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Dealing with the 2015 El Niño in Kenya

15 December 2015 | David Onyango, Joshua Oria, George Odero and Harriet Ashoro

Dealing with the 2015 El Niño in Kenya

Kenya is currently experiencing El Nino. Its arrival was expected for September, but it has actually begun later in November. The meteorological department of Kenya issued a notice on the occurrence of the phenomenon and different departments of the government were tasked to disseminate information to stakeholders, in order to enhance preparedness and assessment in the periods before, during and after the event occurrence. The information was passed down from the national to the counties governments and later to KIWASCO as a water utility. The information shared showed several gaps, like the lack of proper documentation on previous occurrences of El Nino. Information from the meteorological department was too general and not properly broken down, for example rainfall predictions in Kisumu as a County were reported without specifying the locations that are likely to be affected by flooding, mudslides etc. Moreover, there was a lack of organisation in planning the forums and during the planning process updates were not given regularly.

KIWASCO has given a strong contribution in planning and preparing for the El Nino, within the county government. On the preparation stages we have embarked on a number of activities like clearing drainages in and around our plants, slope protection at our plants on areas susceptible to erosion during floods, reinforcing water pipes that are above the ground level and proper storage of chemicals for our stations which could have proven inaccessible in extreme cases of flooding.

We are currently re-assessing the risks identified in the water safety plan and reprioritize them appropriately for action.

The heavy rain is almost reaching the peak and its effects have been greatly felt, with some people losing their lives and thousands being displaced.

As a water utility we have joined humanitarian organisations in helping those affected. Currently we are supplying clean drinking water to the displaced communities which are not in our network coverage in order to avert a cholera outbreak in the region.

In this critical situation, we are more and more in need of a tool able customize information and fill the existing gaps that hinder proper planning. These gaps can be closed by the introduction of the Decision Support System (DSS) which is currently being developed and that will help us in collecting and analysing relevant data for a quick and accurate decision making.

                                                                                      Slope on-going construction