Access to clean drinking water is a basic human right. But in large parts of Africa it is a luxury good. A German development cooperation project in Kenya shows that changes can be made. To the north of Nairobi a private water company is supplying the town of Nyeri and its local communities with clean water from the tap. Meanwhile, the project has become so successful that the water plant is now making a profit and is repaying the loan to the KfW Development Bank. In 2001 the bank provided a loan of ten million euros to Kenya’s most efficient water supplier, the Nyeri Water and Sewerage Company Ltd. The Kenyan government provided 2.5 million euros. This meant that the water treatment plant could be improved, the waterworks expanded and new storage basins installed.
“The plant used to produce six million litres of water per day, but now it produces five times that amount,” says Florian Rabe from the KfW Bank. The water is pumped from the neighbouring river. Then it is purified and fed into the public supply network. Meanwhile, about 90 per cent of Nyeri’s inhabitants and many of the surrounding communities are linked to the supply system. The current total is 120,000 people, or four times more than ten years ago. Nowadays, the population no longer has to ration water or buy it at overinflated prices from water kiosks. One cubic metre of water now costs 31 Kenyan Shillings, whereas it would cost three times as much from a water kiosk. The principle of cheap and clean water is working, because it is socially fair: the bulk consumers pay more than normal households. Although Nyeri’s water company belongs to the municipality, it is run as a private company. The graduated price scale enables it not only to finance its own maintenance costs, but also to make a profit. The revenue is even high enough to invest in expanding the pipeline network. By 2015 150,000 people in the areas surrounding Nyeri should be able to draw water from their own taps. “This also applies to more outlying households that are harder to reach,” promises Florian Rabe from the KfW Bank. ▪