ENVIRONMENTAL IMPLICATIONS OF SMALL SCALE WATER SUPPLIERS IN EMBAKASI LOCATION, NAIROBI, KENYA
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Water is a basic human need. It is required for both domestic and industrial use. In Nairobi, the institution charged with provision of water to the residents is Nairobi Water and Sewerage Company (NWSC). However, NWSC serve only 50% of Nairobi with the rest left to find alternative sources of water. Embakasi location in Nairobi County, which is the study area, is one of the areas of Nairobi city that is inadequately served by NWSC. In addition to the low NWSC network coverage in the Embakasi location, there is irregular water supply owing to rationing with most estates getting water on two days of the week. This situation has led to the emergence of small scale water suppliers who get their water from groundwater resources through boreholes. The study set out to identify households’ concerns regarding water supply; identify environmental problems occasioned by small scale water suppliers, identify the small scale water suppliers and their distribution in Embakasi location; assess their activities and operations; investigate the factors determining location of small scale water supplier; and, identify the challenges they face. Thus, the broad objective of this study was to establish the environmental implications of small scale water suppliers in Embakasi location. The study employed the use of interview schedules, observation, photography, geographic positioning systems (GPS) and questionnaires to get primary data. Through purposive sampling, key informants in the water supply sector were identified and interviewed. With the help of a key informant, small scale water suppliers were identified and interviewed. Household interviews were also carried out. The location was clustered to ensure that all the estates were covered and questionnaires administered to 300 households served by Nairobi Water and Sewerage Company (NWSC) and the small scale water suppliers. A total of 20 small scale water suppliers were identified out of which 15 were interviewed. Results indicate that Embakasi residents mean daily per capita water consumption was 51.3 litres per day per person and majority of them preferred privately supplied water as opposed to being served by NWSC. Indeed, water access has greatly been improved by the small scale water suppliers especially in Embakasi estate (an estate within Embakasi location) where NWSC coverage is very low and in some places non-existent. Availability of good quality water, presence of competition from other operators and distance to customers were some of the factors that determined the location of a water supply business in the location. High fluoride concentration in groundwater was the biggest challenge facing these operators. The main environmental concern identified related to groundwater abstraction in Embakasi include absence of monitoring by Water Resources Management Authority (WRMA) and complete disregard to the minimum distance of 800 metres between boreholes as recommended by the Water Act, 2002. The study recommends that WRMA should ensure efficiency in data generation so as to have a more complete database of the water resources in Embakasi location. For environmental stability, the minimum distance of 800 meters between boreholes as set by the Water Act, 2002 should be adhered to. Moreover, buffer zones of natural habitat should be created around boreholes to safeguard against contamination with sewerage water and/or boreholes should not be drilled in densely populated areas.