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Published: 11.21.2019

Scaling Sanitation and Promoting the Circular Economy Top Priorities for Kenya 2030 WRG Governing Board

The Kenya 2030 Water Resources Group (2030 WRG) Governing Board –  chaired by Cabinet Secretary Chelugui, Ministry of Water, Sanitation, & Irrigation, and Vimal Shah, Chairman of BIDCO – unanimously endorsed two new priority areas during its second meeting of 2019 mid-November in Nairobi. The initiatives take aim at curbing water pollution through more effective private sector participation in scaling sanitation solutions and leveraging opportunities to incorporate circular economy principles in the country’s national water management strategies.

Scaling sanitation solutions through increased private sector participation

While the water supply coverage has reached a nation-wide expansion of 57% of the population, only about 16% of the population has access to sewerage services. The Kenyan government estimates funding required to the tune of USD 2.5 Billion annually to achieve 80% of sanitation cover by 2030.

Efforts in generating and connecting new sources of water for a water-scarce nation become increasingly challenged by the deteriorating quality of water sources such as rivers, lakes, and dams. Urban centres in Kenya have traditionally relied on city-wide sewerage systems and centralized municipal wastewater treatment facilities for wastewater management. Much of this infrastructure is old and dilapidated, operating at very low capacity and rendering them wholly inadequate to treat the volume of wastewater generated in urban centers. For example, Nairobi City generates approximately 400 million liters of wastewater per day. However, the two treatment plants (Ruai and Kariobangi) which the city relies on having the capacity to treat only 192 million liters per day (160 and 32 million liters per day respectively) and are currently running at about 120 million liters per day. This implies that almost three-quarters of generated wastewater is unaccounted for and most likely finds its way, untreated, into the environment. This does not even factor in wastewater generated from the water abstracted from almost 3,800 boreholes within Nairobi.

Increasing urbanization coupled with the envisioned growth of the manufacturing sector as one of the pillars of the President’s Big Four Agenda are likely to lead to increased volumes of both domestic and industrial wastewater which will compound the problem of water pollution unless we find ways to significantly increase our efforts and investments in sanitation expansion and innovative solutions that are able to generate sustainable business models that do not depend on public funding.

To address the issue, the Governing Board endorsed the creation of a high-level sanitation technical working group intended to further refine the specific scopes of reforms, programmatic interventions and road map for scaling up sanitation solutions – both sanitation governance and crowding in private sector, under the leadership of the Chief Administrative Secretary, Ministry of Water, Sanitation, and Irrigation. The enthusiasm for the proposal reflects a widespread appreciation of the need to address governance bottlenecks caused by overlapping mandates of different sectors relevant to sanitation and the need to pursue alternatives service delivery models for sanitation coverage.

Water in the circular economy agenda

Beyond the current “take, make and dispose” extractive industrial model, the circular economy is restorative and regenerative by design. Water systems intersect with all sections of society and industry and opportunities exist in these interfaces to create additional value by application of Circular Economy principles. Water is fundamental to meeting the basic needs of all living things.

The circular economy holds particular promise for achieving multiple SDGs, including SDGs 6 on water, 7 on energy, 8 on economic growth, 11 on sustainable cities, 12 on sustainable consumption and production, 13 on climate change, 14 on oceans, and 15 on life on land.

In order to further systemic change towards a circular water economy in Kenya, the government needs to drive enabling policy and regulatory actions and collaborate with relevant private and civil society partners to implement key initiatives.

The creation of a dedicated ‘water in the circular economy‘ working group aims to work with the relevant Government of Kenya agencies to further refine specific scopes of reforms, programmatic interventions, and road map for making Kenya a regional leader in the circular economy.