Many African cities are struggling to provide residents with safe drinking water. One of the main reasons for this is urbanization. Urban populations have grown rapidly as more and more people migrated from rural areas to cities.
The water situation in Africa
In some areas, another reason is lack of water.
Researchers have long suspected that informal urban communities lag behind formal ones when it comes to access to safe drinking water. But this reality can become murky when data is aggregated to a city-scale rather than examined at a fine-grained local level.
Extensive research has been done to examine inequalities in safe water use. Most of this access is measured by source type, such as access to tap water. Some have been incorporated into other aspects of water service delivery, particularly water quality. However, relatively few studies have examined differences in water consumption within cities.
In our study in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, we examined the distribution patterns of domestic piped water supply between 1985 and 2018. We used data from Nairobi’s water and sewerage facilities, using small areas they call “routes”. The average population of these areas is 700. We also examined detailed population data from the WorldPop Mapping Program and utilized spatial data on different community ages from 1975 to 2014 from the Global Human Settlements Project.
These data allow us to examine differences between communities in terms of adequacy of domestic water, costs, and water supplies. Crucially, we can examine changes over time. The data shows that newly developed low-income urban communities – which make up a third of Nairobi’s population – are not as well-served as older, wealthier, and less densely populated areas.
We hope that these findings may impact water sector governance and policy.
Water supply should be reliable, safe, and affordable to everyone who lives in Nairobi.
Is there available water in Nairobi?
Water availability in Nairobi varies. These include the age of the community, income level, type of water supply, and population size per trip.
The World Health Organization recommends that everyone have at least 1,500 liters of water per month for household use. Residents in high- and middle-income areas were 6 times and 4 times more likely to receive 1,500 liters of water.
The way people fetch water also varies by income. People in high- and middle-income areas tend to have plumbing connections in their homes. People in low- and middle-income areas more often get water from public taps or water kiosks (water vendors who sell water purchased from utility companies).
How much water is needed in Kenya?
An average of 3.5 billion liters of water is wasted every month – through burst pipes, theft, or irregular meters. That’s more than double the monthly recommended amount of water of 1,500 liters per resident in all areas of the city.
There are three ways to address spatial inequalities in Nairobi’s water supply: planning for good data on water services and tariffs, investing in infrastructure and governance.
Water supply and water use data are key to assessing gaps in water distribution processes. It also helps ensure better management of sometimes scarce or limited water supplies. Historically, government data has been poorly stored.
However, there has been positive progress in this regard as governments increasingly ensure that their data is accessible, electronically stored, complete, and consistent. This enables research and future planning. Kenya has digitized water consumption data and made its water price structure public.
Improving water adequacy also requires the right investments by governments.
Investment in water
Growth in urban populations should be accompanied by investments in infrastructure to support the provision of safe water to the population—including appropriate funding for water utilities to improve their performance. Investments should be organized by housing category and community age, with a focus on groups that the data show is underserved.
Finally, good governance is needed to minimize water loss and social inequality. Water supply and infrastructure development should be consciously prioritized in low-income areas, both in old and new neighborhoods and in densely populated areas. This is critical if Kenya is to achieve the water goals outlined in the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals.
With information from: https://theconversation.com/a-deep-data-dive-reveals-extent-of-unequal-water-provision-in-nairobi-173258