Perhaps one of the many things that make Nairobi such a distinctive city is the black water tanks atop residential homes. The tanks are a preventive measure in response to the water scarcity in Nairobi County. While residents of other countries may be daunted by such scarcity, not Nairobians. They not only stock up but also make do with the disadvantage by turning it into a trade.
Consequently, it is not strange to see small scale traders selling water gallons at say $.20 to those who do not have tapped water. Major supermarket outlets such as Nakumatt, Naivas, Tuskys, and Uchumi are earning money from selling water tanks from as little as $9.50.
While Nairobian homes with taps have water during certain days of the week, it is not enough to sustain the needs of the county residents.
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On January 1st, 2017, the Nairobi Water and Sewerage Company posted an advertisement in the local dailies showing its water rationing schedule for the affluent and middle-class estates. The notice comes days after the Kenyan government had warned citizens that one of its major dams, the Thika Dam in Ndakaini, is short of water. The dam acts as a reservoir for the rain water expected during the October to December period, which didn’t come to fruition last year.
” It is frustrating for the common Nairobian and Kenyan who lack the means to afford expensive water tanks during such water shortage. I have to divide the little water I buy from sellers between washing and drinking tasks, which is not easy. Why I am still required to pay a monthly water bill, yet there is no constant water flowing from taps is a mystery” a local citizen who wanted to remain anonymous said.
There have been media reports that some corrupt business people take advantage of the problems facing citizens by colluding with county government officials to create an artificial water shortage in order to create demand.
The county government alleges that some Nairobian homes, especially in slum areas like Kibera and Mathare, are not being impacted by the water shortage because they use illegal water meters to avoid paying bills.
While there is a Water Services Regulatory Board to deal with such issues, the effect is not quite felt by the average citizen. After the new constitution was passed six years ago, Kenyans expected to be able to access basic resources, such as water, without problems of bureaucracy and corruption.