State reverses water charges rise to lower consumer bills


Water and Irrigation Cabinet secretary Sicily Kariuki. FILE PHOTO | NMG

The State has reversed the 10-fold rise in regulatory charges for water companies in efforts to ease pressure on consumer bills.

Cabinet Secretary (CS) for Water, Sanitation and Irrigation Sicily Kariuki said the charges have been revised from Sh5 that had been published under the new regulations in August to Sh1.

The new law had raised the regulatory fees from 50 cents per cubic metre for domestic use and livestock farming, a cost that water companies would pass to consumers.

The fee or abstraction charges are what the licensed water providers pay the Water Resource Authority’s (WRA) for accessing the commodity from natural sources like rivers.

“We have cut the charges to a maximum of Sh1 and a minimum of 0.75 cents for the benefit of consumers,” said Mrs Kariuki in an interview with the Business Daily.

The lower charges come as a reprieve to consumers who are grappling with high cost of oil and cooking gas that have exerted inflationary pressure to the households.

Mrs Kariuki said the earlier decision to raise the cost was made by the water companies basing on the expenses that they incur in provision of services.

“The idea of increasing the cost is a decision made by the water companies who then pass it to me for approval as the CS responsible,” she said.

The revised rates are, however, yet to be gazetted.

The new regulations were part of the reforms recommended to the government by the World Bank after it approved a Sh80 billion loan to help Kenya respond to the Covid-19 pandemic and address its debt vulnerabilities.

The multilateral lender proposed that water service providers should cover 70 percent of the Water Resource Authority (WRA) budget from the current 30 percent.

WRA, which allocates water use and controls pollution, was charging 50 cents per cubic metre for water for homes, livestock, and irrigation, while commercial use attracted a charge of 75 cents for use over 300 cubic metres.

Service providers have been campaigning for the review of tariffs that were last revised more than five years ago to cover the ballooning costs of operation and maintenance.

They had proposed increases based on inflation charges and tariff reviews to cater for network expansion, electricity, water treatment chemicals, pipes, fuels, lubricants, sewers, and fittings.

The new regulations allowed WRA to adjust the water use charges annually to give effect to indexation by reference to the officially published annual inflation index.

Currently, Kenyans pay an average of Sh93 per cubic metre or 1,000 litres for water piped to homes.