2016.

What role do you play in water and sanitation and what is your reach and some of your goals?

As a Managing Director of a water company, our role is to ensure that people have clean portable water, at the right pressure and quality all the time. We also protect the environment by draining the wastewater from premises, treating it, and then discharging it to the environment. We ensure that as an organisation we offer quality services to people.
In terms of reaching to consumers, we are keen to meeting key standards stipulated by the Water Services Regulatory Board, which states that 80% of the people should have water by the year 2015 though we are not there yet. We are moving gradually and as we speak, we have around 68% of the population who are receiving water regularly from our system. We wish to move this towards 80% and eventually 100% to meet Kenya’s aspirations.

How well are you fulfilling your roles in water provision in Kisumu?

As a company, our vision is to be a model service provider but our mission is to refresh life. That means that we have to give people water for domestic, commercial, and industrial use. For us to achieve our mission and vision, we have collaborated with various stakeholders to ensure that the quality of services we provide is consistent with the expectations of people in Kisumu. We partner with water services boards to ensure that the projects designed are delivered in time and at the right quantity. There is a project funded through French Development Agency (AFD), which has just been completed to serve Kisumu till the year 2030.

What are some of the challenges that you face toward improving the life of Kenyans?

First as a company, we face challenges like urbanisation which affects all growing cities both in developing world and middle income countries. Global warming is another challenge which affects the flow of rivers. Pollution at the local and industrial level and deforestation is another challenge that ails the water sector. At the institutional level, we also succumb to the challenge of theft of water meters and vandalism of steel materials used for construction of water infrastructures.We also bear the burden of meeting the enormous expectations of our customers.

What are some of your main projects/initiatives?

We are working on a digester that can convert waste to fertiliser and energy. We are also working on improving the quality of waste discharged to Lake Victoria. To this effect, we have partnered with Chinese University and Maseno University to work on a pilot on how to further purify water after it has been treated. Another pioneer initiative underway is creating a mobile application where customers can easily access their water bill directly from the company.

Section 62 of the Water Bill 2014 states that Kenyans have a right to clean water, as a company how have you achieved this so far. Do you think that the statement is practical in terms of the Availability, Affordability Accessibility and Quality? 

For me it is an aspiration to provide everybody with water so long as it’s done within the context of the resources available to the government and agencies in the business of providing water. Despite the fact that it is a right for people to get water, consumers have certain responsibilities; they must pay to ensure sustainability.

Bearing in mind that this bill is still in parliament, I am sure that consumers will benefit greatly from it. I am certain that once it is approved the industry will grow to serve the people of Kenya better.

What roles do engineers play in your organization?

Engineers are responsible for designing the systems for delivering the treatment plant. They are also responsible for the pumps that transport water from the treatment plant to distribution centers. Engineers also create gadgets that distribute water within the system, ensure that the sewerage treatment system is maintained and works properly to deliver quality sewerage to the market as per the law.

“I would like to encourage those aspiring to be engineers to invest in it, be passionate and commit themselves to self improvement.”

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