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State to give water firms chemicals worth Sh200m

Kenya government, JICA donate water treatment chemicals to water services firms.
Water, Sanitation and Irrigation ministry officials (left) receive water treatment chemicals from Mr Katsutoshi Komori, chief representative of Jica Kenya Office. Jica is giving the chemicals to nine water services firms worth Sh46 million.

Water services firms are under financial pressure since March when revenues started falling following closure of businesses and education institutions because of Covid-19. In addition, the government ordered water firms not to cut water supply to customers for unpaid bills. As a result, firms are finding it difficult to pay salaries, electricity and buy chemicals.

The government will this week give water services firms water treatment chemicals worth Sh200 million. This is a grant from the government. This means the firms will not pay for the chemicals.

All licensed water services firms will get the chemicals.

Dr Andrew Tuimur, chief administrative secretary, Water, Sanitation and Irrigation ministry, said this during a video meeting with water stakeholders on 4 September. This meeting was called by Kenya Markets Trust, a non-government firm whose aim is to change Kenya’s water service delivery.

Monthly usage of chemicals will determine the amount of chemicals to be given to each firm.

The firms are under financial pressure since March when businesses and education institutions closed because of Covid-19. This led to fall in revenues.

This financial pressure was increased by the government’s order to the firms not to disconnect customers with unpaid bills. As a result, firms have reported that customers had stopped paying their bills.

Firms have reported difficulties paying salaries, electricity and buying treatment chemicals.

READ – Unpaid bills: ‘No free water’

What are water services firms saying?

Mr Joseph Mberia, chief executive officer, Meru County Urban Water and Sanitation Services Corporation, said the government’s support will save his firm money.

These free chemicals will free up money the firm had budgeted to buy the chemicals. Mr Mberia said his firm will use the saved money to service its systems.

“If we get the chemicals it means we will use the money we had set aside for chemicals to do other things such as service,” Mr Mberia said.

Mr Simon Mwangi, managing director, Ruiru-Juja Water and Sewerage Company, said the chemicals subsidy was welcome.

“It will reduce [our] financial pressure,” he said.

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

How did the government buy the chemicals?

Water Sector Trust Fund (WaterFund) is buying the chemicals for Water, Sanitation and Irrigation ministry. WaterFund, the ministry’s firm, helps counties grow water services in rural and urban areas.

On 17 July, WaterFund advertised tender to buy four water treatment chemicals. The chemicals were powder chlorine, alum, soda ash and poly-aluminium chloride.

The tender closed on 3 August.

Who else is giving treatment chemicals?

Japan International Cooperation Agency, Jica, is also giving water treatment chemicals to nine water services firms. The cost of the chemicals is Sh46 million (45 million Japanese yen).

Jica bought chemicals for Embu, Meru, Mavoko, Kilifi Mariakani, Nakuru, Ruiru-Juja, Eldoret, Nyahururu and Kisumu water firms. These nine firms serve a total of 2.2 million people.

Jica handed over the first batch of chemicals to Water, Sanitation and Irrigation ministry on 9 July.

Mr Mberia of Meru County Urban Water and Sanitation Services Corporation, said the firm had received chlorine from Jica. “We have received chlorine and we are using it,” he said. “We are waiting for alum.”

Meru uses only two chemicals, chlorine and alum. Different firms use different types of chemicals depending on the quality of their source water. The government has bought powder chlorine, alum, soda ash and poly-aluminium chloride.

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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