Kevin Kafwa, Water Supply Operator for Busia County, looks proudly on the new solar hybrid pump in the Alema borehole pumphouse. He points to the numbers on the face of the pump, showing off how much energy the new solar panels are producing – more than the pump needs to operate. The quiet in the pumphouse is surprising. The new pump is nearly silent, yet it is working hard to send water up 1.8 kilometers through steel water main pipes to a new 100-cubic-meter catchment tank on the hill above the borehole. Situating the tank uphill means gravity will do the work to deliver water to customers downhill. On a sunny day, that means this portion of the operation is essentially free.
The new pump, pipes and tank are all part of the Alema Water Project, a collaboration between USAID’s Kenya Water Sanitation and Hygiene (KIWASH) project and the Busia County government to bring clean water to this part of Funyula subcounty. “From the time I’ve been in this area, there has been water scarcity,” says Kevin as he points ahead to a dry creek bed, “The people really suffer when there is no water,” he adds.
The Alema Borehole was constructed in 2015 but was sorely underutilized. Just one water kiosk was pulling from the borehole. During times of draught, people would sometimes wait in line all day at the kiosk to fill their cans. The two water supply operators in the area, Manana and Onana Water Supply, faced water shortages: Manana Water pulled from the Manana Dam, which, due to increasing heat and longer dry seasons, ran dry in 2016; and Onana Water was only pulling water from one of its sources because the pump at the second source was broken.
In addition to the new pump, water main pipes and catchment tank, KIWASH has constructed two new water kiosks. We are also increasing the existing reticulation network, connecting schools, homes and businesses directly to the Alema water supply.
We have also increased the pumping capacity of Manana and Onana Water. We connected the Alema borehole to Manana’s existing network, boosting their water supply. Manana customers no longer have to worry about not having water. KIWASH also donated the old pump from the Alema pumphouse to Onana Water, allowing them to utilize both of their water supplies. Altogether, 12,000 people are now benefitting from more reliable clean water.
The pride Kevin has for this project is evident. When he moves through the community to check on the new kiosk or ensure a new spigot at a household is installed correctly, people come out with smiles, shaking his hand to thank him. He smiles and adds, “This project will make a big difference for the people here. They used to be sick from drinking bad water. Now they will be better.”