How million shillings bills deny Migori residents access to water

A deserted car wash in Migori town belonging to Isaiah Odhiambo. The water shortage has been experienced since August this year. PHOTO/Mercy Saja.

By Victor Seda and Mercy Saja

Water shortage in Kenya is a recurring experience, and with about 50 million people, at least 43 percent do not have access to clean water.

Migori County has been experiencing water shortage for the past three months due to unpaid electricity bills. The shortage of water in the county has resulted in business losses that has affected several traders that rely on water for their daily operations.

Mr. Isaiah Odhiambo, a teacher by profession, a hotelier and a car wash owner notes that the shortage of water has negatively impacted his hotel industry business.

Odhiambo says that he has been forced to incur extra costs to sustain his hotel business after water taps ran dry three months ago. He points out that he was forced to reduce his employees because of reduced activities in his hotel.

“We are not operating in full capacity because of lack of enough water to prepare our meals and clean your guest rooms,” said Odhiambo.

He acknowledges that most of his customers prefer hot showers which he has been providing but he cannot do so because of scarcity of water. Odhiambo says that his customers have reduced from 70 to 30 percent leading to huge losses.

Residents queue for water at a kiosk in Sibuoche center in Uriri Constituency. PHOTO/ Victor Seda

He says that he has been using Sh 30, 000 per month since August to purchase water which is quite expensive as compared to what he used to pay to the county.

Odhiambo, who also owns a car wash, says that the business has been hit hard by the water shortage. He notes that the car wash business had employed youths that were earning about sh400 per day. He notes that the current situation has exposed these youths to idle around the car wash without something substantial to do. Odhiambo acknowledges the youths who worked on his car wash have been hit hard and they can hardly make sh100 per day.

He says that the expounding bills that he pays monthly which includes tourism funds, liquor licenses and salaries of his employees total to more than sh200,000. He notes that he needs water to ensure that his business runs smoothly for him to be able to generate profits as well as cater for other expenses.

Odhiambo acknowledges that his business is water sensitive and to drill water is beyond his reach. He is encouraging the county government to improve water provisions in order to save the Migori business personnel. “The county government needs to find a quicker solution to the water shortage because alternative sources are quite expensive,” said Odhiambo.

Migori County Chief Officer in charge of Water and Energy, Mr. Fidel Majiwa PHOTO/ Victor Seda

However, Migori County Chief Officer in charge of Water and Energy, Mr. Fidel Majiwa acknowledges that the shortage of water is due to huge bills that the county has accumulated over time. He notes that the county owes Kenya Power lighting company (KPLC) about sh 15 million and so far the county has only made a payment of 4.5 million.

The official says that the remaining amount will be settled once they receive money from the national treasury. “I believe the next payments will be done but that has to be done within our subsequent county budget,” said Majiwa.

Migori KPLC Manager Mr. George Nyambare says that they decided to disconnect power within the county due to the huge pending water bill that summed up to shs 18 million. He also notes that the KPLC disconnected power on streetlights. He notes that since their installation not even a single coin has been paid as power fee. Nyambare promises that as soon as they receive some payments they will both restore water and the street lights.