January and February are the driest months every year in the Counties of the former Western Province of Kakamega, Bungoma, Busia, Vihiga and the County of Trans Nzoia as there is hardly any rain. During these two months, the region becomes acutely aware of the vital importance of water as a basic necessity for in the other months of the year, water is readily available. But the assumed plentifulness of water in the region should not be taken for granted forever given the rapid increase of the population of the Counties of the former Western Province and North Rift coupled with the environmental degradation of the water sources brought about through population pressure for land for agricultural production and settlement.
The provision of water is a fully devolved function under the 4th schedule of the constitution of Kenya 2010. In the two months of January and February every year the search, collection of water by our mothers, sisters, daughters becomes a nightmare as they have to endure long distances, queue for long hours to get water for domestic use. The Counties of the region’s ranking and prioritization of water services provision is to be gleaned from the budgetary allocation they give to the water service provision County Ministry. The Budgets are minuscule compared to roads and the welfare issues in wages, allowances to the MCAs, the Governor and the County public servants.
But wait a minute, clean water availability to all in the County ought to be treated as a basic right next to access to affordable quality healthcare. Is that the way we have prioritized water provision. We think not. The deplorable water service provision by NZOWASCO (Nzoia Water Service Company) is legendary for the Counties of Trans Nzoia, Bungoma and part of Busia and no wonder Trans Nzoia Governor Khaemba has gone public that Trans Nzoia County is in the process of forming its own water service provision company.
Where is the debate, discussion, programmes, masterplans of addressing once and for all the water management and harnessing question for the region? We must first and foremost address the conservation of the water towers of Mt. Elgon and Cherengany Hills and all other water springs, sources. There is hardly any visible programmes on this front. Next, we must set deliberate water supply systems, be it through piping, boreholes, springs name them so that each family in the region should not take more than twenty minutes at most to access clean water.
Why is the matter of supply of clean water being given a backburner treatment? Is it that there are no avenues for corruption by those entrusted to manage our resources the elected MCAs and County public servants or is it the belief that water is plentiful in the region as it experiences lots of rainfall most of the months of the year?
We must through our County Governments rethink, re-prioritize the question of harnessing our water resources efficiently, with conservation at the frontline for the issue if not tackled now is destined to be a big setback in the development ambitions of the region sooner rather than later. It is laughable that the region is part of the sources of water for the expansive Lake Victoria and the mighty River Nile that is the lifeline of South Sudan, Sudan and Egypt and the Mediterranean sea, yet our people continue to be troubled with the availability and accessibility of clean water for their domestic and other uses.