FEATURE: Water containers run dry in Homa Bay

Water vendors at a water intake point in Homa Bay Town. PHOTO/George Omondi, The Scholar Media Africa.

Most women in Homa Bay County normally wake up before 5 am to fetch water for domestic use. 
This activity is among many others they should do nearly every day.

In some villages they go to water pans and dams to fetch the commodity when it is still clear. 
In urban areas, taps which are shared by tenants in most residential areas are always left open so that residents are alerted during sleep that water is flowing in pipes. 
Drops of water would hit the bottom of containers left overnight at the tap to act as an alarm to wake up those still sleeping at dawn. 
No one ever wants to miss any drop of the precious commodity supplied by Homa Bay Water and Sanitation Company (Homawasco).

The company is licensed to supply piped water in Homa Bay County.
Most people in towns like Homa Bay get clean water in their taps less often despite most areas being next to Lake Victoria-World’s second largest lake. 
In Shauri Yako for example where majority of the town’s population live, residents get water in their taps at most two times a week (Tuesday and Friday). 
Sometimes water is pumped only once a week and those who get the commodity are tenants who wake up earlier than others.
Homawasco normally pumps water to a given area like Shauri Yako for two to three hours on each day of supply.

This because there is a lot of demand for the commodity in other areas as well.

So the company must conduct water rationing. 
Whoever needs the commodity the most must therefore wake up earlier before the rest on the day of supply in order to get as much water as possible before the company disconnects the supply until a week later. 
Homawasco has been suffering from challenges, mainly power cuts at water intake and treatment plants and alleged corruption at the firm. 
According to the company Managing Director Evans Nyagol, the farm can only pump two million liters of water per day against the demand of nine million liters per day.
To ensure everyone in the town gets water, the company conducts rationing and sometimes pumps the commodity to residents at odd hours. 
Homa Bay town has at least 120,000 people and each person should use 50 litres of water per day which is never achieved. 
Most landlords have therefore developed a system where their tenants are only allowed to fetch a specified quantity of water so that every person can get the commodity however little.
Ms Silvance Kidew, a landlord in Shauri Yako says his 15 tenants normally fetch between five to ten jericans of water depending on the quantity of water that is supplied. 
“We gauge the quantity by pressure at which water comes out of the tap. When it is very low, tenants make an agreement to fetch just a little so that everyone can benefit from the supply,” he said.
For a long time, residents of Homa Bay county have been suffering from water crisis that has led to disease outbreak in the past. 
Sometimes taps run dry for more than four weeks before supply is restored when residents complain to the devolved unit through the media.
Ironically, towns like Kisii and Kericho who are far from the lake have constant water supply. 
It is common to see women with their children walking with jericans in their hands as they look for clean water for domestic use.

This is more common during dry seasons.

For instance in 2015, Homa Bay County was hit by drought that killed several animals and threatened the lives of many families especially children. 
Families at times fetch water directly from the lake for domestic use.
During worst water crises especially in Homa Bay town, premises like governor Cyprian Awiti’s office get affected.

At such times, workers are discouraged from using toilets in their offices to conserve water. 
Sometimes suspension of water supply also affects smooth flow of health operations especially maternity services at the county referral hospital.

Families with patients admitted in wards are often told to go to hospital with water from their homes. 
In March this year, a first year student at Homa Bay Vocational Training Center (VTC) drowned while bathing in Koginga Beach when he could not access water at his institution. 
An administrator at the institution however dismissed the claims saying they normally buy water from vendors when their supply is cut or when the commodity runs from tanks at the institution.
Politicians have used the perennial water crisis in the county as their main tools of campaign as they put it as the first priority in their manifesto.  
Some even make fun of the crisis saying young women do not have children because they spend a lot of time away from men when looking for water.
Mr Nyagol said Homawasco is committed to supplying water to residents. 
In the meantime, most families will continue suffering from perennial water shortage.
A worker at the firm who sought anonymity claimed the company is being mismanaged.

He said that is why it cannot continuously supply water to residents.
An officer from Lake Victoria South Water Works Development Agency (LVSWWDA) that is currently undertaking multiple water projects in Homa Bay to mitigate the challenges, said Homawasco should be able to generate revenue to support its operations instead of relying on the county executive. 
The water supply company is said not to be able to pump and supply water because of accumulated electricity bills.

This has been the major cause of supply disruption.
“Water supply company in Kisumu, Kiwasco is able to meet all its needs without relying on the county government,” he said.
The worker from Homawasco claimed there are senior staff at the company who have allowed some residents of Homa Bay Town to illegally connect water to their homes. 
Bills from the illegal connections are then paid directly to the senior staff who are encouraging more people to illegally have water in their houses. 
“Tenants at a residential area are asked to pay Sh 200 every month for water services.

Homa Bay Town water treatment plant on July 20 2021. The plant can produce 2.5 million liters of water per day against a daily demand of nine million liters. PHOTO/George Omondi, The Scholar Media Africa.

This has been the source used by some staff at Homawasco to earn extra income,” the worker said. 
Mr Nyagol dismissed the claims saying the company is working on ways to eliminate the sale of water illegally. 
“We want every resident who is enjoying using water from the company to get through the right way. We also want to eliminate water vendors from selling water,” he said. 
LVSWWDA is currently implementing some projects that will increase the amount of water being supplied to residents of Homa Bay County. 
They include Homa Bay Cluster Water Supply Project in Homa Bay Sub-county, Kendu Bay water Project in Rachuonyo North Sub county and Oyugis water project in Rachuonyo South Sub-county.
Upon completion, the projects will mitigate the current crisis facing water supply in the county. 
Homa Bay Cluster Water Supply Project is able to produce 8.8 million liters per day. 
LVSWWDA Chairman Dan Omino said the project that will be completed in November will serve residents for the next 20 years meaning water shortage may only occur after two decades when the project is complete.  
“The project will meet the needs of the growing population of the town beyond 2040. It will produce water that can be used by a lot of people,” he said.  
Water will be pumped using solar to minimise the cost of paying electricity bills which will only be used when solar power runs out. 
A similar project is being implemented in Rodi Kopany Township.  
Its construction is complete and it should supply 400,000 liters of water from two boreholes.

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