Sewerage levy signals higher water charges

A man jumps over overflowing sewage in Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | NMG
A man jumps over overflowing sewage in Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Water consumers face higher bills after the minister issued the date for application of a law allowing the regulator to impose a levy for development of sewerage networks.

The Water Services Regulatory Board (Wasreb) says it is working on draft regulations and study on the cost of sewerage before introducing the levy.

The water minister has already issued a gazette notice on the commencement date of the Water Act, which became law last year.

“The law gives the regulator power to impose the levy. We are doing a cost study and plan on new regulations that will lead to the levy,” said Robert Gakubia, the chief executive of Wasreb.

“But we will have to involve stakeholders before agreeing on a levy. We need to think seriously about planning and funding for sewerage given the rate at which Kenya is urbanising.”

Wasreb had last year proposed a levy equivalent to five per cent of consumers’ water bills after conducting a study on how to fund infrastructure development.

Only 15pc connections

Only 15 per cent of Kenyans living in urban and peri-urban areas are connected to the sewer system.

The coverage, which is down from 19 per cent in 2010, is below the national target of 40 per cent.

The increase in water bills will add a newcost on consumers who already bear high charges, with most service providers having reviewed their tariffs in the last one year to cover for the high cost of electricity, water treatment chemicals, pipes, fuel, lubricants and fittings.

Mr Gakubia said once the levy is imposed it will have to be ring-fenced for development of sewer purposes only.

Currently, water bills contain a sewer charge, but the fee has often been diverted to other uses like improving and maintaining the water connection infrastructure and meeting operation costs, leaving little for sewer development and upgrades.

“Currently Kenyans pay a sewerage cost equivalent to 75 per cent of their water bill, but this collection is mainly used for water and not sewage services,” said Mr Gakubia.

The levy will be a share of the total bill including the sewerage expenses.

25 counties

Wasreb statistics show that 25 counties have no sewer coverage.

Nairobi has the highest coverage at 48 per cent.

Laikipia has 39 per cent of its urban centres covered by a sewer network with Trans Nzoia and Bungoma at 31 per cent.

Residents of counties that charge more for water are likely to be hardest hit by the levy.

Machakos County residents for example are paying an average Sh168 per cubic-metre or 1,000 litres of water- the highest in the country.

This is followed by Mombasa (Sh113) with Kakamega and Busia charging Sh101.