It is now nine months since the hygiene crisis started. Hand washing with soap is one way to effectively prevent oneself from getting the virus.
Thus water firms had to keep on supplying water as well as hand washing points.
As demand for water rose, water firms’ incomes sharply dropped as businesses closed and customers lost incomes.
Also, the government ordered water firms keep all customers connected, with or without debt. How is Ruiru Water getting through? By living within its means.
Ruiru-Juja Water and Sewerage Company supplies water and sewerage in Ruiru and Juja sub-counties, Kiambu County.
Ruiru Water supplies 34,000 customers with water. Also, it collects wastewater from 3,500 customers.
The firm’s revenue fell by 32 per cent from the high of Sh48 million a month before Covid-19 to Sh33 million a month.
Managing Director Simon Mwangi believes that the firm is through the worst.
“Our revenue collection is now almost or more than 90 per cent of what we used to collect [before Covid-19], he said.
Mr Mwangi said revenue collection is returning to normal with the reopening of the economy. “Even ordinary customers are paying their bills,” he said. “An economy is a cycle because businesses feed households.”
How is Ruiru Water getting through?
Mr Mwangi says that the firm tried to live within its means. “We went slow on capital expenditure,” he said. “We only paid electricity, salaries and chemicals.”
In addition, the firm saved more money after receiving free water treatment chemicals from the government and Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica).
In total, the government and Jica gave the firm 135,650 kilogrammes of water treatment chemicals. These were worth Sh7.3 million.
This meant that the firm saved Sh7.3 million it could have spent to buy the chemicals. “We have not paid invoice for chemicals for several months,” Mr Mwangi said.
Jica was the most generous. The agency gave Ruiru Water 108,030 kilogrammes of three chemicals worth Sh5.6 million. The chemicals were calcium hypochlorite, aluminium sulphate and sodium carbonate.
The government gave the firm 27,620 kilogrammes of calcium hypochlorite and aluminium sulphate. These chemicals were worth Sh1.7 million.
In September, the government gave a total of one million kilogrammes of water treatment chemicals to 74 water services firms.
What does the firm expect in 2021?
Mr Mwangi is very optimistic next year his firm will fully recover and expand. His confidence is based on two major projects he expects to start bringing in income as the year starts.
First project is a new sewerage for Juja. Although it is complete the firm expects to connect customers beginning early next year.
“The sewer construction is complete but we requested the contractor to correct some defects in the system,” Mr Mwangi said. “We expect the contractor to finish the corrections by January.”
At the start, the firm will connect 2,000 households. These will mainly be in Juja town and Kenyatta Road.
The sewerage will lead to the firm’s wastewater treatment plant at Kibendera area, near Eastern Bypass, Kiambu County.
Ruiru Water’s wastewater treatment is working below its full capacity of 21,000m3 [21 million litres] a day. Currently, it cleans 4,000m3 [4 million litres] a day.
Second project is to expand water treatment plant at Jacaranda. KfW, the German state-owned development bank, is financing the project, which is expected to be completed early 2022.
“Part of the project is to expand the amount of water we treat at our Jacaranda water treatment plant,” Mr Mwangi said. “This will almost double the plant’s capacity from the current 15,000m3 [15 million litres] a day to 28,000m3 [28 million litres] a day.”
With the expanded capacity, Ruiru Water will be able to supply water to Kahawa Sukari, Kahawa Wendani and Mwihoko.
In addition, the firm will drill seven boreholes in Mwihoko and Kiuu wards in Ruiru. Five boreholes will go to Kiuu ward while two will be for Mwihoko.
Ruiru Water will rely on the 10 boreholes as a backup or alternative water source, Mwangi said.
Looking for more water
Ruiru Water says its current water system is overexploited. The current demand is far more than supply.
The firm needs 46,000m3 [46 million litres] a day to fully supply its customers. Currently, it only supplies 33,000m3 [33 million litres] a day.
“That is why we are waiting for the government to complete Karimenu II Dam,” Mr Mwangi said. “The dam will give us an additional 47,500m3 [47.5 million litres] a day.”
Currently, the firm is giving customers water on rotation. The firm gives customers water for four days in a week.
Mr Mwangi says that the firm gives customers enough water which they could store and use during the week. “So in essence the water is available throughout the week,” he said.