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New water laws: Water firms must approve boreholes in their area

Men operating a borehole manually drilled by Simba Drilling Company. The human-powered drill can drill a six-inch borehole up to a depth of 250 feet.
Simba Drilling Company works with a US company to offer manual borehole drilling. The firm says its human-powered drill can drill a six-inch borehole up to a depth of 250 feet. Picture by Simba Drilling Company.

Water Resources Regulations of 2021 rules how to get a permit to use ground water. Water Services Regulations of 2021 gives water services firms the final say on who builds borehole within their area.

A water services firm must allow a borehole in their area before Water Resources Authority can give a borehole permit. A water services firm can allow a borehole request by giving a ‘no objection.’

The firm will assess itself to see whether it’s able to supply water services to those applying to build their boreholes. Then it may decline a request to build a borehole if it believes it can supply the needed water services within one year.

Water services firms must keep records of boreholes built within their exclusive area they supply. A water services firm can order a borehole owner to stop using the borehole if it’s able to supply the owner. But the water services firm must give the borehole owner one year’s notice.

Also, a water services firm can enter into an agreement with a borehole owner to buy water to supply its customers.

Owners or operators of boreholes must give Water Resources Authority, county government and area water services firm a permit copy or any other approval. They must do so within three months after the government passed the regulations. Water Services Regulations of 2021 were published on 12 August 2021.

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More about Water Services Regulations of 2021

In addition, the regulations cover financial sustainability of water firms, their integrity, registration of water professionals and safety of drinking water.

Financial sustainability of water services firms. A water services provider must be managed on a commercial basis and in accordance with sound business principles. Each water services firm must give Water Services Regulatory Board an annual report. The report must show:

  1. the water service
  2. network expansion and rehabilitation
  3. commercial and business growth
  4. progress towards financial sustainability and viability

Protect water sources. A licensed water services provider must ensure availability and development of its sources of water. This is to help the firm supply adequate quantities and quality of water to consumers.

Safety of drinking water. It’s an offence to contaminate or pollute water used or intended to be used for domestic supply. The regulations give a penalty to anyone who supplies water unfit for domestic use. It’s a fine not exceeding Sh1 million or imprisonment not exceeding two years, or both.

Registration of professionals and contractors. A person will be qualified to plan, design and operate water services infrastructure if they have a valid licence issued by Cabinet Secretary for water. Also, they must be in good standing from the Engineers Board of Kenya.

The penalty is a fine not exceeding Sh1 million or imprisonment not exceeding two years, or both.

To promote integrity of water services providers. It’s an offence for an employee of a water services firm to fail to read meter, disconnect water, report illegal connection or help illegal connection. Penalty is imprisonment not exceeding six months or a fine not more than Sh20,000, or both.

What county governments must do

The Water Services Regulations for 2021 give duties to county governments and water services firms. These roles aim to make water firms financially stable so as to connect more customers. County governments own water services firms working in their counties.

County executive committee member is responsible for development and provision of water and sewerage services within their county. The county executive committee member must formulate and periodically review county policies, strategies and plans for developing and providing water services.

The strategy’s aim is to give clean and safe water in adequate quantities, and reasonable standards of sanitation.

The county water and sewerage services strategy must show:

  1. how water the firm or firms will provide water services in the entire county on a commercially viable and sustainable basis.
  2. a plan and targets to reduce and manage levels of water loss (non-revenue water) by county water service providers.
  3. criteria and procedures on how county government will give financial, technical and other assistance to county-owned water firms and community water providers.
  4. a programme for developing water sources, including cross-county bulk water sources, to secure adequate water.

The regulations show water firms how to charge customers for water and sewerage. Water firms in urban areas must charge a price that enables them to meet their capital, operation and maintenance costs. They must be able to pay for these costs without getting money from the government.

Water firms working in rural, low income urban or nearby urban areas must charge price that enables them pay operation and maintenance costs. This is without the option of expecting money from the government.

About Kaburu Mugambi

Kaburu Mugambi is a veteran of business reporting having worked with two national newspapers in Kenya. He is a graduate of economics from Kenyatta University. He started his journalism career in 2000 with The People Daily as a business reporter before becoming a business sub-editor. He joined Daily Nation in 2004 as a business writer. He holds a post-graduate diploma in mass communication from University of Nairobi's School of Journalism and an MBA in marketing from the same university. In 2016, he founded Water Tower, a media firm focused on water, energy and climate. Its content cuts across water, energy and climate with emphasis on adaptation and sustainability.

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