Water crisis: Deficient delivery, skyrocketing urban population

The long and seemingly never ending queues consisting of both residents and their jerry cans in need of water at most water tanks in Kicukiro District is not a new occurrence.

The long and seemingly never ending queues consisting of both residents and their jerry cans in need of water at most water tanks in Kicukiro District is not a new occurrence.

The water found in most of these tanks is drawn from River Yanze by Electrogaz Company which uses the pump station and distribution network to supply water to the entire district for both domestic and commercial purposes.

Even with the presence of water sources and the natural landscape of numerous valleys (where the water table is expected to be high and therefore easy accessibility to water), water enough to meet the people’s needs is still a grim achievable dream in Kicukiro.

This significant problem calls for concerted effort if the district must meet the millennium development goal for all by 2020. Kicukiro District has suffered acute water scarcity over the past years.

“Kabeza sector particularly has had frequent historical water shortages because of the very old pipes,” John Mirenge, the director of Electrogaz says.

Moreover, the district uses only 2 percent of its renewable water resources for agriculture, industry and domestic purposes.

During the period of severe water scarcity, the cost of water is hiked from Frw50 to Frw200 for one 20-litre jerry can. People move several kilometers in search of water and when they find a water balloon, they make long queues to get water.

The queues begin as early as 3 a.m. and remain up to 11 a.m. One of the residents was bitterly complaining about the pick-ups that come along with many jerry cans, fetch all the water they want, and before others get, it is finished.

This is rather time-wasting because one has to wait for more water to be brought a long time later by the water tank truck.

For some residents who have tanks, water is stored in time of plenty and used in time of scarcity.

John Mirenge explains that the major cause of water shortage is the dry season which starts in the month of July and goes on until October. The hot weather dries up the water bodies, leaving less water and thus the scarce supply.

However, he is quick to add that the situation this year is better than the past years because there is some considerable amount of rain in this dry season.

The infrastructure of the pump station, storage reservoirs and distribution network is old and outdated. This is why it is performing below capacity and in the long run causing technical losses. The surge in numbers of people living in Kicukiro district further strains the limited services.

“The population has increased from 300,000 people 10 years ago to 1,000,000 people living in Kigali city,” Mirenge says.

Poor planning is also another cause for water shortage. In the past, there was little investment largely resulting from incorrect statistical data based on the small population then.

The water of River Yanze from which Kicukiro district draws its water is also deteriorating steadily due to the overwhelming consumption of companies and homes.

“The biggest challenge is getting water where it is needed most; affordably and efficiently. Weakness in the revenue collection system which involves post payment method is cumbersome,” Mirenge says.

Better services would mean a hike in the tariffs and this must be sequenced with immediate improvement in the services provided. But unfortunately it is a gradual process and makes improvement slow.

Low tariffs have also led to the continuous reliance on government subventions and allocations to provide for the maintenance of the water supply system. Government often finds it difficult to keep up with the pace required.

Lack of effective security to protect water installations is another challenge. Some people steal water by installing substitute meters and are able to use water without appropriately being charged.

“The water table in the valleys is not usually high as assumed by many. When the responsible authorities dig 100 metres deep and find no water they give up the search,” Ntindende William, the mayor Kicukiro District, says.

As a first step, government is upgrading the water pipes right from Gikondo up to Kimicyanga. A plan is being set up to draw 11,000 cubic meters of water from Karenge and add to Remera water supply system.

As far as the underground water project system is concerned, spring wells are being constructed in Kigali - two spring wells in Kagarama, one spring well in Gahanga, two spring wells in Muruganda-Kimihurura, Niboye.

“We are happy with the results so far,” Mirenge pronounced about the spring wells project.

Last year the government invested in a Frw16 billion water project at river Nyabarongo. This project will double the water used to 40,000 cubic meters a year, which means that 14,000 cubic meters will be used a day.

35,000 cubic meters will be enough to cater for Kigali in the next five years. The pipes are already being laid.

“There is hope. Let people be patient,” Mirenge avers.

Foreign investment in water usually lags as far as 10 years behind that of power and telecommunications.

The limited scope for competition, slow asset turnover and requiring long-term debt finance; all these sub-foreign risks require careful handling if private participation is to succeed.

Ends

 

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