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Water utilities and the vagaries of weather

News ― 4 September 2015

Water utilities and the vagaries of weather

The year-round availability of water of an acceptable quality at the source is crucial for a water utility to assure the customers’ safety. The business only survives if the utility can, with reasonable confidence, predict the behavioural patterns of water availability and quality in the basin.

As for other utilities around the world, Kisumu Water & Sewerage Company’s (KIWASCO) operations oscillates between weather extremes .The March – July period is characterised by heavy rainfalls, while the rest of the year is marked by different degrees of unpredictability.

Background

KIWASCO manages two treatment plants with an installed capacity of 81,000 m3/day. The two main sources of freshwater are the Lake Victoria and the River Kibos. KIWASCO supplies clean water in Kisumu to approximately 500,000 people, with a demand of 48,000m3/day and a current network coverage of 68%.

Operational challenges

Due to unpredictable weather patterns, KIWASCO has been facing issue such as diminishing water quantity from the river source, seasonal rapid decline of lake levels (caused by prolonged drought – as experienced between November 2014 and March 2015 – and excessive water after heavy rains. Changes in rainfall patterns are leading to more intense events concentrated in a shorter time , which also affects the water quality at the sources.

The current challenges include ensuring a stable clean source of water, both concerns equal in measure. While the demand tends not to fluctuate much, operations vary continuously.

Whenever the river flow decreases significantly, the utility is forced to revert to the more expensive option of the lake source, which also experiences strong level fluctuations.

Deforestation is another big issue in the catchment. It increases the risk of deteriorated water quality at both sources leading to higher production and distribution costs.

Anticipated Solution

As a utility, KIWASCO was heavily hit by most of these challenges, mainly due to the lack of tools able to predict, with reasonable confidence, the occurrence of these weather extremes. Such instruments could help forewarning and adequately preparing for the negative impacts of climate variability on operations.

We anticipate that this tool being developed by the FDMT project will help prediction and management of these scenarios should they arise.


Article contribution from: 

Joshua Oria

Network Maintenance Engineer,

Kisumu Water and Sewerage Company Limited

Nafaka House, Oginga Odinga Street

P.O Box 3210 - 40100 Kisumu, Kenya

Telephone: +254 57 202 4100, 202 3856, 202 3977

Fax: +254 57 202 1604

Mobile Number: +254 735 809 364