Busia, a bustling border town between Uganda and Kenya, is full of travelers passing through for business or to visit family. Amidst the Coronavirus pandemic in Kenya, the Busia Water and Sewerage Company (BUWASCO) has managed to increase daily water production by nearly 50 percent to 2.9 million liters in 2020. This increase is due to the company’s hard work before the outbreak of the pandemic in Kenya to improve its infrastructure, records, and customer service and to increase demand for piped clean water.
“We are not taking any chances on availability of clean water at the height of Coronavirus disease in Kenya,” said the technical manager at BUWASCO. “All this was made possible by increased water storage capacity and the reinstatement of two previously stalled water pumps,” he added. The improvements mean that water consumers now have an additional three hours of daily water supply.
Driven by the desire to have uninterrupted water within the county, the company created standby teams. “The teams are on a 24-hour rotational shift to ensure quick responses to water pipe bursts and blockages on our sewer systems,” said BUWASCO’s technical manager. “We have also created a social media group that brings together our customers and technical teams, making reporting of any bursts real-time.” Embracing technology to bridge the gap between the company and its customers has led to a 50 percent reduction of commercial water losses.
The company also conducted a customer identification exercise in 2019 to officially document all of its connected water consumers. “Through the exercise, we were able to identify illegal connections that contributed to our high commercial water losses. All these connections were registered and legalized, but water bills had to be backdated,” said the technical manager.
Before the onset of the coronavirus in Kenya, BUWASCO also carried out roadshows to arouse public interest to register and receive piped water. The public engagement forums informed people of the requirements for new water connections and the advantages of clean water services. “We also used the platform to encourage disconnected customers to reconnect through a flexible repayment plan of accrued debt,” said BUWASCO’s technical manager. All these interventions taken together saw registered connections increase by 400 to 5,278.
“Professionalization of BUWASCO’s services, courtesy of KIWASH, has seen us continue to enjoy enormous support from partners. The county government has since increased budgetary allocation towards urban water to US $200,000,” said the Director of Water Services for Busia County. “It has been a journey that KIWASH has walked with us. The company did not gain the capacity to provide reliable and uninterrupted water services overnight. This involved strategic planning and laying of water systems,” he added.
BUWASCO is one of the 11 water service providers supported by USAID’s Kenya Integrated Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (KIWASH) Project to enhance their ability to expand and improve water and sanitation services. KIWASH repaired a main water storage tank that increased storage and pumping capacity and extended water pipe infrastructure. These improvements have led to 16,248 people in Busia accessing clean, reliable water.