When the Wiser Secondary School in Muhuru Bay in Migori County opened in 2010, the community was hopeful that their children would be able to have a good education. But the lack of clean, reliable water at the school and in many homes meant students were often absent, helping their mothers make the treacherous journey down to Lake Victoria to collect water, or they were sick with a water-borne disease.
The Muhuru Bay Water Project – a UNICEF-funded effort established in 2012, was meant to solve this problem. The Project was designed to deliver water to up to 5,000 people in its first phase. Despite this potential, only four water kiosks and three individual connections were connected to water that first year. “The local community was hesitant to embrace payed water since they had the option of fetching from the lake for free,” recounts Enock Waseka, the project chairman. “We used a diesel-powered pump which made pumping expensive. Our revenues barely covered operation costs which strained the relatively new project,” he adds.
Inspired by the project’s potential to serve more people with clean water, USAID’s Kenya Integrated Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (KIWASH) Project started supporting the Muhuru Bay Water Project in 2016. Over the past two years, KIWASH took an integrated approach to improve the physical infrastructure of the water project and provide technical training to its leadership. Physical improvements included extending the pipeline infrastructure by more than 14 kilometers, installing solar panels and a water purification system, and constructing five additional water kiosks and a water storage tank. The solar panels replaced the diesel pump, saving the project operating costs and reducing environmental impacts. KIWASH then trained key officials on water business management, operations and maintenance of installed components and environmental sustainability.
The project now serves 9,031 people with clean and dependable water services. “This support has been very timely and game changing. It is not business as usual, as the impacts can be felt from the management level down to the consumer,” Enock proudly notes. “Our monthly revenue has more than doubled, and we longer use diesel to pump water, further reducing our monthly operation costs.” KIWASH has installed solar panels at 21 water supply projects across nine counties in Kenya, reducing the cost to pump water by more than 60 percent, on average.
Dorcas Oyugi, the principal of Wiser Secondary School, is also grateful for the changes. “Our students no longer go the lake to fetch water. Having clean and reliable water means healthy students and a productive community.”