President Uhuru Kenyatta today unveiled government plans to implement the strategic water storage program that will increase the number of Kenyans connected to safe piped water by 9 million people by 2022.
The massive country-wide program will additionally increase the proportion of households with access to safe drinking water from 60 to 80 per cent in the next five years with a special focus on informal settlements and arid areas, said the President.
He spoke at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) Nairobi, where he launched the Ministry of Water and Sanitation's Rapid Results Initiative (RRI) cycle 2018.
The President said provision of water to Kenyans was an underlying enabler for the attainment of his Administration's Big Four development agenda "which is the future I see."
Besides the water reservoirs, President Kenyatta announced that the Kenya Towns Sustainable Water Supply and Sanitation Program - supported by the African Development Bank- will soon be launched in 22 urban centers across 28 Counties.
President Kenyatta said under the water strategic program, the construction of Itare and Siyoi Muruny Dams in Nakuru and West Pokot Counties have commenced while others like Thwake (Kitui) and Thiba (Kirinyaga) dams are in their final stages of stakeholder engagement.
Later in the year, said the Head of State, Mwache dam (Kilifi)-with a supply capacity of 186,000 cubic metres of water per day - will be launched to address shortages in Mombasa, Kwale and Kilifi counties.
Additionally, plans to implement the Mzima 11 (two) pipeline are at an advanced stage to supply 105,000 cubic meters of water per day to Taita Taveta and other coastal regions, said President Kenyatta.
Other dams to be launched soon under the new strategic program are Bosto (Bomet), Bonyunyu (on Kisii and Nyamira borders) and Karemenu 11 in Kiambu.
President Kenyatta directed the Ministries of Water and Sanitation, together with the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation, to ensure all affected communities where the water reservoirs will be constructed are adequately engaged on matters of safety.
He said regular inspection and surveillance must become a matter of routine. The projects must also be executed in a manner that assures tax-payers get value for money in terms of cost and the desired impact, said President Kenyatta.
He said despite significant progress made during his first term in office in up-scaling the number of people accessing reliable and clean water, the demand for the commodity keeps rising due to population pressure.
For universal water access to be achieved, said the President, the country requires huge financial resources, both at the National and County levels.
The President applauded development partners for the critical role they continue playing in filling the financial gap in water matters.
He asked the Ministry of Water and Sanitation, together with the National Treasury and the County Governments to adopt innovative funding mechanisms to finance the programs under implementation.
President Kenyatta said the last mile distribution and reticulation of water to the citizens is a function of the counties which he also asked to enhance proper physical planning.
That planning should also ensure adequate sewerage and treatment facilities.
The Head of State said the perennial cycles of serious droughts, floods, drying up of rivers, wells, springs and the lowering of the water table can be attributed to the twin effects of climate change and destruction of forests.
To mitigate this problem, said the President, Kenyans need to plant and sustain the upwards of 3 billion new trees-covering 30,000 square km-over the next half-decade.
The President reiterated the message he delivered during the National Tree Planting Day on May 12 that the fate of our water resources is tied to that of our environment and more specifically to that of our forests.
"Protecting our environment will guarantee the continuity of supply of our water sources. Failure is, therefore, not an option," said the President.
The launch brought together various stakeholders in the water sector including the National and County Governments, Development Partners, Parastatals and Non-Governmental Organizations.
Cabinet Secretary Simon Chelugui led the Water and Sanitation Ministry team while Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi represented the Council of Governors.