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Nyahururu Water: ‘To remain afloat’ we must pay workers, suppliers

By Kaburu Mugambi
Mr Peter Mwangi, managing director, Nyahururu Water and Sanitation Company. In 2017/18 Water Services Regulatory Authority’s Impact Report the company was one of top three improvers emerging No. 9 overall. It scored “Good” in two indicators: hours of supply and revenue collected.

County Government of Laikipia owns Nyahururu Water and Sanitation Company (Nyahuwasco). The company gives water and sanitation services in Laikipia West Sub-County. Nyahuwasco offers water services in Nyahururu and Rumuruti towns and parts of Marmanet Ward. Water Tower sought to know actions taken by Nyahuwasco to prevent spread of Covid-19. Mr Peter Mwangi, managing director, Nyahuwasco, answered our questions.

Water Tower: Water companies have taken a number of actions to support county and national governments’ efforts to stop spread of Covid-19. What are you doing to support handwashing, which is a top prevention measure?

Peter Mwangi: Our company jointly with Central Rift Valley Water Works Development Agency has installed 15 water tanks of 1,500 litres each in the following areas:

  • 2 tanks at Rumuruti GK Prison
  • 1 tank at Rumuruti main matatu terminus
  • 1 tank outside Nyahuwasco main office
  • 1 tank at the main gate of Nyahururu Police Station
  • 1 tank at the Main Nyahururu bus terminus
  • 2 tanks at Nyahururu main market
  • 1 tank in Oljabet shopping centre (Marmanet ward)
  • 1 tank at Muthengera shopping centre
  • 1 tank at Karuga shopping Centre (Igwamiti Ward)
  • 1 tank in Manguo (low income area within Nyahururu town)
  • 1 tank in Maina estate (low income area in Nyahururu town)
  • 1 tank at Kang’a Nderitu (a densely populated low income area in Marmanet ward)
  • 1 tank at Mairo Inya matatu terminus in Nyahururu town

READ Covid-19: Water firms give water, soap to residents to keep hygiene

Are there places in your region which might need special support, for example, water deliveries?

Besides installation of handwashing water tanks, the company has been using its water bowser [tanker] to supply water to the following facilities.

  • Ndindika Health Centre in Kinamba town
  • Communities in Mathenge and Ngaremare areas in Rumuruti
  • Refilling all above water tanks
What are you doing to ensure regular water supply to your customers?

Nyahuwasco operates four water supply schemes.

  1. Nyahururu – urban
  2. Marmanet – rural
  3. Igwamiti – rural
  4. Rumuruti – rural and urban

Consumers in Nyahururu town, Igwamiti and Rumuruti town enjoy water supply throughout the day in all days. However, due to the vastness of the rural areas of Marmanet and limitation of water treatment facility, transmission and distribution network serving the area, about three quarter of the customers get water throughout the day in all days. The rest get water on rationing basis. Nevertheless, even those who receive water on rationing basis get water at least two days in a week.

To minimise interruptions, our operation and maintenance teams are on duty all days including weekends and public holidays. They handle any emerging issues. In addition, the company has temporarily stopped water disconnections due to payment arrears until the pandemic is contained.

What are you doing to limit the number of customers coming to your office?

To limit customer visits to our offices, we have encouraged customers to make enquiries through our hotline number (0728348312) or send an SMS using short code 21292. Our customer service team are available to handle all enquiries as need be.

In addition, Nyahuwasco uses integrated system for billing. Payments are done using M-Pesa or bank deposits and customer accounts are updated in real time. The customer does not need to come to office for payment related issues. Errors in bills or payments are rectified if a customer calls, sends an SMS or detected by the billing system.

The national government has directed water companies not to disconnect water to customers. Some water companies fear some customers might take advantage of this and refuse to pay their bills. In fact, some water companies have seen reduction in their revenue. What is your view?

The country’s economy is adversely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Measures taken to prevent spread of the disease has put strain on many businesses. These are businesses where majority of the population get their income. As a result, many people may not be able to meet their obligation of paying bills.

The company operates wholly on money received from bill payments. If bills are not paid, the continuity of service will be in jeopardy.

The ability of the company to remain afloat is pegged on its ability to pay workers’ salaries, suppliers and other statutory obligations. Without funds to pay salaries and suppliers of water treatment chemicals, pipes and fittings, the company cannot continue offering water and sanitation services as required.

READ Unpaid Bills: ‘No free water’

Water Services Regulatory Authority in its Impact Report for 2017/2018 recognised you as one of top three improvers emerging No. 9 overall. You scored “Good” in two indicators: hours of supply and revenue collected. But you scored “Not Acceptable” in non-revenue water, water coverage and personnel expenditure as percentage of total operation and maintenance costs. What are you doing to improve the “Not Acceptable” score?

The company’s non-revenue water [NRW] is currently at 38% against the country’s benchmark of 25%.  As indicated above, the company operates both rural and urban schemes. The NRW for the urban scheme is 29%, which is very close to the country’s benchmark. However, the rural schemes account for the bulk of NRW.

The rural schemes cover very large areas with very poor water pipe infrastructure. This dilapidated infrastructure is responsible for the bulk of physical losses within the rural schemes. To mitigate this, the company has written proposals to the county government [Laikipia] with view of getting assistance for rehabilitation of the infrastructure.

In addition, the company has a fully operational non-revenue section. The section tracks and troubleshoots the system to come up with interventions that reduce NRW.

The company is also a beneficiary of Japan International Cooperation Agency [Jica] NRW project running in the country. The project has been offering capacity development for NRW reduction and has significantly contributed to NRW reduction within our system.

Commercial losses emanate from metering inaccuracies, theft and meter reading and billing errors. To reduce commercial losses, the company has ensured 100% metering of all customer points. In addition, the company has ensured that only high accuracy meters are installed with strict adherence to the manufacturer’s guidelines.

To curb water theft, the company, through Water Tariff developed through Water Services Regulatory Board (Wasreb), has imposed hefty penalties for water theft cases. The NRW team is key in patrolling and unearthing water theft cases.

Need for support

Many areas within Nyahuwasco’s area of jurisdiction do not have piped water. Despite the company’s efforts in supplying water using the water bowser [tanker], we still have limitations in fueling the only bowser to reach as many areas as possible. The company may need support in storage tanks to be installed in the areas without pipe network.

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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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