Solar energy kept us afloat amidst a pandemic

Since 2016, funding from USAID through the Kenya Integrated Water Sanitation and Hygiene (KIWASH) Project has enabled 231 small and medium water projects to tackle infrastructure and skills challenges to reach more people with clean water and sustainable services. The challenges are unique to each water project. One of these projects is in Kamulu Town on the outskirts of Kenya’s capital, Nairobi.

The project was started in 2013 by a resident of Kamulu when he saw that other residents faced an acute water shortage. “Residents here relied on two shallow wells with limited supply. I felt I needed to help salvage the situation,” he said.

In the months that followed, Kamulu’s resident secured a loan from Equity Bank to finance a 138-meter-deep borehole. He further equipped the project with a water pump that generated 15 cubic meters of water per hour, a water tower tank, and three water storage tanks totaling 25,000 liters. Despite this promising start, the Geoseismic Water Project faced two main challenges.

First, the borehole water had fluoride levels well above the World Health Organization’s acceptable levels of 1.5mg per liter and put consumers at risk of dental and skeletal fluorosis. Secondly, the project’s electricity bill was high, and starting in 2015, the project experienced frequent electricity outages that slowed down the water supply to consumers.

A unique partnership between USAID, DuPont Company, and Davis and Shirtliff came together to address the first challenge. They provided a defluorination machine to balance the fluoride levels and improve the water quality for consumers. As a result, the project contributes to a healthier community free from the risk of fluorosis.

To address the second challenge, KIWASH installed 84 solar panels at the project site in order to reduce operating costs. As a result, the project’s electricity bill came down from an average of US $300 to US $150 per month. “The solar energy came in very handy between April and September 2020 when we experienced long power outages,” said the organizing resident of Kamulu. “Were it not for the solar panels installed through KIWASH support, the project would have grounded to a halt. But through the pandemic, we continued to supply water to consumers, albeit through water rationing and using water trucks.”

In addition to the solar panels, KIWASH supported the project to expand and upgrade its water pipeline. It added 3.5km of new pipeline, nearly doubling its customer base from 80 to 150 connections. It also created a separate pipe to ensure a dedicated line to one of its highest consumers – an apartment block with 38 tenants. With an additional pipeline network, KIWASH also constructed two water kiosks complete with storage tanks to allow easy access to the purified water.

Despite the economic challenges brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, the project continues to prosper. It makes an estimated revenue of US $3,000 per month, up from US $1,600 in water sales, allowing for cost recovery and opportunities to serve more community members. The Geoseismic Water Project has also created employment for four people, including two kiosk attendants drawing approximately US $30 to US $40 per day and a project assistant that supports meter reading and billing. The project also has plans to expand the project’s storage capacity from 80,000 liters to 200,000 liters.

As a result of these changes, 1,000 families, totaling approximately 5,000 people, have access to basic water services through 25 piped water connections and two water kiosks. The presence of the project has led to a positive social-economic impact and growth in the locality as residents settle around the water point.

Showing 2 reactions

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  • Shem Ageta
    commented 2021-05-09 00:50:18 +0300
    This is commendable work. Thanks to the people of America through the disciplined and selfless USAIDKIWASH Team on the ground. I too have experienced a positive impact in my rural village – Chaina in Nyamira County. Keep it up during the pandemic and beyond – post Covid-19.
  • Emily Mutai
    published this page in Blog 2021-02-01 15:36:17 +0300

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