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Waking up at 3 am to queue for a spot to fetch water from the available distant water points has for long been a way of life for many residents in Makueni. Donkeys carrying heavy loads of water jerricans has been a common feature one can’t miss even in Wote town, the county’s capital.

Water vendors have thrived, often charging exorbitant prices for a 20-litre jerrican of water, especially during the dry season when many of the rivers have run dry.  In some parts of the county, a 20-litre jerrican goes for Shs 50 during the dry season.

To remedy this situation, Makueni’s Department of Water and Sanitation has crafted an ambitious water development plan, extending water connections from sources to households, known as the “last mile” connections.

One such area benefiting from these connections is Nthangu location, where residents have experienced real transformation. Pastor Thomas Wambua, a resident with a connection in his compound explains that his family can now engage in productive farming, unlike before, where he had to spend Shs 1,000 weekly to pump water from Kamunyii stream using a petrol-powered pump. His church has also registered a higher turn up on Sundays.

The County Government constructed a sand dam and underground sump at the confluence of Kaiti and Kamunyii rivers and installed a mega solar power system to distribute water to more than 10,000 residents and four schools in Kiatine and Nthangu villages. 100 households have obtained last-mile connections by paying a small fee, Pastor Wambua among them.

In Mavindini Ward, Burnice Mutiso is optimistic that completion of Ngosini Concrete Dam will transform her life. “When this dam fills up, I intent to venture into horticultural farming full time. This area is highly productive, but water has been the biggest challenge,” she says. Burnice hawks food to workers at the dam construction site. The dam borders her family land.

The department has prioritized last-mile connections as a solution to the long distances people walk to the nearest water point.

This will be achieved through investment in a main centralized water infrastructure project in each ward (One Ward, One Main Water project); and the use of digital metering and payment in the 30 water projects.  

Further, the water supply expansion initiative will involve desilting, expanding and rehabilitation of earth dams; construction of sand dams with sumps; drilling and equipping of boreholes, construction and/ or extension of 160 Kms of pipeline with water kiosks.

In the Financial Year 2024/25, the Department of Water and Sanitation plans to connect at least 1,000 households per ward to clean and safe water by implementing the last mile water infrastructure programme.

This initiative is expected to increase the proportion of rural households accessing piped water from 30% to 50% and urban households from 7,939 in 2022 to 10,920 in 2025.

Currently the department is undertaking massive investments along River Athi to draw, treat and supply water from the river. These include Athi Kalawa water project, Athi Tunguni Water Project, Athi Mavindini Water project.