In partnership with Mwikali’s Gift, EWB-NY rehabilitated Usalama’s water system such that it is capable of supplying water across all five kiosks and meeting the minimum demand. The infrastructure includes a new 40,000 liter water storage tank and more than a kilometer of new piping. The system was also connected to a new pressurized municipal water line, which the Kenyan government granted permission for Usalama to use as an improved water source. Water is treated to a safe, drinkable quality via manual point-of-use chlorine dosing at the kiosks. To enable a smooth transition and transfer of knowledge, EWB-NY conducted several health and technical workshops with the community, including school children, teachers, leaders, and water board members.
In 2007, the EWB-NY Usalama project’s partner organization, Mwikali’s Gift, asked the African Medical and Research Foundation (AMREF) to design and build a water distribution system for the community of Usalama. At the time, the villagers biked or walked along the highway to Kibwezi to retrieve water or collected surface water from ponds and puddles. In addition to the long time required for the collection trips, over the years multiple villagers were killed in accidents with the large trucks. In 2009, AMREF constructed a system including a water tank, five kiosks, and distribution piping.
Condition of Pre-Existing System and Community’s Health
Through an assessment trip in January 2013, EWB-NY confirmed the poor condition of the system, in regards to both distribution and treatment.
EWB-NY health team members collected data in August and September 2013 showing that 52% of the 170 surveyed Usalama houses obtained their water from Kiosk 1, with Kiosk 2 accounting for another 10% of surveyed homes. Kiosk 4, further south in Usalama, occasionally functioned at a low flow rate, resulting in long lines to fetch water. Kiosks 3 and 5, both of which were meant to be supplied by the tank, did not receive water.
The supply to the kiosks was also an issue, as the team was informed by the community that the supply line between the intake and Kiosk 1 had been damaged by elephants multiple times in the past because it was not properly covered. The leaks caused by this damage resulted in a significant drop in water flow along the line. Furthermore, the village was paying for pipe repair in addition to the lost water, since their water meter is positioned near the intake at Umani Springs.
The team also found the water to be contaminated by coliform bacteria. Health issues related to water quality were prevalent in Usalama, as was confirmed during EWB-NY’s August and September 2013 community health survey. Most of the surveyed household reported that they did not treat their drinking water, and the effects of this was apparent; almost a quarter of the households with children reported that at least one child had experienced diarrhea within the two week period preceding the survey.
New Supply Line
The municipal water agency, known as the Kibwezi Mtito-Andei Water and Sanitation Company (KIMAWASCO), constructed a new pressurized supply line referred to as the KIMAWASCO line. This line passes through Usalama and continues to the neighboring community of Kithasyu. The existing supply (referred to as the “colonial line” because of its original construction 100 years ago) was intended to be decommissioned once this new line was completed and commissioned. The KIMAWASCO line would be sourced from Umani Springs, the same source as the colonial line. Usalama was granted permission to tap off of the new KIMAWASCO pipeline.
Umani Springs: In Decline?
EWB-NY was informed by KIMAWASCO that colder-than-average temperatures throughout southern Kenya have resulted in a smaller amount of recent ice melt from the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, which is reducing the level of water within Umani Springs. Whether or not this is a climatological fact, accounts from community members indicate that less water is available from Umani Springs when compared to previous decades. It is understood that recent efforts by KIMAWASCO to improve the region’s draw of water from Umani have included lowering the level of the water intake located within the springs, so that water is drawn even during periods of drought and low water. However, water shortages have continued to affect KIMAWASCO’s distribution potential.
Water for Usalama: Designing and Implementing Solutions
EWB-NY aimed to work on three main tasks in order to improve water accessibility and quality in Usalama:
1. Bringing water to all five existing kiosks: An assessment of the existing system showed that water could not reach Kiosks 3, 4, or 5 due to insufficient pressure. To overcome this, the team constructed a new water tank at a high enough elevation to distribute water to all five kiosks. This water tank was connected to and supplied by the new KIMAWASCO pipeline, which would have enough pressure for water to reach the new tank once the line was commissioned. People from neighboring towns also come to Usalama for water, and making all five kiosks available for use improves accessibility for fringe communities in addition to those residing within Usalama.
2. Treating water to a drinkable quality: The most sustainable and cost effective solution the team found was a point-of-use manual chlorination system. Community members collect their water in standard sized jerricans, making it simple for kiosk operators to dose each container with chlorine during water collection. The team trained Usalama’s water board and kiosks operators on how to create a chlorine solution stock, and on the appropriate handling and dispensing methods. Community members were consulted on their perception of manual dosing, and they were very receptive to the method, and were especially happy about having clean water.
3. Protecting the section of pipeline that is easily damaged by elephants: The section of pipeline between the system’s intake and Kiosk 1 and within the game reserve is laid over volcanic rock, and therefore could not be buried underground but rather is protected by laying stones and dirt over it. Concrete was added for reinforcement of the cover. Protecting this section of pipe was intended to be a temporary solution until the pressurized KIMAWASCO line came online, as the colonial line would then be decommissioned.